A new skiing destination is attracting tourists. It won't be competing with France or Switzerland quite yet but as Amy Pollock reports the former Soviet-state of Kyrgyzstan has big plans for winter leisure activities.
Fresh powder in an unusual skiing destination. Kyrgyzstan's mountains are drawing tourists from near and far. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INDIAN STUDENT, ANIMES HAZHUR, SAYING: "We love this skating and all everything. Every Sunday we are planning to come to this place, because we love it." (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) UNIDENTIFIED BISHKEK RESIDENT, SAYING: "I came here with my grandchildren and got interested in sledging myself." The amenities may not measure up to expensive European ski resorts, But the former Soviet republic's impressive mountain ranges are seeing a rise in winter tourist numbers. Esen Dzhumanov is from the Bishkek Business Club. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) BISHKEK BUSINESS CLUB EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ESEN DZHUMANOV, SAYING: "We do see an increase - the introduction of a visa-free regime, that happened in 2012, gave a very big prompt. In fact a large number of tourists now come here as a result." With 23 ski bases Kyrgyzstan has some way to go before it can compete with Aspen or St Moritz. But deputy tourism minister Aynura Temirbekova hopes it could be a money spinner. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) KYRGYZ CULTURE INFORMATION AND TOURISM DEPUTY MINISTER, AYNURA TEMIRBEKOVA, SAYING: "The time has come for Kyrgyzstan to find real sources of income, and the large number of our ski bases gives us hope that in future tourism could become the locomotive of our economy." Not quite yet maybe. But if you're seeking a resort well and truly off piste, you might want to look at Kyrgyzstan.