IT’S GETTING harder to hear Russian and Ukrainian in the High Tatras.
“The predictions that the number of Russian-speaking tourists would decrease due to Slovakia’s entry into the Schengen zone have come true,” Peter Chudý, the head of the High Tatras tourism board, told the SITA newswire.
When it joined the Schengen Zone, Slovakia had to introduce tougher visa requirements for Ukrainian and Russian citizens.
In spite of this, hotels in the High Tatras have been full this winter season.
“As of the weekend ending on January 13 – during which Orthodox Christians celebrated the New Year – vacancy rates at most accommodation facilities have been very good,” Chudý said.
Traditionally, the most common languages heard in the High Tatras have been Slovak, Czech and Polish. More tourists have been coming from Romania than last year, which was a pleasant surprise, Chudý said.
Tourists have been enjoying inversion weather, where the valleys are full of clouds and fog and the peaks are bathing in the sun, and they either ski or hike.
A shortage of natural snow has been the biggest problem of the winter season so far. In particular, the snow base has been too thin for cross-country skiers around the villages of Starý Smokovec, Nový Smokovec and Tatranská Lomnica. Due to the snow shortage, ski runs in the Hrebienok resort and the hill from Skalnaté Pleso to Tatranská Lomnica were out of operation even in mid-January, SITA wrote.
But ski alpinists – those who like to be in mountains far from the rush of ski centres with chairlifts – can use trails in the Veľká Studená, Malá Studená, Mlynická and Veľká Zmrzlá valleys.
One downside of this season has been the large number of injuries on the ski slopes. Chudý ascribes this to the snow shortage, as skiers can only use runs that have snow machines and they do not have anywhere to train and get in shape.
Ski centres in the High Tatras expect the second peak of the winter season to come at the beginning of February, when Slovak children and those from neighbouring countries enjoy mid-year or spring holidays.
21. Jan 2008 at 0:00 | Compiled by Jana Liptáková from press reports