Sunday, February 24, 2013

From Russia with Love

Russia…. Definitely an experience.

We arrived in Sochi for the eighth Ski Cross World Cup of the season. Along with almost ever other winter discipline, this race was a test event for next year’s Winter Olympic Games. 

After two days exploring the rapidly developing city of Sochi located on the Black Sea, we drove to Rosa Khutor, the mountain where the Ski Cross event will be held next year. Basically built from scratch for the Olympics, the town is brand new, still unfinished, and has an almost artificial feel to it; somewhere between a movie set and Disney Land. Cranes fill the skyline all the way down to Krasna Polyana, a town 10km down the road. There’s a lot of work to be done for next year, but given the investment and resources they are pumping into this project, hopefully it will be finished in time.

On our first day free skiing, the mountain instantly exceeded my expectations. The top gondola gives access to some of the most incredible skiable terrain. With spectacular views of nearby Georgia, the mountain’s peak is steep, rugged, full of chutes and couloirs, and almost entirely off-piste. If you’re coming to watch the Olympics next year, I recommend bringing some big mountain skis to make the most of this resort.

After watching the Border Cross World Cup on the same course a few days earlier, I was extremely excited to ski the track. In terms of size, speed and length, the track was by far the biggest and most difficult this season. It is definitely on par with the 2010 Winter Olympic Games course in Vancouver, and the Winter X Games course in Aspen; two of the best courses I’ve ever skied. 

Like the majority of our World Cup season this year, the weather dictated our race schedule. The first two training days were cancelled due to rain. We were hopeful to get qualifications off on day 3 but that was also postponed due to heavy snowfalls and fog. Once again, we were forced to do training, qualifications and finals all in the one day.

Luckily the weather cleared just enough on day 4 to get the race off completely. I qualified in 14th place out of 42 which I was happy with. In the first round of finals, I pulled out of the start in third place, but managed to make a pass into second, and again into first on the upper part of the course. I led for the rest of the way and crossed the line in first. Through round one and into the quarterfinals! In the next heat, I was in third place again but couldn’t manage the same manoeuvre to pass into second or first. I finished the heat in third and was therefore knocked out of the semi finals. Overall I placed 11th. Given that this is the location for next year’s Olympics, I was very happy with my result and know that there is definitely room for improvement for next year. 

For a view of the course from my perspective, take a look at the head-cam footage I took during one of my training runs. 

After a solid two days of travel from Russia and a short stay in Prague, we are now in Czech Republic for the next World Cup. 

Marielle and I pumped to get through to the quarter finals after an exciting heat.

A close third place in quarter finals behind Marielle Thomson (CAN) and Karolina Reimen (POL).

The course builders sketch of the track.

The Olympic countdown clock in Sochi (courtesy of SSA).

Almost like a home ground advantage? Fog wipes out the view in Rosa Khutor.

Rosa Khutor (Courtesy of SSA)

Marcos at work at the top on finals day.

Great viewing spot of the track in Sochi.

Brand new. Rosa Khutor.

Disney Land??