Lifestyle Jan 17 2020 Nikolay Shevchenko
Legion Media Choose the right ski resort that matches your needs perfectly. Gazprom Laura - Best for beginners & relaxed family skiing
Gazprom Mountain Resort
'Gazprom Laura' is a ski resort best suited for beginners and famous for its picturesque surroundings. Its main features are wide, easy-to-ride pistes for relaxed skiing.
The best way to find Gazprom Laura is to locate the Galaktika entertainment center. It's a well-known location and a 45-minute taxi ride from Sochi Airport for 1,600 rubles ($25) will get you there. Alternatively, you can walk to the train station that is located only 760 meters (0.47 mi.) away from the airport and take a train heading for Rosa Khutor. Galaktika is located 2 km (1.25 mi.) away from the Rosa Khutor train station. Buses #135, #105, #105c also run on the route; but make sure you ask the driver if that particular bus stops at the Gazprom resort, because sometimes they take an alternative route. If you go by car, parking on the territory of the ski resort costs 500 rubles ($8) per day.
There are two accommodation options at the Gazprom Laura ski resort, if you want to live within walking distance of the slopes: the five-star Grand Hotel Polyana and the four-star Polyana 1389. High-end rooms at the Grand Hotel Polyana can accommodate up to five guests and separately standing villas can accommodate up to nine. In the runup to the New Year, a basic room for two costs 14,400 rubles ($233) per night. A standard room for two at Polyana 1389 costs 17,000 ($275) per night.
Two cable cars take you up to the pistes of Gazprom Laura. The first one, called A1, starts from the Grand Hotel Polyana, while the other, called A3, starts from the Alpika cableway station. You will find more advanced pistes at the end of the A1 cableway. A3 cable cars will take you to a wide variety of green- and blue-marked pistes better suited for beginners.
All in all, Gazprom Laura provides the most picturesque environment for relaxed skiing. Most of the pistes are wide (up to 66 m; 216 ft.) and go through a dense mountain forest. Consequently, Laura provides the best locations for a photoshoot and, during evening sessions, has the most romantic allure of all the skiing resorts in Sochi.
"Gazprom Laura has the greatest variety of green and blue pistes and has no cliffs on the side of the slopes. Beginners often find it psychologically difficult to ride even the easiest pistes if on their right or left they see a cliff. People are often scared and this will impede their learning process. At Laura, this is not a problem as you basically ride in a fir forest," said Denis, 29, a skiing instructor.
Naturally, Laura has red and black pistes more suited for advanced riders. These slopes are of very good quality and many consider them to be the best of all advanced pistes in Sochi. However, they're only open when there is a lot of snow - which is rather rare in the region. Therefore, a prior call (+7-862-259-55-95) to the resort to see if the pistes you are specifically looking for are open is highly recommended.
Cross-country skiing is also available for adrenaline-averse guests. The resort also has a famous outdoor swimming pool that's open all year round.
Rosa Khutor - The best variety of pistes
'Rosa Khutor' is a ski resort that promises the most entertaining skiing experience, especially for large groups of riders of different skill levels. Here, everyone will be able to find a suitable slope befitting their skill level.
Rosa Khutor is located a little higher in the mountains than Gazprom Laura. It's an hour-long car ride from Sochi Airport with a slightly higher taxi fare of 1,800 rubles ($30).
If you have a weak stomach and cannot handle a narrow, winding road, consider doing the last part of the trip on a cable car. You will need to arrive at the Olympia 500 cable car center, and from there, take a cable car to Olympia 1170, a cable car station located in the heart of the Rosa Khutor ski resort.
A train heading for Rosa Khutor will also take you to the cable car station or, alternatively, you can take a bus. Numbers #135, #105, and #105c will get you there. The "city hall" should be the landmark guiding your directions - the cable car station is right across the river from it. The cable car station is open from 8:30 AM to 11:45 PM every day. Taking a cable car does require a ski pass, however; therefore a taxi ride might initially be less expensive.
There are two general venues to consider for accommodation: Rosa Plato and Rosa Dolina. Choose Plato if you are determined to ski and prefer secluded living as opposed to the less isolated Dolina, that at the same time is more distant from the slopes.
If you opt for a less isolated, but more distant location, consider the five-star Radisson Rosa Khutor or four-star Park Inn by Radisson Rosa Khutor or the Mercure Rosa Khutor. In the run-up to the New Year holidays, a standard room for two in Radisson Rosa Khutor costs 15,000 ($242) per night, a standard room for two in Park Inn by Radisson Rosa Khutor costs 7,470 ($120), and the same suit in the Mercure Rosa Khutor costs only 5,600 ($90).
