and fragile snowflakes quietly fall from the sky
to weave a huge white blanket over the mountains
of Tsaghkadzor and the small town. It seems the
snow leaves the naked trees breathless while turning
nature into a winter paradise.
Here, about two hours north of Yerevan, lovers
of nature and winter gather for sport and rest,
arriving by early morning armed with skis and
sleighs, hurrying to get to the foot of Teghenis
Mountain for soaring by funicular toward the mountaintop.
Seated alone in the open seat of the ski lift,
shoes touching the tops of tree branches on the
slow climb, visitors start to realize a breathtaking
world from a bird's view of the mountain and valleys.
"The nature is fantastic here," says
20-year old Gurpreet Singh, who is from India
and a student at the Medical University of Armenia
and who visits Tsaghkadzor several times each
winter with his school mates. "I like this
place very much. It's very enchanting for me."
In Soviet times Tsaghkadzor was the main sport
base of the USSR's Olympic team. Throughout the
year different teams visited for training. There
were approximately 30 school camps in the town
as well and thousands of Armenian schoolchildren
used to spend their vacations there.
the collapse of the Soviet Union the camps and
the training facilities were left abandoned and
robbed. But step by step over the past several
years, Tsaghkadzor is re-emerging as a holiday
"Armenia has a great potential of developing
winter sports," says Artur Zakaryan, head
of Tourism Department of the Ministry of Trade
and Economic Development. "In its turn the
nature created all conditions."
Zakaryan says it is possible to develop traditional
winter sports which are popular all over the world.
"However, Tsaghkadzor with its infrastructure
is not ready yet for becoming a center of winter
sports. It still has no necessary documentation,
which will allow it to enter the world market.
It still functions only for the locals."
While nature has provided the environment, Tsaghkadzor
still lacks a good hotel network, high-quality
service system, centers of public catering and
renting centers, which will provide tourists with
skis, sleigh and snowboards.
"For the present moment those systems are
on the primitive level," says Zakaryan.
And for the present moment the main project of
Tsaghkadzor's town-planning is being prepared.
Its aim is to turn the town into a center of tourism
"Before summer as soon as we prepare the
project we must offer to investors those lands
which are provided for building resting zones
and rest houses," says mayor of Tsaghkadzor
Garoon Mirzoyan, "according to the acting
legislation a contest will be announced and winners
notified of its results"
There are only 1,700 residents in Tsaghkadzor,
where the livelihood is mainly service oriented.
As a means of earning additional money residents
rent rooms of their apartments, their own skis,
sleigh and snowmobiles to tourists.
One can pay 500 drams (about 80 cents) and ride
to the foot of a mountain by horse. One can rent
an ordinary sled with a "wheel", for
$3 to $5 per hour. But after some bargaining one
can rent it for the same money for the whole day.
Rent for skis starts from 5000 drams (about $8.50).The
most luxurious here is to rent a snowmobile, which
costs at least $20.
400 drams (about 75 cents) the funicular will
take you to the top of the mountain. It was constructed
in 1970 equal to the length of Teghemis Mountain's
slope (4,595 meters) and it has three stations.
Teghemis Mountain is 3,000 meters above sea level
and has a five kilometer skiing route.
A group of volunteer rescue workers, the "White
Brigade", are on duty in case of accidents.
They say it requires about 40 minutes to get someone
off the mountain. This year there have been three
There are more than two dozen active hotels in
town, averaging about $25 per day for a room with
hot water, television and telephone. Those affording
more comfortable conditions can have a rest in
the high-priced hotels, which have rooms costing
up to $200.
For the budget traveler, rooms (with little change
since Soviet times) can be found for as little
as $6 per day. But the price is indicative of
the quality of comfort.
"It is expected that in five years there
will be a very developed infrastructure here",
says head of the Tourism Department. "This
is our problem, how to package our merchandise
to present it and to sell it on the international
"Stability of the country and internal safety
are the primary conditions for the tourist, and
these conditions are on relatively good grounds."