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By the volcano to the ocean

How do Russian riders come off in Kamchatka

Board or ski into the mouth of an active volcano, swim in the turquoise ice water and walk along the black volcanic sands. Extreme sports seem to be asking themselves to go to Kamchatka, where the mountain infrastructure is undeveloped, and winter lasts 9 months. The conditions here are ideal for freeriding, which was born in the mountains, not on refined tracks or in parks. 

By the volcano to the ocean
Photo: Mikhail Kotlyarchuk
Alexander Moroz on the top of the Mutnovsky volcano, in the background Vilyuchinsky volcano. Photo by Maxim Balakhovsky.JPG

Alexander Moroz, two-time Russian snowboarding champion (freeride and freestyle), candidate for master of sports, cadet of the Russian School of Guides, chairman of the regional branch of the Russian Snowboard Federation in the Kamchatka Territory, general director of Snezhnaya Dolina LLC. More than 20 years ago, snowboarding in Kamchatka began with him and a group of enthusiasts, and the first tourist base was opened, where such legends as Travis Rice, JP Solberg and others travel today. Alexander told the East Russia agency how a hobby business is being built in the land of geothermal boiling water and three-meter snowdrifts. In 2007, Moroz retired from big sport, since then he has been skating only for joy and teaches others to do this. 

Alexandre Moroz and Maxim Balakhovsky, 2001 year. Photo Victor Gumenyuk.jpg
Photo: Alexander Moroz and Maxim Balakhovsky, November 2001, XNUMX Victor Humeniuk

"At me it happened in 96 year, at the partner - Maxim Balahovsky - hardly earlier. The common passion for snowboarding united us in the team of children for 17 years and a little bit older, we wanted to develop in this sport. This was an incomparable hobby, but not yet a sport. We just went for a drive, we were kayfovat and at some point did it with a helicopter: they began to be thrown on volcanoes and to move down. They threw off money and did it for themselves. So 3 passed by the year, and in 99, when the big country was just getting up from the pens, we first earned some money. The case helped. At that time, snowboarding was an unusual occupation for Russia, in the big cities there were like-minded people who heard about Kamchatka, but did not know that you can ride there. We came alone, others, we gave it to third ... We organized a group, we got a modest tip, but we realized that business can be made from this! Nobody understood how and what can be done, there were no business models, trainings, coaches, as now. Sale of heli-ski services was for us a clear start, because heli is something that we can do well.

In 99, I got my first sports contract with an equipment manufacturer, and began to travel around the world to competitions. We drove through almost all places with heli-skiing: Iceland, Alaska, Canada, Chile, saw how it works and in 2001 decided to create our base in the mountains, to build chalets, like everywhere else in the world. Among the pristine nature and in the immediate vicinity of the skiing areas, which would simplify logistics. We found a Moscow investor, but back then we still didn’t understand how everything should happen due to our enthusiasm, we didn’t think about calculations and agreements, so the project was doomed to failure. As a result, the investor said that he was not going to make us partners. We realized we had made a mistake. It was already 2004. We got the first experience and understood what to do. The first house in the Verkhne-Paratunskaya Valley and the Columbus heli club were built. It is still in effect, but we no longer have any relation to this base. You always suffer, and finances are not the main disadvantage here: they can be earned, but lost time cannot be returned. "


At the start. Photo Snow valley @ snowvalleykamchatka.jpg
Photo: At the start. "Snow Valley"

“We did not give up and decided to start a new project. For 3 years we traveled along the Verkhne-Paratunskaya Valley, observed all the places that are here, watched how the snow cover is formed, the wind rose, and so on, and chose the perfect place! year we found a partner, collected design and estimate documentation, engineering solutions related to water supply, sewerage and the creation of basic infrastructure.The name was born by itself, because the Verkhne-Paratunskaya valley and the entire southern region up to the Mutnovsky volcano (height 2006 m above sea level - East Russia) - the snowiest in Kamchatka. 

If you look at the precipitation map, there is the largest amount of them in comparison with the entire peninsula - up to 3,5 meters of stable cover. This is the actual and fantastic amount of snow at the end of February - beginning of March! The base is located right next to the Mutnovsky volcano, with hot thermal springs and only 60 km. from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Snow valley.pngPhoto: Base "Snow Valley". 

Snow on the volcano lasts until mid-August, so the ski freestyle and snowboard teams hold summer camps with us. In 2007, when we launched the project, we immediately laid down the concept of year-round work. It was, if not an ingenious, but obvious and correct decision. 97% of companies at that time worked seasonally, only in summer, and in winter everything practically died out. That is, some kind of episodic ice fishing, stray tourists-skiers. At that time, no one conceptually thought that you need to work non-stop. And in our country, the off-season - the main problem for all companies - has been reduced to one and a half to two months a year. From the end of October to the beginning of December, Kamchatka is the worst time in terms of any tourism, it is no longer a golden autumn, constant rains, slush, and there is still no snow.

