Mongolians take to the slopes at first ski resort

Wed Dec 2, 2009 4:45am EST
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By Jargal Byambasuren

ULAN BATOR (Reuters Life!) - Mongolians used to harsh winters now have a new outlet for winter fun at the country's first ski resort, located on a sacred mountain just outside of the capital Ulan Bator.

For the locals, Sky Resort is a welcome distraction from at a time of year when temperatures fall well below freezing, but it rarely snows in the arid capital.

The resort relies on Italian-made snow guns to cover the trails with artificial snow.

"It is a great way to have fun with our children, and they are picking it up really fast," said 40-year-old visitor Tsedsuren Luvsandorj.

Bumps and bruises lie ahead for many Mongolians who are new to the slopes. But if they like the sport, they'll find plenty of other ski mountains to try in neighboring China, which has also taken up skiing with a vengeance since it debuted in the 1990s.

The Sky Resort, on the sacred Bogd Khan Uul Mountain just fifteen minutes drive from Ulan Bator, is mostly aimed at beginners and intermediates. But it has nine runs, two chairlifts, and even a dedicated racing slope.

Still, the new fad doesn't come cheap. At $24 for lift tickets and ski rental, a day of skiing equals nearly a week's salary for the average Mongolian.

(Editing by Lucy Hornby and Miral Fahmy)