Four Czechs on Kyrgyzstan skiing holiday killed in avalanches

By bne IntelliNews February 26, 2024

Four Czech citizens on a skiing holiday were killed in avalanches that occurred in Kyrgyzstan's northern district of Ak-Suu over the weekend, according to the Issyk-Kul regional police department. Nineteen other Czechs survived the avalanches that struck in the mountains near the village of Jirgalang on February 25.

The bodies of the deceased were recovered and brought to a morgue in the city of Karakol, Central Asia’s highest ski centre, Radio Azattyk reported.

The tragedy happened two days after guest house owners in Karakol complained to local media that mild winters of the past two years were threatening the financial viability of Kyrgyzstan’s ski resorts. The lack of snow widely associated with the climate crisis is hitting the country’s ski industry, but at the same time unseasonally warm temperatures are melting glaciers and causing land slippages that are pushing up the avalanche incidence rate, threatening other tourist pursuits in mountainous territory such as walking and climbing.

The average temperature in Kyrgyzstan has risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius in the past 20 years.

The country has more than 20 ski resorts, but half were forced to shut down early this year.

Covered in mountains to the extent of around 95%, Kyrgyzstan welcomes around 1.5mn foreign visitors annually. Like Mongolia, it has been stepping up efforts to maximise both fair-weather and winter tourism, but climate change is undermining the latter objective with tourists deterred from making the trip as word spreads about the lack of snow and the increasing danger posed by avalanches.

In Kyrgyzstan and also neighbouring Tajikistan, avalanches typically occur in late winter and spring.

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