Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Head of state on the slopes

I happened to be up at Chimbalak, our local ski resort, yesterday on quite the most glorious morning. There had been about 7 inches of snow over night, and because President Nazarbayev was evidently planning a visit (we worked this out from the solid presence of policemen and people scraping ice off the road all the way up there), the slopes had been pisted even before 10am when the lift opens.

Chimbalak, and Almaty in general, will host the 2011 Asian Winter Games if a certain development company gets its act together and manages to upgrade the infrastructure in time. The credit crisis has taken a serious toll on this much-leveraged firm, and while their vision and ideas for the city were obviously ground-breaking and impressive originally, their cash flow management leaves much to be desired. Having had an entire summer to work on putting in new lifts and upgrading the frankly rotten facilities at the top of the hill, there has been no change at Chimbalak except for the removal of the car park closest to the piste, and the installation of tons of plant which is now sitting in the snow mainly unused. The result is that skiers have to park on an unpaved area of mud half way up the side of the slope, pick their way through cables and past diggers and then slide down the slope to the ticket office (conveniently placed so you have to take off your skis to get to it!). At the end of a hard days skiing, you then have to clamber back up this slope, duck under the cables again to get back to your car. It is pretty basic, but at only 25 minutes from our front door, we don't actually care that much as long as some of the lifts are working.

From time to time the president likes to have a few runs, and Tuesday was one of these days. He will be 70 in a couple of weeks time, but President Nazarbayev is pretty spry for his age. He brought with him around 30 honchos and heavies, camera men and assorted hangers on. They then stopped the normal flow of skiers making their way down to the chair lift, and off he went.

The person on the chair lift with the red jacket is the President of Kazakhstan. 

It left me wondering how many current heads of state go for a quick ski during their working weeks!