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Liberec ski resort future uncertain despite CZK 1bn state investment

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The Liberec town hall has to figure out who is going to operate the Ještěd and Vesec ski resorts after the February world cup in cross-country skiing. The resorts, which the state rewarded with a CZK 1.1 billion investment in preparation for the championship, are no longer considered a lucrative investment. The company Snowhill, which is scheduled to take over the resorts’ management after the ski championship, is seeking new terms for the contract, according to Liberec Town Hall.

“The events came in reaction to changes in Snowhill ownership. I don’t want to make early judgments, as negotiations haven’t finished and there are still a few options left. But it can’t be ruled out that Snowhill will leave both ski resorts in Liberec — Ještěd and Vesec,” Liberec Deputy Mayor Ondřej Červinka told Tý

Tý was the first to inform about the new ownership in Snowhill, one of the largest ski resort operators in the Czech Republic. This was in July when Karel Vacek sold the company to billionaire Tomáš Němec, who holds a 50% stake in the tire holding ČGS.

Problem lies in Vesec

“The comments of current Snowhill owners regarding the contract are not clear,” said Červinka. He says the company still owes money for renting the Sports Centre Ještěd, which is owned by the city. But the deputy mayor refused to disclose the amount of the debt.

“We’re fulfilling all our commitments. The season on Ještěd will start according to the plan, no changes are planned for this year. The same applies to the Vesec ski resort, which we will take over after the championship,” said the Snowhill spokeswoman Radka Záhořová.

Ještěd was rented for CZK 8 million annually, in accordance with a 25-year contract. Snowhill made a commitment to operate not only Ještěd ski slopes, but also cross-country trails in Vesec.

But it is clear now that the operator will not take part in the preparation of the world cup. The slopes, as well as the ski jump platforms will be prepared by the championship organising committee.

An act of suicide or a good investment

“I first thought Snowhill would prepare the runs. But considering the problems with trail preparation for the Ski World Cup’s trial races in February, it is clear that the organising committee must do it by itself,” said head of the Ski Association Lukáš Sobotka. He also told Tý the future of Snowhill ski resorts remains unclear. “But it’s an issue the city has to deal with,” he said.

Liberec opposition official Jiří Šolc (SOS) says the key problem with the contract is Vesec and the lack of snow it faces due to its low altitude. “It’ll be a serious financial burden to operate Vesec. Only someone with suicidal tendencies or a hobbyist could afford it,” said Šolc.

Speculations have also appeared that the Vesec ski area would only be used in the summer time for biking and roller blading. Tha majority of the area would then be sold as building plots.

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