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By the volcano to the ocean

How do Russian riders come off in Kamchatka

Go on a board or ski to the mouth of an active volcano, take a dip in the turquoise water with ice and stroll through the black volcanic sands. Extreme sports seem to be asking themselves for Kamchatka, where the mountain infrastructure is undeveloped, and the winter lasts 9 months. Here the ideal conditions for freeriding, which was born in the mountains, rather than 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 champion of Russia in snowboarding (freeride and freestyle), a candidate for master of sports, cadet of the Russian School of guides, chairman of the regional branch of the Federation of the Russian Federation's Snowboard in the Kamchatka Territory, general director of Snow Valley. With him and a group of enthusiasts more than 20 years ago snowboarding began on Kamchatka and the first base for tourists was opened, where legends such as Travis Rice, JP Solberg and others go today. Alexander told East Russia how the business is built on a hobby in the edge of geothermal boiling water and three-meter drifts. In 2007 year, Frost left the big sport, since then he skates only for joy and teaches this to others.


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 the first sports contract with the equipment manufacturer company, and began to travel around the world to competitions. We drove almost all the places with heli-ski: Iceland, Alaska, Canada, Chile, saw how it works and in 2001 decided to create their base in the mountains, build a chalet, as everywhere in the world. Among the pristine nature and in close proximity to the places of skiing, which would simplify the logistics. We found a Moscow investor, but then they did not understand enthusiasm, how everything should have happened, did not think about calculations and agreements, so the project was doomed to failure. As a result, the investor said that he did not intend to make us partners. We realized that we made a mistake. It was already 2004 year. We got the first experience and understood what to do. We built the first house in Verkhny-Paratunsky valley and heli-club "Columbus". It still works, but we no longer have a relationship to this base. You always suffer, and finance is not the main disadvantage: they can be earned, but lost time can not be returned. "


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

"We did not give up, and we decided to start a new project ... 3 went on the Verkhne-Paratunsky valley, watched all the places that are here, watched how the snow cover, the wind rose, and so on, and chose the perfect place!" In 2006 we found a partner, we collected design and estimate documentation, engineering solutions related to water supply, sewerage and the creation of a basic infrastructure.The name was born of its own because the Verkhnee-Paratunsky valley and the entire southern region up to the Mutnovsky volcano (height 2322 m above sea level - East Russia) the most snow in Kamchatka.

If you look at the map of precipitation, here they fall the largest number in comparison with the entire peninsula, - up to 3,5 meters of sustainable cover. This is an actual and fantastic amount of snow at the end of February - the beginning of March! The base is located right next to the Mutnovsky volcano, with hot thermal springs and only at 60 km. from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Snow valley.pngPhoto: Base "Snow Valley".

Snow on the volcano lies until the middle of August, because the teams for ski freestyle and snowboard spend our summer camps. In 2007, when we launched the project, immediately laid the concept of year-round work. This was if not a brilliant, but obvious and correct decision. 97% of companies at that time worked seasonally, only in the summer, and in winter everything practically died out. That is, some episodic ice fishing, zalyetnye tourists-skiers. At that time, nobody conceptually thought that it was necessary to work non-stop. And we have an off-season, - the main problem for all companies - was minimized to one and a half to two months a year. From late October to early December in Kamchatka the most unfortunate time from the point of view of any tourism, is no longer golden autumn, constant rains, slush, and there is still no snow.

In addition to us, "Vertical World" has already been working in Kamchatka, they are one of the first in Russia who started to make heli-ski. At that time it was already a serious travel company, and we just started. But we did not focus on them and especially did not know them then. Today in Kamchatka, three large tour operators heli: The vertical world, The Lost World, and we.

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 on the basis of "Snow Valley". Maxim Balakhovsky

"In Russia there are no skiing places like Kamchatka, there are places for heli-skiing, for example, the Caucasus, but in the Krasnaya Polyana the helik-ski is banned, because there is a territory of the SPN that borders on the Olympic facilities. and they are taking us to Abkhazia, and we can visit the crater of an active volcano, on the shore of the ocean, to buy in hot springs, etc. In Kamchatka, there is a large concentration of interesting natural objects in a small area, nowhere in the world is there! Yes, we Unique, but uniqueness is our competitor If we, I mean the whole 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 quality, and along with the opinion that Kamchatka is a steep place, there will be an opinion that, yes, cool, but without service, I'm not talking about Russian people, we are only 157 million, able-bodied population 30%, of them economically active population that create a gross product - 15 %, and those who have t your opinion, in general 5%. Here also consider. I look at the whole world, not Russia. And if we do not create a normal service, then we will be the same India, Thailand before their tourist development, where people said: yes, there's a cool wild place, but there's nothing there! Because they say: you want savagery - go to Kamchatka, if you want service - go to Canada or to 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 is not yet fully occupied, but here, in comparison with the same Krasnaya Polyana, the problem of investment is the lack of a basic infrastructure." At the initial stage, one needs to invest a lot and be patient, as long as it takes some effect, and until the situation changes, we will not have any large-scale investment and development projects.It's easier to build a hotel, relatively speaking, in the Sochi area than in Kamchatka, because before Sochi, fly 2 hours from Moscow, a ticket in the economy -class stands 3,5 thousand rubles, and any average Muscovite or St. Petersburger can afford a weekend program, and it's an understandable season, logistics, low cost of building materials, to list everything for a long time.Any investor who thinks in categories of rectangles, he starts to consider everything "for" and "against" "The costs are often turned into a critical mass, which gives a negative decision on investing in Kamchatka, because it is very expensive, incomprehensible and long.

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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