This year’s travel fever started in January with a snowboarding trip to Sochi, Russia. This summary is written about the trip three months later, but I still have a lot of great emotions (and words) surfacing still. The idea to go there actually came last year and from a friend, who has gone there for two years now to ski. He told us that the slope and snow conditions there are good and prices reasonable. So this was an option we were thinking about while planning our snowboarding trip in 2017. In the end, we decided to go to Japan instead, but the idea of enjoying snowboarding in Russia became topical again this year. We had an opportunity to go to Sochi for 11 days and without too much thought, our trip was set to happen between 15.-25.01.2018.
In order to go to Russia, you’ll need a visa, so this was the first thing I did after getting the plane tickets. In Estonia, you can apply for a regular visa or the expedited one, which you’ll get in about 4 days. This is a great option for impromptu decision makers like me… 🙂 It’s easy to fly to Sochi, as we just had to switch planes in Moscow and our travel time in total was about 4-5 hours. While on the trip, I heard that Aeroflot is planning to have direct flights from Tallinn to Sochi as early as this year, but I assume these are for the summer season. Either way, it’s great and convenient.
Our accommodation was about 85 kilometers away from Sochi city, in the Roza Khutor resort. This is a small village/town, which was totally rebuilt for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. The Mzymta river flows through the city and gives it a special charm. Roza Khutor looks still new and polished, but most of the houses are almost empty, since there aren’t that many winter-tourists there, after new years celebrations. Accommodation providers don’t want to lower their prices, but they’re okay with having no clients. Go figure! 🙂
Our vacation lasted 9 days and we decided that we use 7 of them for snowboarding and 2 for tourist activities. You can buy a combined ticket and choose the mountain days so that they don’t have to be consecutive. We decided on our mountain days mostly after checking the weather. We had sun almost every other day which also meant that some days were really snowy with poor visibility. But the fresh snow was great and gave us an opportunity to enjoy powdery and untouched trails. Our choice for snowboarding were the longer and more interesting trails which featured beautiful wide off-road slopes and forestry.
It’s really easy to go wandering there and I loved that even if we didn’t know, where this “fantasy trail” would lead us, we always ended up next to some lift. There are three main mountain slopes and enough pubs and cafes between tracks for rest and to enjoy the view. You can also have a ride with a dogsled pulled by huskies. All the lifts and gondolas are modern and I was really happy about the seat heating. The highest you can get by lift is to Roza Peak at 2320 meters. There is a photographer and you can take and buy great pictures right there on the mountaintop. There are also people offering paragliding and although we thought about it, we didn’t have enough money with us, when it was the right weather. I’ve done it in Estonia but gliding over the mountain seemed magical. Definitely gonna do it next time!
We loved that even during the most popular days there weren’t too many snow lovers on the mountain. We didn’t have to wait a lot of time in lift lines or fight with someone for the best run :). Most of the people in the resort were Russians, so they saw us as someone exotic. There were a lot of conversations on the lifts about where we’re coming from and what are our thoughts about Sochi. All the people we interacted on this trip, were so kind and friendly and I loved practicing my beginner’s Russian language.
On our evenings and free days, we discovered the Roza Khutor village. There are some hiking trails, a mountain river, a market, shops (e.g. fur boutiques), an Ethno Park with huskies and matryoshka dolls, some restaurants and bars and even a great establishment for enjoying the night-life. In our village, we loved having ribs, the great music and watching snowboard cross on the TV in the ALASKA Bar & Grill. We also went to the neighboring villages to see the cinema, casino, spa, and dinner places. In addition to regional food, we also tasted some fine alcohol (e.g. Georgian wine, Armenian Cognac) and bought a lot of famous Russian candies. There is a bigger place called Esto-Sadok near Roza Khutor, which is an Estonian village. Years ago, there were many Estonians living there, but during the Olympics preparations they had enough of all the restructuring and moved away.
We left one tourist day for Sochi city and the Olympic Park. This day went by too fast, but we visited some parks and the botanical garden. We tried out famous Russian fur coats and enjoyed walking on the promenade by the Black Sea. While in Rosa Khutor the weather was -3…+3 in the village and as low as -10 Celsius degrees up on the mountain, in Sochi it was warmer and about +13 Celsius degrees. After the city tour, we went to the Olympic Park, which is located a half an hour drive outside Sochi. We arrived there just in time to enjoy a fountain show with most famous classic Russian music and afterward a European pop playlist. The Olympic Park is also a place where everything is waiting for a new chance to be in use – all the accommodation and training facilities are half-empty and half-in-use, so it was a bit sad to see all these great opportunities to be sitting in idle. Fortunately, the 2017 F1 Russian Grand Prix took place there last year. This year the Sochi’s Olympic Park will be hosting FIFA World Cup, so the forgotten treasure will shine again!
I really loved this trip for many reasons, of which the main are:
- the great snowy mountain, trails, and easy-to-go off-roads,
- the good weather conditions,
- the Russians and their food (+ regional, e.g. Georgian cuisine), culture and interaction,
- the cultural activities we had and
- the great price and quality balance.
As we experienced, mountain ticket is cheaper in Sochi, but living expenses are similar to the Alps. There are other smaller slopes in other Sochi villages next to Roza Khutor, so if you get bored of one resort, you can try others. We didn’t, at least not this time! 🙂 We ended our trip on the way to the airport with the adrenaline rush in Skypark. There was a Megatroll ride, which was starting from the 439 meters long Skybridge at an altitude of 207 meters above the ground. I was totally scared, my pulse was up, legs were shaking, but the experience was great and we were ready for our flight back home!