To All FIPS Members,
I just returned from a trip to Sochi with Jean Louis to finalize plans for our next Congress. To clarify, the town is Sochi—the ski area 40 minutes away is Rosa Khutor. I am happy to report that the mountain, skiing, facilities and people all exceeded my highest expectations.
Congress Theme – the world working together to improve safety and enjoyment of the mountains.
Travel – I felt safer in Russia than I do in most of the US and Europe. There are two ways to fly into Sochi, from Moscow or Istanbul. Obviously Moscow is preferred. We flew from Geneva through Moscow. If you can get to Moscow from wherever, then round trip to Sochi on Aeroflot which has better service then any American airline, is as low as $84. They still serve free real meals and wine in economy on Aeroflot.
Mountain and skiing – The Western press has way underrated all aspects of the area. I found Rosa Khutor to be one of the best mountains I have skied anywhere in the world. For example, it has bowls (“cirques”) that dwarf Vail bowls. It has Quadruple Black Diamond chutes that are Telluride chutes on steroids. One out of three days I was there I got to ski a couple feet of new powder. The snow is not quite as dry as Utah or Colorado but quite good.
Facilities and Food – I saw no bad facilities. All lifts are first rate – many gondolas – with an electronic ticket system. Put the card in your pocket and never have to touch it. All the lodges are great – built in the last 8 years. Accommodations range from average level of fanciness to 5 stars. Restaurants of all types including pizza/Italian, steak, chicken, European and finally several McDonalds. Good news—a good lunch on the hill is $5-$6 US versus $10-$20 in the US. A meal at McDonalds (I had to check) is only about half the price of what it is in a US town.
VISA – Simplified Visa process is being developed and will be out with registration details in one or two months. A Visa whether single visit or three years costs about $200 US and takes about two weeks with it Fed Ex’d direct to your house. This will be handled through an agency with a Courier who brings it to the appropriate country Consulate and then picks it up and mails it. The Courier gets $100-$130 for a total cost of about $300 US. It is the only way to go and is totally painless. The Consulates really do not want individuals dropping by. Again specific details will be provided with registration details.
People – Everyone I encountered on and off the slopes was friendly.
Safety — This event is being supported all the way up the chain to the President of Russia. You will be safer there than you are in your own town or even house. At any Russian airport you go through screening at least twice and often three times. This is their Quality Control. You are also screened in town before you ride the first lift. In the over 20 times I was screened, I only encountered a long line once.
Bottom Line – Plan to make an enjoyable first trip to Russia the end of January 2018 (specifics to follow). I am always to a fault skeptical about any endeavor. As indicated, my expectations were well exceeded in ALL areas.
More to Come.