Moscow: In a city famed for its bitter winters, summer snow has become the latest luxury fad for a select few wealthy Moscow residents.
Snow-making machine salesmen say at least half a dozen individuals in this booming megalopolis have spent in the region of $270,000 on the latest must-have accessory: a private snow room.
The second of two top health clubs has just installed one and next month an indoor ski slope billed as Europe’s largest is due to pump out 4,000 tonnes of fake snow to pave the way for skiers who cannot wait until the winter.
“The market is about to grow exponentially,” said Sergei Ragozin, director of Eco-Sistema which sells snow-making equipment. “People are becoming better off and there are far more people today who can allow themselves such luxuries.”
The power-hungry snow machines are used to cool rich Russians down after the heat of the Russian sauna, or banya, following the age-old local tradition of diving into the snow after a steam bath.
“It’s like a fairy tale to visit Santa’s grotto in the middle of summer,” said Lyudmila Musatova, who was getting ready to plunge into the snow at her $3,000-a-year health spa, Kaskad, in central Moscow.
“It’s the contrast: the extreme heat and the extreme cold. It’s great for your health,” said fellow member Yevgeny Anvarov, who is a public relations specialist, and is preparing to escape the 35 degree C (95 degree F) August heat.
Rival Moscow health club Rixos Royal Spa is preparing the launch of a snow chamber for its members, who pay thousands of dollars a year for access to the 5,000 square-metre (54,000 square-feet) complex, complete with sandy beach.
But in a country with an average wage of under $500 not everyone can afford the soothing effect of snow in August, not even the keepers of the city’s small population of polar bears.
At the Moscow Zoo a snow machine bought by city authorities to help cool its four polar bears has broken down, leaving them sprawling in the summer heat. With the market booming, the zoo has been unable to find anyone to fix it.
Ragozin of Eco-Sistema, said there were around 10 private snow rooms in the capital, owned by “very rich people, mainly businessmen.”
His company recently hit the jackpot with a share of a $13.5-million contract to hook up a 360-metre year-round ski slope with snow machines.
The slope, in the Moscow suburb of Krasnogorsk and billed as the largest in Europe, is due to open in September, a spokesman for developer SU-155 told AFP. Ragozin said he knew of three other year-round slopes in development in Russia.
And with temperatures rising globally, his snow-making services are increasingly in demand in winter too. Last winter, one of the warmest on record in Moscow, was a boon for him as ski slopes struggled with a lack of snow.