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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakhs Plan Ski Resort

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Capital Partners, a Kazakh developer that invested in Moscow's newest luxury hotel, plans to transform a Soviet winter sports complex into Kazakhstan's first European-style ski resort, project manager Nuriya Zhumagulova said Thursday.

The company intends to spend "more than $1 billion" of its own money and funds from the Central Asian nation's biggest bank, Kazkommertsbank, on the resort to the south of commercial capital Almaty, Zhumagulova said.

Capital plans to unite the Medeu ice-skating and Shymbulak ski centers, which date back to the 1970s, into a village around a five-star Ritz-Carlton similar to the hotel that opened near the Kremlin in July.

Medeu and Shymbulak will be linked by 2010 with a cable car, while there will also be 16 ski lifts and a $45 million underground car park for as many as 3,000 vehicles.

"It will be Kazakhstan's Courchevel," Zhumagulova said, referring to a French destination popular with Russian billionaires. "We want to make it one of the world's 10 best skiing resorts."

New slopes will be added and existing ones extended, while snow cannons will prolong the skiing season by two months from November to April, the company said. The resort will seek to broaden its appeal as a venue for the Asian Winter Games in 2011, which Almaty won the right to host last year.

"We are targeting tourists from neighboring countries, such as China, Russia," Zhumagulova said, adding that the company would seek visitors from other former Soviet nations and later the European Union "when the resort becomes famous."

Kazakhstan's economy has grown at an average 10 percent per year since 2000 as the second-largest oil producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia enjoys the benefits of high commodity prices. Ruled by Nursultan Nazarbayev since 1989, the country holds about 3 percent of the world's oil reserves.