By Merve Ozlem Cakir
Turkey’s Mergabutan Plateau has been transformed into a ski resort that has become a favorite of both local and foreign tourists, Turkey’s industry and technology minister said Sunday.
“This is not the Alps, it is the Hakkari Mergabutan Ski Center!” Mustafa Varank wrote on Twitter.
“We identify and support investments that best suit the potential of cities,” he added.
Thanks to the initiatives of the Industry and Technology Ministry’s development agency in the region, the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Hakkari Governorate, the center in Hakkari province attracts many visitors.
Located in the central highlands on the southeastern tip of Turkey, the ski center also provides an opportunity for young people in Hakkari to develop a career in winter sports.
Citing Halil Ibrahim Guray, the general secretary of the Eastern Anatolian Development Agency, the Industry and Technology Ministry said in a statement that significant investments have been made in the ski center since 2013 and the center has achieved international standards.
Pointing out the importance of the center in economic, social and tourism terms, Guray said: “In the mountains of Hakkari, which have been on the agenda with many negativities in the past, the voices of young skiers are now rising.”
The center has become an important location of the city, where social opportunities are otherwise limited, he added.
National champions in seven months
“The city we live in is surrounded by high altitudes and high potential for youths,” said national coach Rojbin Oren, adding they were working with them to become Turkey’s champions in seven months.
“This is also a very rare situation. Now there are baton sounds in the mountains for girls,” Oren added.
A national ski athlete, Zana Oztunc, drew attention to her own success story.
“Despite the great difficulties in Hakkari, we played this sport, and now the best players of the national team are from Yuksekova [District],” Oztunc said.
“If I hadn’t done this sport, I really wouldn’t have been able to leave Hakkari. Thanks to this sport, I’ve traveled to 42 countries. I’m an athlete,” she added.
Another national athlete, Orhan Oren, said the heavy snow that fell in the region was a torment for the people in the past.
“Now it has become a lot of pleasure from the torment. Thanks to this facility, people have started to like winter and snow,” he added.
Alime Tasci, a school principal in Yuksekova, said she came to the region in 2015.
“I had concerns and prejudices about this place. But from the moment I arrived, they disappeared, and I have been in Yuksekova for six years,” she said.
She said that people would be surprised to hear that there is a great ski resort in Hakkari.
One of the visitors to the center was Ali Aydin, who lives in eastern Van province. Pointing out that he never thought that such a facility could exist in Hakkari, Aydin said it is as good as Turkey’s other ski resort, Uludag.
Annual visitor numbers reach 100,000
The Mergabutan Ski Center is 12 kilometers (7.45 miles) away from the Hakkari city center and is one of the facilities in Turkey with the longest seasons which opens in November and continues until the end of April.
In the center, where social facilities such as cafeterias and restaurants are located, the construction of a four-star hotel with a capacity of 120 people and a sports training center is in progress.
In Mergabutan, which has three different tracks with a total length of four kilometers, 10,000 students are given ski lessons every year thanks to the “A Healthy Future Will Come with Sports” project of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The center, which also hosts ski lovers from Iran and Iraq, welcomes around 100,000 visitors annually.
With the support of the regional development agency in 2013, the infrastructure of the track was renewed and the ski house was built.
With the agency’s grant of 8 million Turkish lira in 2017, the length of the track was increased to four kilometers and the chairlift system was established.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports and the regional development agency contributed a total of 11 million Turkish liras to the construction of the accommodation facilities, which was started by the Hakkari provincial administration in 2019.
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