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Load up your daypack with horse sausage. Soon it will be time to ski Kazakhstan. The nation that gave the world Borat (well, not really) now hopes to become the Switzerland of central Asia. Following a failed bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Kazakh Ministry of Tourism announced last spring that it will develop six new “world-class resorts and improve Chimbulak—the 10,000-foot-high former training grounds of the Soviet ski team. Kazakhstan, a former Soviet state four times the size of Texas, boasts the massive Tian Shan range, which features peaks above 20,000 feet and more than 1,500 glaciers. But despite the wealth of terrain and all-important altitude, Kazakhstan is still terra incognita for most skiers.
“We hope the resorts attract tourists from Russia, Western Europe, and the United States, says Talgat Kaliev, deputy mission chief of the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington, DC. Luring tourists to the remote country could be difficult, however. Almaty, the former capital and Kazakhstan’s largest city, is a seven-hour flight—from Germany. But developers are moving forward, scrambling to complete facility improvements ahead of the 2011 Asian Winter Games, a competition to be hosted in Almaty. Sounds like the plans to “make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan are in full swing.