Heading into an Olympic city one year prior to the Games was a great privilege, especially one as guarded as the ancient motherland. Russia is not your typical ski destination – which made visiting it especially exciting. That sense of exploring something for the first time is a righteous experience.
That being said it was a real trip seeing the Russian Olympic Movement first hand. The first impression you get when you land in Sochi and drive to the mountains – is Holy Shit?! How on earth are they going to get all this work done in less than a year? Literally everything is in various stages of construction, from the roads to the rails to the stadiums, buildings, hotels and the ski resort itself. It seems like an impossible task ahead of them, but what do I know about construction?
On a huge upside – the mountains are beyond description in their majesty and grandeur. I have never seen or skied at a resort that had so much raw terrain available and accessible via a chairlift. I suspect that if Russia was an easier country to access that this resort could become the next big mountain mecca for skiers and boarders alike.
I was lucky to have the liberty of few extra days to explore the terrain prior to the World Cup Finals. The weather was golden – it had just snowed a bunch and the sun was just starting to poke out enough to expose the surrounding areas. It’s hard to put words to the joy a little powder puts in my day – but a little exploration of the trees and steeps left me smiling from ear to ear for days. It was a nice reprieve from a long stretch of smashing gates in less than ideal conditions.
Moving back to the racing theme – the 2014 Paralympic race slope was one of the most exciting tracks I’ve ever skied. It’s steep, technical and filled with airs. To be honest when I first looked at it I was totally intimidated, as you have no idea what the hill is going to feel like at speed. But like most things in life, it appeared much scarier than it actually was.
Ironically (much like Vancouver 2010), I missed my performance target in Downhill, which was quite disappointing but found unlikely success in the Slalom race. My first podium of the World Cup season came on the final race day. It was not the most glorious skiing of my career but it certainly felt nice to see some reward for all of my efforts.
With the exception of the Canadian Championships, that concludes the competitive portion of my season. Now it’s playtime – a chance to freeski and explore what’s possible in the backcountry.