The Summer Olympics in London may be just around the corner, but American skiers recently got a taste of the slopes above Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, when Russia held its first alpine World Cup races this month.
Lindsey Vonn clinched her fifth consecutive World Cup downhill title with a third-place finish there last weekend and Bode Miller finished fourth two weekends ago on what will be the 2014 Olympics downhill course. Miller told reporters at the event that the hill setup and jumps are good, but the course has too many turns.
"The Olympic downhill has to be the real thing and especially when you have such a great venue as this, it would be awesome to showcase it well," he said. "But this is way too turny for a downhill. It's borderline obnoxious for a downhill being that turny. It is tough when they've never run a race before, but I'm sure they're learning as much as we are and I'm sure they'll figure out how to use this terrain and make something special."
Vonn told reporters she liked the race hill.
"It's hard to compare this course to the other courses on the World Cup because it's so unique," she said at a press conference. "The terrain is really cool. It has everything -- side hills, traverses. It has a lot of terrain. It has flats, steeps. It has turns like a super-G, it has big, open turns. It really has everything. I don't think the jumps are too challenging for the women. I think it's good just the way it is."
Sochi is a large resort city of 400,000 on the Black Sea with a very mild winter climate with average temperatures near 50 in February. The Olympic alpine venue is located at the new resort of Rosa Khutor in the mountains above the city.
In an email to reporters, U.S. ski team media representative Doug Haney detailed how arriving there was like landing in a boom of the industrial revolution.
"Sparks flew from all directions as welders blasted train trestles, sky cranes hoisted beams, bus stops were humming. It was 8:30 p.m. Fifty thousand people have been working 'round the clock for the past year and a half building for 2014. Another 25,000 will be added to that number in the next year."
"This is the coolest hill I've ever seen for ski racing -- downhill, super-G -- it doesn't matter,'' Travis Ganong told reporters on the slope. "This hill is just awesome, top to bottom. It has really steep technical sections, really cool rolls and terrain with bank turns, and then big jumps and the mountains around here are gorgeous. The set can probably use some change before the Olympics and they'll work on that in the next couple of years, but in general this is a great hill."