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Tue, May 30, 2006 - Page 10 News List

US$300 million ski resort being developed for India

THE GUARDIAN , NEW DELHI

The peaks of the Himalayas are to get their first five-star skiing resort to rival those of Vail and Val d'Isere after Indian officials gave the go-ahead for a US$300 million project backed by Alfred Ford, the great-grandson of car-maker Henry Ford.

Located in the Kullu Valley, in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the resort will include 700 five-star rooms, 300 Swiss-style chalets and a gondola taking visitors up to 4,300m.

Himalayan Ski Village said the ultimate aim was to hold a Winter Olympics there.

"Our designer's remit is to design the best, biggest resort he can. We want it up to Olympic standards so we can hold the [Winter] games there," said John Sims, a developer who came up with the idea.

Sims said that Ford was an "old school chum who loved the idea and became an investor."

Ford owns 25 percent of the venture, which should see the first skiers take to the slopes in 2010.

India has two Himalayan ski resorts, one in Jammu and Kashmir that has been virtually off-limits thanks to a violent insurgency. The other is a small resort in the northern Indian state of Uttaranchal.

The company aims to tap the growing affluence of India's youthful middle-class.

"In India there's a huge lifestyle transformation going on. It's a young country, average age 26, and they want to try everything," Sims said. "People used to say Indians did not white water raft. Now you try getting a booking in Himachal. More than 80 percent of our business is going to be domestic."

One of the first hurdles facing the company is the infrastructure. Kullu Valley is a 15-hour drive, up winding roads, from Delhi and only one small airline flies to Manali.

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