Before the Sochi Olympics, a whole city was built up near a small settlement, Estosadok. It was used as an accommodation for members of the media and the media center. The big event has ended, but the infrastructure remains: apartment hotels and townhouses, stores and boutiques, cafés and restaurants, shopping and an entertainment complex. Between the buildings, there are wide pedestrian streets that only become deserted late at night.
Sundown is not an obstacle for sports. Gorky Gorod boasts excellent night skiing: a long blue trail is illuminated and there are separate flat areas next to the ski lifts at an altitude of 960 meters above sea level for training. And no queues – an ideal environment to warm up before the first day of the season. I take a snowboard and get into the lift. If you leave one of the cabin windows open, you will hear the gentle play of the Mzymta River at first. The lights of the Nizhniy Gorky Gorod are hidden behind the canopy of trees and I can hear the sound of music. Soon, a complex of buildings with festive backlighting appears at the top – the second (and more compact) cluster of hotels is located at an altitude of 960 meters above sea level. This is where the skiing area begins. Some hotels work with the ski-in/ski-out principle: you can ski right up to the hotel entrance.
The skiing area of the resort was formerly known as Gornaya Karusel (“Mountain Carousel”). In 2008, three lines of gondola cable car and a lift with six-seater chairs were built on the slopes of the Aibga Ridge. These days, the trail map looks quite impressive. A new skiing area called Cirque-2 was recently opened – its altitude of 2,000 meters extends the season until the beginning of May. From the basin of the second circus you can go to the East Sector with steep red trails at the top and blue and green ones suitable for training at the bottom. Last year, the third circus started to operate in a test mode – behind the peak of Chernaya Piramida.
The lower lift station is located right next to the bus stop, and those who go to other resorts early in the morning may think that there are too many skiers here, a motley crowd always stands by the ticket office. In fact, it is exactly the opposite: Even during the New Year holidays, when the adjacent slopes are crowded, it’s relatively empty here. This is because the local cable car opens a little later than the others. Once the cable car gets going, the cabins cope with the queue quite smoothly: a trip within any segment takes only 10–15 minutes, and you can get to the farthest slopes within an hour and 15 minutes.
And it is there that I arrive to ski on the wide trails of both the circuses. During breaks, I unsuccessfully try to capture all the stunning views down over the winding Aibga Ridge, the river valley and the surrounding mountains dressed in a classic style: the white top, black bottom (the black here, or rather grey-brown, is due to the beech forests). Sometimes, delicate clouds changing shape every second hide the tops and the rays of the sun piercing the clouds give a real shadow theater performance.
Next morning, I wake up to the sound of really hard rain, which, however, ends quite soon. I hurry out, knowing what this means in a subtropical climate in winter: snowflakes the size of a child’s fist are falling on the slopes. However, don’t get your hopes up that all the trails will be opened immediately after snowfall: local experts of the avalanche service (really serious guys) will not calm down until all the potentially dangerous areas have been cleared and secured.
In the cabin, I meet a rescuer, Eugene, whom I know. The landscape is difficult here, so I ask him what off-piste slopes can be explored today. The answer is concise: “None, without a guide!” The main rules of free ride skiing (never ski alone and never follow others’ steps if you do not know where they lead to) are particularly relevant here. A seemingly innocent-looking bend can turn out to be a vast cliff edge (rescuers call them traps), and the stereotype “there are no avalanches in the forest” can lead to accidents.
Today, there are enough virgin territories next to the trails and even on them: The East Sector is sometimes not compacted by Ratracs. The resort administration calls it legal freeriding. The next day, when the snow is a little settled down, I plan to spend my time with the guides I know. People who have studied the mountain inside and out not only guarantee your safety, but also provide an opportunity to set down the first trail, even several days after a snowfall (while at neighboring resorts all the slopes have been rolled down long ago).
The third day, the visibility is perfect, and we ski down the slopes, whipping up fluffy snow. Towards the end, I arrange top stop and rest near the cabin of the avalanche service and I am once again convinced that Gorky Gorod is the quietest resort in Krasnaya Polyana. It is hard to imagine that in the end of March, five thousand energetic boys and girls will pile in at the biggest snow-boarding camp in Russia – the New Star Camp. They will build a huge snow park where athletes from the Quiksilver International Team will perform. Events and concerts will take place right up here at an altitude of 2,000 meters. But now, all I can hear is the wind whistling between the rocks and the even rumbling of the cabin which doesn’t disturb the feeling of solitude and peace people seek here in the mountains.
- Season lasts from the end of December until the middle of May.
- Pistes 2 green, 5 blue, 13 red, and 3 black ones. Altitude difference is 1,380 meters, total length – 30 kilometers.
- Hotel 4 ★ starts from 9,000 rubles for a double room.
- Restaurant a meal for two costs from 1,500 rubles (without alcoholic drinks).
- Snow and the beach are seemingly contrasting things but they are perfectly combined in Gorky Gorod. In the Mountain Beach Water Park on the upper floor of the Gorky Gorod Mall, it is + 30ºC even in winter, the sun shines through a transparent dome and there is real sand under your feet. Here, you can play badminton or beach volleyball, as well as enjoy water activities such as water rides and Jacuzzi. A children’s area for the little ones is also at your service.
- There are bars, clubs, bowling and billiards centers in Gorky Gorod. The most significant opening of the season is the Ice Bar nightclub at an altitude of 960 meters, close to the Solis Sochi Hotel. You can get there by lift or by taxi.
- This year, Suvlachnaya restaurant has opened in Nizhniy Gorod. It offers souvlaki: pieces of meat fried on hot coal, wrapped in flatbread with tomatoes, fresh onions and sauce – a legacy of the Greeks who settled in Krasnaya Polyana in the 19th Century.
Теxt: Elena Vodneva
Published on: December 20, 2017