You’ve probably heard of Kosovo but not of skiing in Kosovo. Landlocked between Albania and Serbia, Kosovo was the last of the nations to congeal in the caldron of old Yugoslavia.
But before all of that there was skiing, and Yugoslavia had plenty of it, from Kranjska Gora in the north to Papova Shapka in the south. The sport soared in popularity when the Olympics came to Bosnia in 1984 and a Slovenian, Jure Franko, won silver in the giant slalom to clinch Yugoslavia’s first Winter Olympic medal ever. Brezovica, about 250 miles southeast of Sarajevo, served as a backup for those games, but Yugoslavia’s more hard-bitten skiers already knew the place for offering the steepest slopes and deepest powder for the fewest dinars.
Brezovica survived the wars but not the peace that followed. Throughout the early 2000s, INEX, the Serbian socially owned enterprise that managed the resort, stopped investing in Brezovica and everything began to crumble. One of the main hotels, a graceless rectangular prism, became a drafty concrete husk. The disco floor went cold. One by one the lifts failed, and by 2013 none of them worked. The storied resort was all but dead.
Then last April, a French consortium signed a contract with Kosovo’s Trade and Industry Ministry to bring Brezovica back to life; the plan was so ambitious that many locals weren’t sure if it was true.
The scope of the proposal is mind-boggling. The consortium has until May to put the financing in order, meaning work could begin this summer. When complete, the resort, at 8,000 acres, will be the size of one and a half Vails, nearly all of which is skiable and inside a national park. It will have the vertical drop of a Crested Butte, about 2,600 feet. The number of hotel beds will grow from 700 to 7,000 — three times as many currently available across the entire country. Visitors will have 100 miles of slopes, high-speed lifts and three gondola-linked villages. Two international airports, Pristina and Skopje, are no more than a 90-minute drive. One day Brezovica might even provide a more budget-friendly alternative to skiing in the Alps.