DESPITE extensive damage from the devastating November 2004 windstorm, the Tatra mountains are opening up for the summer tourist season. Those working in the tourist industry are looking to the forthcoming season in hope of an injection of tourist income to help the mountains regain their glory as well as their own livelihoods and businesses.
Even though the damage was great, winter sports enthusiasts did arrive to ski and snowboard in the Tatra Mountains National Park (TANAP), and the summer months are already looking promising.
"Extensive bookings show that this year's summer season will not limp behind last year's," Mikuláš Argalács, one of the founding members of the "Čisté Tatry" (Clean Tatras) and "Zachráňme tatranského kamzíka" (Save the Tatran Chamois) NGOs told The Slovak Spectator.
Local and international organizations are pulling out all the stops to make sure that this summer tourist season is a successful one.
Government ministries, local authorities and countless Slovak and international NGOs have sunk their teeth into restoring hiking and cycling trails to enable tourists to access areas closed for many months following the windstorm.
Their task was not easy. Out of a total 538.5 kilometres of TANAP hiking paths, 235 kilometres were unusable because of fallen trees.
According to information published by the state forestry management company, Štátne lesy, 136.6 kilometres of pathway was covered with fallen trees in the Dolný Smokovec and Vysoké and Belianske Tatry regions.
Paths in the regions of the Račková, Žiarska, and Jalovecká valleys in the Western Tatras did not escape the natural disaster either. Of 267.2 kilometres of trails, almost 99 kilometres were damaged beyond recognition.
Most of these paths are now open to tourists. However, some are still closed due to ongoing clearance works.
The situation is highly changeable, and it is important to check current path conditions before setting out on a hiking trip.
It is possible that paths currently open will be temporarily closed for a few days because rolling trees sometimes block them.
Dominik Michalík, the chief of Štátne lesy- TANAP's department of terrain services told The Slovak Spectator that these paths need to be cleared damaged hiking signs must be repaired.
Due to high levels of snow during the winter months, clearance works on some cycling paths have been delayed. Not all routes will be open in time for the summer tourist season.
Cyclists are warned to be extra cautious on cycle routes that involve forest roads, as heavy machinery is being used on some of these roads in the national park.
Some restrictions that were announced shortly after the windstorm are, however, still in effect.
Juraj Švajda, chief of TANAP security services, environmental education and promotion told The Slovak Spectator that within the area of TANAP, tourists are only allowed to use forest paths that have been cleared of fallen trees and on which hiking signs have been restored. These are announced on the TANAP national park website.
František Mráz from the mountain rescue team in Poprad said that tourists who ignore the restrictions risk being injured or even killed. If someone is hurt in the park and mountain rescue services are required, the authorities will investigate whether the rules and regulations of the park were breached.
If the injured tourist is found to have breached the restrictions, he or she will be liable for the financial costs of the rescue operations. In many cases, the tourist's insurance company has the right to refuse payment for the rescue, according to the mountain rescue services website.
Švajda of TANAP, however, believes that in spite of the restrictions, tourists will be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation in the Tatras this summer.
|Hiking paths that are permanently closed|
|No.||Path code||Sign colour||Path name|| Length
|1.||0930||red||Podbanské - Tri Studničky||6||2.||2902||blue||Tri Studničky - rázcestie pod Grúnikom||2||3.||2903||blue||Biely Váh - Jamské pleso||2||4.||2836||blue||Tatranská Štrba - Štrbské Pleso||3||5.||2905||blue||Tatranské Zruby - rázcestie na T. Zrubmi||2||6.||2911||blue||Tatranské Matliare - rázc. Nad T. Matliarmi||3||7.||5803||green||Štrbské Pleso - Tri Studničky||10||8.||5806||green||Nižné Hágy - Nová Polianka||4||9.||8855||yellow||Nižné Hágy - Zbelovo||3||10.||8858||yellow||Starý Smokovec - Velická Poľana (Sl. dom)||5||11.||8863||yellow||T. Lomnica (H. Grand) - T. Matliare||2|
| Cycle path restrictions
Currently, cycle paths above the Cesta Slobody (Road of Freedom) are open to tourists, except one: the path leading from Tatranská Lomnica to Štart.
Cycle paths below the Cesta Slobody are all closed due to ongoing clearing works.
Other cycle paths of Tichá and Kôprová dolina (valleys), Popradské pleso, Sliezky dom, Hrebienok are open. However, extra caution is required due to ongoing works in the area. Some sections of the roads are used by forest machinery.
11. Jul 2005 at 0:00 | Magdalena MacLeod