After several years of dormancy the Bovec municipality have finally made moves to take control of the ailing cable-car system and mountain restaurant Prestreljenik, bringing to an end the seemingly interminable situation of Slovenia’s highest-altitude skiing being inaccessible to those on the Slovene side of Mount Kanin.
The events that brought about the suspension of lift operations in Bovec were serious and rightly treated as such. For a town though that so heavily relies upon tourist income it not only became an embarrassment for the area but also a tragedy for businesses inextricably linked to the winter-sports trade. Whilst Bovec’s hotels made the best of a bad job by letting rooms to skiers and facilitated their transit to the Italian side of Kanin at Sella Nevea this was never going to be a solution, short-term or otherwise, that in the end would become anything other than untenable. Winter-sports enthusiasts are not known for their parsimony but aside from modest accommodation revenue generated for the town, the all important lunchtime and apres-ski scenes were taking place on the Italian side of the border, ensuring the tills continued to ring there rather than in Slovenia.
On the positive side Bovec’s Obcina have somewhat late in the day realised the vital importance of a fully functioning lift-system to the town, not only for skiers but also as a service to hikers and climbers visiting during the warmer months. Money is tight in Slovenia, never more so throughout its bloated network of ski resorts. Ergo, I can only assume that Bovec’s decision-makers hoped that someone else by now would have stepped forward to take on the lift-infrastructure and Prestreljenik restaurant, rather than the state needing to intervene, albeit at a local level. The full terms of engagement are as yet unclear but the assumption of control by Bovec’s municiplaity will not come on the cheap. Four of the lift’s support columns have been destroyed by the weather and an absence in the last few years of routine, ongoing maintenance. Others appear to be retrievable but nothing in this industry can be left to chance. The much publicised cable-car that brought about the suspension of the lift system lost several carriages brought down in a brief but destructive spell of high winds, making it unlikely to be trusted to transport patrons up and down Kanin without an extensive overhaul or, a replacement, but costlier, new collection of cable-car/gondola carriages. It is though hoped that Bovec will be able to recoup its financial outlay with it benefiting from the highest skiing in Slovenia, potentially offering winter-sports when many of the lower-altitude resorts have closed for the season. This winter season has though proved that even the highest ski areas in Europe are prone to receiving depths of snow that will disappoint, the likes of St. Anton and Obergurgl hardly enjoying a vintage season. Should though natural snow be somewhat conspicuous by its absence Bovec can presumably turn to artificial snow-making methods although, this is of course only possible if temperatures allow. Are ski resorts too risky to invest in because of the uncertainty of today’s climate? I would always answer that question with a plea for not all of an areas eggs being placed in the winter-sports basket, instead offering a mixed programme of activities for visitors. Vogel above Bohinj is perhaps in a unique position in Slovenia with equally impressive figures for both the winter season and the milder months, the lift-system then being predominately utilised by climbers and hikers. The scenery and topography around Bovec should lend itself to both demographics in equally impressive numbers but if memory serves me correctly, the lift serving Kanin only ran for a couple of days a week during the summer. A missed opportunity, I would suggest.
Bovec is well-known for white-water rafting, canyoning, hydrospeed and the like, with propitious conditions and geography to rightly place it as the ideal destination for thrill-seekers and adrenalin junkies. On my last visit during the summer it did though strike me as a somewhat sleepy town, perhaps lacking in a singular vision to subtly extricate tourist euros(€) from the pockets of visitors. The key therefore must be, as it needs to be throughout Slovenia, to not solely rely upon winter-sports revenue as a panacea for the area but rather, be one of just several strands of income. Slovenia’s central government is increasing its desire to shrink the state by privatising fifteen well known companies, thus betraying its desire to run the country more along laissez-faire lines than its previous aegis as a tightly controlled, interventionist state. However therefore important the winter-sports sector is deemed to be to Slovenia and its economy, it can no longer wait for subsidies and bail outs from Ljubljana. I am not even sure Bovec’s municipality will want to assume complete control of the lift-infrastructure for an indefinite period, unless in conjunction with partners from the private sector. The future turn of events will as a consequence be monitored closely, with direct similarities being seen between Marprom’s temporary control of Maribor Pohorje’s lift-infrastructure and events unfolding in Bovec. Neither appear to be long-term solutions but should the current crop of Slovenian ski resorts(and the embryonic 2864 Bohinj project) fail to factor into their long-term business plans an ability to diversify, the parlous financial state of Slovenia and perennial uncertainties regarding climate-change and attendant issues such as a lack of snowfall, it is hard to foresee anything other than an endless carousel of closures, temporary reopenings and ultimately, permanent closures.
Further reporting on this subject can be read at: Dnevnik: Bovec municipality to assume control of lifts