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The lodge at Brezovica Winter Tourist Resort, in an area that is predominately Serbian, is ready to re-open and American troops will be some of the first to hit the slopes. The troops, stationed at Camp Bondsteel, had hoped to be skiing this week but the trips were delayed until the resort, which has been the back up could boost its ski patrol and first-aid facilities.

The lodge at Brezovica Winter Tourist Resort, in an area that is predominately Serbian, is ready to re-open and American troops will be some of the first to hit the slopes. The troops, stationed at Camp Bondsteel, had hoped to be skiing this week but the trips were delayed until the resort, which has been the back up could boost its ski patrol and first-aid facilities. (David Josar / S&S)

The lodge at Brezovica Winter Tourist Resort, in an area that is predominately Serbian, is ready to re-open and American troops will be some of the first to hit the slopes. The troops, stationed at Camp Bondsteel, had hoped to be skiing this week but the trips were delayed until the resort, which has been the back up could boost its ski patrol and first-aid facilities.

The lodge at Brezovica Winter Tourist Resort, in an area that is predominately Serbian, is ready to re-open and American troops will be some of the first to hit the slopes. The troops, stationed at Camp Bondsteel, had hoped to be skiing this week but the trips were delayed until the resort, which has been the back up could boost its ski patrol and first-aid facilities. (David Josar / S&S)

The slopes at Brezovica Winter Tourist Resort are empty but groomed and next week American troops hope to ski there as a Morale, Welfare and Recreation outing. The resort is the only one in Kosovo.

The slopes at Brezovica Winter Tourist Resort are empty but groomed and next week American troops hope to ski there as a Morale, Welfare and Recreation outing. The resort is the only one in Kosovo. (David Josar / S&S)

BREZOVICA, Kosovo — For the second time within a year, plans to allow American troops to ski at the province’s only ski resort have been scuttled, but KFOR officials still hope to get soldiers onto the slopes soon.

Camp Bondsteel spokesman Sgt. Steve Ducharme said Morale, Welfare and Recreation workers are attempting to improve ski patrol and first aid facilities at the Brezovica Winter Tourist Resort, which is about a 45-minute bus ride from Camp Bondsteel.

Day trips, which were to start this week, are now slated to begin Jan. 3, he said.

“This should be a great opportunity,” said Jim Mattingly, MWR chief at Camp Bondsteel.

Mattingly said so far the trips, because of the uncertainty, have not been advertised, but word of mouth has generated a buzz.

“If I could ski once a week on a big mountain in Kosovo, I’d be in heaven,” said Spc. Robert Traylor, a National Guardsman from New Hampshire. “Who would think you could ski in Kosovo?”

MWR had permission last year from KFOR leaders to run the trips, but the resort is adjacent the Serbian-majority village Strpce, and ethnic tensions in the community caused KFOR leaders to stop the trips due to force protection worries.

Brezovica had been the backup ski area in 1984 when Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics. The resort is serviced by double, single and t-bar lifts as well as a gondola. Opened in 1955, the ski area, which has several runs more than a mile long, resembles American resorts from the 1950s. The ski trails are wide and tree-free, the lodge is simple and there are few safety measures.

“It is an amazing place,” Sibinovic Sibin, the resort manager and the 1970 Serbian ski champion, said through an interpreter.

The resort features overnight runs, ski and snowboard lessons, a restaurant and a bar.

Still, like the rest of Kosovo, the resort is plagued by electric outages. As a result, Sibin said, only one or two of the resort’s 10 lifts will operate and those will be linked to a backup generator. The resort opened for the season last Sunday.

Mattingly said once day-trips begin, he expects the excursions to be inexpensive. Lift tickets should be about 20 euros and equipment rentals about 10 euros. A soldier can get two one-hour ski or snowboarding lessons for 10 euros.

MWR plans to have trips for groups between 10 and 40 people three times a week.

Last year’s plan included allowing troops to stay overnight and possibly be exempt from standing order No. 1 — which bans alcohol — but MWR is looking only at day trips for now, Mattingly said.

Army Maj. Robert F. Fulscher, director of personnel and administration at Camp Bondsteel, said the trips are welcome breaks that also could make the troops more productive in their mission.

“When you take a break, it can help you focus,” he said.

Mattingly said at first the soldiers will probably hit the slopes in Battle Dress Uniform Gore-Tex parkas and pants, but noted that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is selling high-quality outdoor gear at the exchange on Bondsteel.


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