Yelena Vyalbe: For Olympics 2026 We Will Prepare In Caucasus Mountains Rather Than Alps

In interview with the Daily Skier Yelena Vyalbe reveals that Russia is serious about building world-class snow-sports facilities in the Caucasus mountains, a region of snowcaps with hitherto untapped potential .

“…. Ever since I became the chairman of the Russian XCski federation some 11 years ago, I was arguing for creating of top-level ski resorts/ training centers in the Caucasus mountains. The snow is there, the right altitudes are there. But zero history of dealing with cross-country skiing in particular…”

 

The Northern Caucasus region, a part of the Russian Federation,   rivals the Alps in the amount of suitable places for world-class ski resorts , yet has a very limited history of providing for fans of snow-sports. Even in the Soviet times the training centers were located on the other side of a long mountainous range – in Bakuriani ( Georgia) and Tsaghkadzor ( Armenia). The Russian side traditionally produced some of the world best wrestlers and other martial arts champions, not skiers. But in the last few years  a combination of Russian ruble depreciation and COVID restrictions ( Russian tourists are not allowed to Europe, athletes – on special permissions) produced a massive domestic demand for  snow tourism and active leisure. Vyalbe, now the chairwoman of the whole Russian Ski Association and one of the most visible public figures in the Russian sports,  wants to seize the opportunity.

“I can see the actual movement in the right direction, facilities are being mapped, planned and soon built.  It might sound ambitious in 2021 but we really plan to have the snow-sport teams prepare for the Olympics 2026 in the Caucasus rather than in the Alps as we did all the last decades”.

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The Caucasus stretches for over a 1000 kilometers between the Black and the Caspian seas. Just like the Alps, it’s known for its numerous thermal springs resorts, but active leisure/ sports infrastructure hitherto was lagging behind. It is rapidly changing

Top skiers these days need a lot more than their grandfathers/mothers used to. One of the musts is a proper rollerski track to minimize dangerous training sessions on twisty mountain roads. At least two are already being mapped – around Arkhyz and Elbrus downhill ski resorts.   A new resort of Veduchi in Chechnya dreams of Lysebotn uphill fame of the Blink Ski festival – a massively challenging 4k uphill rollerski race is being discussed.

 

 

Some Russian skiers are already training in the Caucasus in May and June – but closer to season’s start would move to more common ( and expensive!) Alpine locations. Vyalbe wants to change that
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