Tomba skis Mestia – where?

20th July 2011, by Chris Gill

Albert Tomba in action in his slalom days.

Albert Tomba in action in his slalom days.

Alberto Tomba, Italy’s former Olympic slalom champion, has been on the slopes again this week – not in the Alps, but in Georgia.

Tomba ‘La Bomba’ was seen on the slopes in Mestia (1500m), a developing ski area in the Caucasus mountains (where western Europe meets the east).
The retired racer skied joined the country’s president Saakashvili on the visit and skied the Ushba Plateau (from 3700m).

It was Tomba’s second trip to Georgia; on a previous visit he skied the slopes at Gudauri – one of the region’s main resorts, and about two hours from Tbilisi. Downhill is limited to just 16km of pistes, but the slopes are all above 2000m and heli-skiing is the main attraction.

After skiing in Mestia, Tomba was taken on a visit to the village (which is about 6km from the lift base), where there is quite a bit of development taking place to build new hotels and reshape the central piazza. And there are plans for new lifts in the ski area, which the Italian felt had ‘serious tourism potential’.

Since the break up of the former Soviet Union, countries such as Georgia have been ploughing investment into their winter sport’s regions. Georgia has capitalised on the abundant heli-skiing opportunities in the Caucasus mountains, and resorts such as Gudauri have been spruced up a bit from their shanty-town like appearance and primitive facilities. Some lifts have been upgraded and a few modern hotels built too.

As for Tomba, he retired from Alpine competition in 1998 having notched up an incredible record that includes gold medals at the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympic Games, as well as numerous other wins in Alpine slalom racing.

[Inset photo: A rather modern Mestia airport, Georgia]

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