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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Discover Georgia Wonderland: #6 in Top-41 Global Tourism Destinations for 2011

Georgia, “a rustic ski wonderland on the verge of discovery,” appeared among The New York Times’s top 41 picks of places to visit this year. Georgia owes its sixth place on the list to three skiing spots: Gudauri, an above- the-tree-line attraction for freeriders and heliskiers; Bakuriani, a pine-tree resort with runs ranging from the beginner to professional level; and Svaneti, the Caucasus' highest inhabited area, a region into which President Mikheil Saakashvili says the government is investing "hundreds of millions of lari" (read "hundreds of millions of dollars") to turn it into a star on the international ski tourism scene.

6. Republic of Georgia
A rustic ski wonderland on the verge of discovery.

Ski buffs don’t usually think of Soviet Georgia when planning their next backcountry outing. But some ambitious plans in the Caucasus are trying to change that fast. Tucked between the Black and Caspian seas and smattered with mountains, Georgia has the kind of terrain adventurous skiers yearn for: peaks reaching 16,000 feet, deep valleys and largely untouched slopes. Known best for spectacular off-piste and heli-skiing, Bakuriani and Gudauri — each a short drive from Tbilisi — saw 30,000 visitors in 2009 and are expanding fast.

And now, in efforts spearheaded by the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, the ski-resort bug is spreading even further. In Mestia, the first groomed slopes of a new resort opened in December. Also earmarked as a winter hot spot is Goderdzi pass, which can have snow coverage six months a year.

The New York Times