If you prefer to live by the slopes and save precious morning hours to extend your skiing sessions, opt for accommodation at one of the hotels located in Rosa Plato (the Olympia 1170 cable car junction). This venue is higher in the mountains and therefore more secluded. It has the air of a small alpine village about it: here, it's hard to come by an unfamiliar face. Possible accommodation options are the Rosa Ski Inn, Rosa Chalet, Rosa Springs, and Rosa Lodge.
Despite a touch of luxury and picturesque views of mountains, a standard room for two in Rosa Ski Inn costs only 3,600 ($58) a night, with much cheaper options also available (like a room in a shared apartment with a shared bathroom that costs just 1,890 rubles ($30) per night). The Rosa Chalet charges 15,000 rubles ($240) a night for two; while the Rosa Springs and Rosa Lodge charge 13,200 rubles ($210) and 5,300 rubles ($85) a night, respectively. Booking in advance is strongly recommended as many rooms are often booked out right before and immediately after the New Year holidays, despite a steep price increase during the holiday season.
Rosa Khutor takes pride in offering the widest variety of pistes to the guests of the resort. The resort has the greatest cumulative piste length in Russia - 100 km (62 mi.) of slopes for various skill levels.
"Rosa Khutor was one of the locations that hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. Red and black pistes of the resort are our Olympic heritage certified by the International Ski Federation," says resort representative Vladimir Klyushkin, emphasizing the quality of the slopes.
Green pistes here are long enough for beginners to hone their skills without having to bother about too short rides and too long lines for the chairlifts - the length of green pistes at Rosa Khutor allows for an extended descent. At the same time, parts of the green pistes happen to lie next to cliffs (often unmarked and unprotected by safety nets), which makes it harder for beginner riders to ski in a relaxed manner. Of course, the safety of guests is the resort's number one priority, confirmed by a representative, who dismissed any concerns, reassuring us that they mark all potentially dangerous places and monitor those areas a few times every day.
One of Rosa Khutor's guests on the slope.
"I like the variety of pistes, but as a beginner rider, I don't like that there are no safety nets for some parts of the slopes," said Daniya, 24.
"Rosa Khutor promises the best ride, but only for those who already know how to ski," said skiing instructor Denis. "The pistes here are the longest and there are so many of them. It's the most entertaining resort to ski at precisely because of the variety [of slopes]."
Guests skiing with children who are past beginner level recommend Rosa Khutor as opposed to other resorts in Sochi. "There are slopes best suited for children, and at the same time, there are pistes you may take if you are an advanced rider; other resorts offer fewer options," said Alexey, 41, who came to ski with his 10-year-old son.
That said, Gazprom Laura will still be the best resort to begin skiing for the first time. If your child has already mastered the basics, Rosa Khutor may be the best compromise that will suit his needs and those of his parents in case they are more advanced riders looking for a thrill. At Rosa Khutor, riders of every skill level are accommodated.
For those who do not ski, the resort offers breathtaking paragliding sessions for 7,500 rubles ($120) per person, a posh restaurant called Vysota on the mountain top, and an observation deck with a picturesque panoramic view.
Krasnaya Polyana (also known as Gorky Gorod) - The most social and affordable resort best suited for advanced riders and free-riders
Krasnaya Polyana is probably the most social place to spend your winter holiday in Sochi. It's the first infrastructural cluster on the way up the mountains. Consequently, it's the gravity center of skiing in the region.
Its easy accessibility is ensured by a relatively short taxi ride from the airport: only a 40 minute ride for 1,500 rubles ($25). Bus numbers #105, #105c, and 135 heading to Gornaya Karusel' bus stop, will also get you there. However, expect to spend a good 120 minutes on the bus ride. The already familiar train option heading further to Rosa Khutor station will also do. Meanwhile, if you go by car, parking is available for 700 Rubles ($11) a day.
The variety of hotels at this resort is impressive: from the grand Sochi Marriott Krasnaya Polyana and its standard rooms costing 12,700 rubles ($205) a night to tiny, cheap unbranded hotels that offer rooms for only 3,000 rubles ($50) a night for two - practically anyone will be able to find suitable accommodation here.
Consider checking into Rixos Krasnaya Polyana (15,600 Rubles/$250 per night), Novotel (9,500 Rubles/$150), Gorki Panorama (8,700 Rubles/$140), or Dolina 960 (9,500 Rubles/$150), if you want to live right next to the slopes.
