Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Weathering the Ice and Snow of Southwest Russia: Sochi 2014

Let's talk about the weather of southwest Russia. Because if you're into the Olympics ~ and oh, surely you are ~ the weather is significant.

In a nutshell, although it's well below freezing here in Rostov-on-Don, it is not cold in Sochi (pronounced SO-chee), in fact today's high was 46 F.  But as you may know, there's a plan in place to maximize Sochi's unique geography ~ thus its climate cocktail ~ that will please even the most discriminating skiers, skateboarders and aficionados of all things snowy. We'll have a look at that shortly. . .

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But first, please join me on the icy streets here in Rostov-on-Don. Several afternoons ago, the day's high was -7 F and felt like -31 F. Given the choice, most folks were hibernating at home, but I was itching for fresh air, wanted to check on an elderly friend and swing by the statue of Yuri Gagarin (pronounced Ga-GAR-in), the bigger-than-life Soviet cosmonaut, the first man in space. I was hoping the fresh snow and late afternoon sunlight might flatter him.

As it turned out, Comrad Gagarin was in spectacular form.

In front of Rostov Technical University is Yuri Gagarin, first man in space.
(Click image to enlarge.)

From atop his obelisk along the square named in his honor, Yuri Gagarin overlooks Voroshilovskii Street, a major north-south artery. Continuing ever-so-carefully several blocks south, I met a challenge of near-Olympic proportions.

Bare, bumpy ice. My task was to get across that mess and turn right on Maxim Gorky Street, the next intersection. This was an Olympic contest between the ice and me. I won, yes I did. (However, the outcome the next day was quite different.)

Ten meters to the left of the icy sidewalk, here's the view. I noticed an older woman in Soviet-era rubber boots trudging up this footpath along the curb. When in doubt, imitate the nearest Russian babyshka, or grandmother.

South on Voroshilovskii Street: Approaching the Gorky Street bus stop.

Thanks to these slippery walkways, I've had reason to haul out my new full-length down parka from Eddie Bauer, long enough to protect the knees, in theory at least. And protecting the lower limbs is a very good idea ~ said with a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts draped over my left shin, nursing an ice-related injury.

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To head from Rostov toward the Olympic action, go southwest 250-some miles and you'll reach Sochi. That's an overnight train trip, as I know first-hand, and the temperatures there are considerably more moderate, thanks in part to the Black Sea. Here's a handy-dandy map of southwest Russia showing Sochi and environs. Click on the wide view and Rostov-on-Don is visible to the northeast. Zoom in closer and east of Sochi you see Krasnaya Polyana (Beautiful Valley), the Olympic ski area, 40-some miles inland, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountain Range.

With the snow in question, a Michigan-based company, SMI, Snow Makers, has installed 400 snow-making machines, according to this National Geographic video. Before Thanksgiving, Jon Wax, an SMI employee based in central Washington, took leave of his snowmaking duties and headed to Sochi where he's been on the Olympic snow-making team. Here's his story.

Lastly, thanks to RT, Russia Today, "Don't Worry if There's No Flurry. . ."

How about you, dear blog-reading friend? Have you attended or participated in Winter Olympics? Or have you spent time in Sochi? Please do share!

1 comment:

Betsy said...

We adopted our daughter from Russia in 2007 and like your blog, watching the Olympics was a really cool connection to Russia. I thought they did a great job with the opening and closing ceremonies. It was fun for her to see something current to be proud of.