Pratibha Chauhan — Tribune News Service
Shimla, December 31Decks have been cleared for setting up the first ski centre and ropeway at Solang, near Manali, as the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment has given clearance to the project aimed at making Himachal Pradesh an international destination for winter sport enthusiasts.
The project, first of its kind in the country, is to be set up at an estimated cost of Rs 14.20 crore by Ski Himalayas Ltd. Work on the project will begin soon as clearance has been granted for use of 1.87 hectare forest land falling under the project area. An agreement has been signed between the Tourism Department and Ski Himalayan Ltd for a period of 40 years.
The Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, will lay the foundation stone of the project on January 2 at Solang. The tentative completion period of the project is 14 months. Interestingly, only four trees will have to face the axe for the coming up of the ski lift and the remaining forest area would be untouched.
The project will not only enable holding of international ski events on the Phatru slopes but also likely to give a place to Himachal on the international tourist map. Barring China, there is no other country in South East Asia which has ski center of this level.
With a French company, Poma, undertaking the development of the ski slopes as per international standards the skiable run will extend from the present 300 m to 2.5 km? said Mr Amitabh Sharma, Managing Director, Ski Himalayas.
The state government will get Rs 30 lakh as a licence fee from this project. Though Solang has emerged as a favourite destination for winter sports lovers but there was no major attraction for tourists here except for skiing. The ski centre will have a gondola lift and a full-fledged resort. There will be two restaurants both at the top terminal at a height of 3,000 m and at the base located at about 2,600 m.
Local sports enthusiasts, including some skiers, who have made a mark at the international level are very upbeat about the project. They feel that not only will they now get an opportunity to practice as per international standards but major events can now be held at Solang. In fact, on completion the ski center will get certification from the Federation of International Skiers, currently having its headquarter in Norway.
As the state government is making all possible efforts to rope in private investment in promoting tourism, the coming up of the ski center is likely to give a major fillip to the tourism industry in the state.