The BoogelWoogel carnival guest.
Krasnaya Polyana is a resort where party spirit is in the air, be it on the slopes or down in the village. Its pistes are best suited for advanced professionals. Although there are two green pistes for aspiring riders, they are located at a low altitude and require ideal weather conditions for them to be opened.
What's lacking here are the golden middle pistes that could accommodate riders of average skills. Too often, blue pistes that are supposed to suit average riders overlap with steeper red slopes - not an ideal thing for a beginner. Two blue pistes (5A and 4A) that do not cross with red pistes are too short and therefore can become too boring, too soon.
On a positive note, there is a clear view of the sea from the top of the resort - skiing while overlooking the sea is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and worth a try!
A boy on at the Krasnaya polyana resort in Sochi, Russia.
The resort also has the best conditions for freeriding. "You can find loads of the steepest and most difficult slopes and some that even run through the forest. It's the highest-located resort, and therefore, the snow at Tsirk-2 and Tsirk-3 (untouched semicircular curves between two mountain peaks) is abundant and its quality is ideal for freeriding," said skiing instructor Denis.
At the same time, freeriding at the resort is also considered the most dangerous: freeride zones are not as easily accessible from the standard pistes as they are at Rosa Khutor, which hinders first aid in case of emergency. Also, the resort reportedly unofficially discourages the practice by declining any aid to freeriders. Not that it prevents adrenaline junkies from trying it out, regardless.
As mentioned above, this resort has the highest-located slopes. Therefore, if you arrive in Sochi too early or too late in the season, chances are you'll end up at Krasnaya Polyana, as it's the first one to open and the last to close.
"For the very first time, I went skiing at Krasnaya Polyana. Although I initially planned to go to Rosa Khutor, Polyana was the only resort where there was snow at the time," said Viktoria, 26. "Honestly, it was a little too challenging for me to start there. Rosa Khutor or Gazprom Laura would have been a better place for me to learn skiing."
Krasnaya Polyana is famous for its lively atmosphere, both up in the mountains and down in the village.
In any case, Krasnaya Polyana is famous for its lively atmosphere, both up in the mountains and down in the village. Down there, it has the most advanced infrastructure: stores, cafes, restaurants, banks and grocery stores are all in abundance here. When the other resorts are already getting ready for bed, life here is still in full swing.
Another major attraction is the Sochi Casino and Resort, adjacent to Sochi Marriott Krasnaya Polyana. It lies within walking distance of every hotel in the area.
If you are a savvy rider looking for quality freeride and noisy parties after skiing, Krasnaya Polyana is the place for you.
Gazprom Alpika - The most isolated resort for advanced riders and solitude lovers
Gazprom Mountain Resort
Gazprom Alpika is a resort only suitable for advanced riders; it's also a place where you can escape the crowds.
Formally, Gazprom Alpika is a part of Gazprom Ski Resort, along with Gazprom Laura. In reality, it's a lot different.
Just like its sister venue, Gazprom Alpika begins with the Galaktika entertainment center. The earlier-mentioned Grand Hotel Polyana and Polyana 1389 hotels remain viable options for accommodation. To get to Alpika, however, you'll need to take the K1 cable car from the Alpika Cableway Station (located next to Galaktika) up to a mountain peak called Priyut Vetrov.
Luckily, you won't need to buy a separate ski pass to switch from Gazprom Laura to Gazprom Alpika, as again, these are formally two parts of a single resort. However, you'll definitely need to develop strong riding skills to make the switch.
A boy and his father sitting on the chair on a ski resort in Sochi.
Gazprom Alpika is a resort that requires skills. It only offers pistes of 8 km (ca. 5 mi.) in total length (a staggering drop from the 100 km of pistes available at Rosa Khutor, for example) and all of them are either marked as red or black, meaning they are the steepest slopes you will find in Sochi.
Due to its location and complex pistes, Gazprom Alpika is a relatively isolated resort. When other resorts are crowded, this is the best place to avoid long lines and packed slopes.
"Come here when you get sick of the lines and when you want to ride in solitude. Its slopes are narrow and there are simply fewer people riding here," says ski instructor Denis.
However, it would be a mistake to write off Gazprom Alpika as a poor resort, warns the expert. It's perfect for advanced riders as here they rarely face the problem of overcrowded pistes - a common occurrence at all the other ski resorts in Sochi.
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