In Kamchatka, apart from us, "Vertical World" has already worked, they are one of the first in Russia who began to make heli-skiing. At that time, it was already a serious travel company, and we were just getting started. But we were not guided by them and did not really know them then. Today there are three major tour operators in Kamchatka: Vertical World, Lost World, and us.

Now on our mountain-sports base a permanent collective of 25 people, I'm not a supporter of gastarbaytersky style in tourism, although most companies do exactly that. It seems that there is nothing terrible in this, but from the point of view of high professionalism in work and maximum service, it is better to have a permanent interested team, rather than temporary workers. They will work for two months, and nothing else excites them, they will go to another company tomorrow, they will walk around in a circle. "

The wildness of somebody!

Thermal pool base Snow Valley. Photo by Maxim Balakhovsky.jpg
Photo: Thermal pool at the Snow Valley base. Maxim Balakhovsky

"In Russia, there are no skiing places similar to Kamchatka. There are places for heli-skiing - for example, the Caucasus, but in Krasnaya Polyana heli-skiing is prohibited, because there is a protected area that borders on Olympic facilities. Therefore, people are gathered And they are taken to Abkhazia. In our country, in a day, you can visit the crater of an active volcano, on the ocean shore, swim in hot springs, etc. Kamchatka has a large concentration of interesting natural objects in a small area, nowhere in the world there is such a thing! Yes, we are unique, but uniqueness is our competitive advantage only temporarily. If we, I mean the entire tourist sector of the peninsula, do not make a breakthrough in the development of infrastructure in the near future, then its wretchedness will become our anti-advertising. And at some point the amount of this anti-advertising will turn into in quality, and along with the opinion that Kamchatka is a cool place, there will be an opinion that yes, cool, but without service.I'm not talking about Russian people, there are only 157 million of us, able-bodied population 30%, of which the economically active population, who create the gross product - 15%, and those who have their own opinion, in general 5%. So count it. I look at the whole world, not at Russia. And if we do not create a normal service, then we will remain the same India, Thailand before their tourist development, where people said: yes, there is a cool wild place, but there is nothing there! Therefore, they say: if you want wildness - go to Kamchatka, if you want service - go to Canada or Alaska.

Every year, according to the programs, 450 tourists come to us, the rest are from our partners-other travel agencies, and there are those who come by themselves. We have occupancy in the season on the base, where 74 places, 90-100%. We are not a hotel, for the recreation centers, sanatoriums and dispensaries next year will be introduced its own classification, we will pass it. The final stage is tent camps and so on. The concept of our base is not to sell accommodation and meals, we are not interested, we are selling a tour-service that includes different activities in the complex. On the "Snow Valley" we offer: heliski / heliboarding, off-piste skating with snowmobile skidding, ski tour, snowmobile excursions, fishing, rafting, trekking, climbing volcanoes etc. There is own equipment park. That's why I single out those who come by the program to a separate group. Others finish off the number fund, use our services, rent of transport. Half of the clients are foreigners. Happens, all foreign groups come, it happens, 50 / 50. Basically, Europe, because it's easier for them to get there. Less America, heavily with logistics, Asia went, China, Korea, Japan. "


Steep slopes with soft as the fluff of snow. Photo by Maxim Balakhovsky @ maxbaloo.jpg
Photo: Steep slopes. Maxim Balakhovsky

"Tourism in Kamchatka is a promising niche that has not yet been fully occupied. But here, in comparison with the same Krasnaya Polyana, the problem of investment is the lack of basic infrastructure. At the initial stage, you need to invest a lot and have patience until some effect. And until the situation changes, we will not have any large-scale investment and development projects. It is easier to build a hotel, relatively speaking, in the Sochi region than in Kamchatka. Because it takes 2 hours to fly from Moscow to Sochi, an economy ticket -class costs 3,5 thousand rubles, and any average Muscovite or Petersburger can afford a weekend program. And this is an understandable season, logistics, cheap construction materials, it takes a long time to list everything. Any investor who thinks in terms of rectangles, he begins to count everything " for "and" against ", weighed. Costs most often turn into a critical mass, which gives a negative decision to invest in Kamchatka, because it is very expensive, incomprehensible and time consuming.

Everything develops, which has an evolutionary perspective. The fish industry has a perspective - and it is developing. The mining industry has a perspective - it is developing. The manufacturing industry or the textile industry, do not have a prospect - and they are not in Kamchatka. The USSR has not existed for a long time, projects like BAM, Baikonur, no one turns back the river. Everyone does what is economically expedient. Well, or for great love. To Kamchatka, for example. Various people come to us - the rich, the middle class and those who save for a ticket for several months or even years (for example, a week tour with a daily zabroskoy helicopter for 6 volcanoes is 347 thousand rubles / person - East Russia). But they all have one thing in common: they need to make descents, the rest of the world, with all its worries and politics, ceases to exist, as if at a click. They are only interested in where they will ski today and tomorrow and what will be the snow there. "
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