Russia: High-Altitude Skiing And Steep Verticals

Skiing in Russia offers something for all levels, but is favoured by intermediate and advanced skiers for its steep verticals and high-altitude skiing. There are four main resorts in Russia, including Krasnaya Polyana, Mount Cheget, Mount Elbrus, and Zavjalikha.

The popular resort of Krasnaya Polyana (540-2228m) enjoys a long winter season with consistent snowfall until May. The 25 kilometres of pistes are connected by six lifts. The longest run stretches four kilometres down the mountain and there is a maximum vertical of 1200 metres.

Former Russian president, Victor Putin, was particularly fond of heli-skiing here which gives access to a seven-kilometre trail and a vertical of more than 2000 metres. Other winter activities here include paragliding and snowmobiling. Krasnaya Polynana is set just 50 kilometres inland from the seaside city and airport of Sochi.

The high-altitude resort of Mount Cheget (1980-3100m) offers 16 kilometres of skiing across seven individual pistes. Skiing back to your hotel is often possible due to the reliable snow cover. This resort is favoured by advanced skiers due to its steep terrain. There is also nine kilometres of cross-country trails to explore. 15 kilometres from Mount Cheget is the ski area of Mount Elbrus.

Mount Elbrus (1980-3800m) is home to Russia's highest skiing at 3800 metres. The resort enjoys a long, snow-filled season due to its high altitude at 1980 metres. Its 23 kilometres of pistes are divided across six pistes. There is a maximum vertical of 1820 metres.

The ski resorts of Mount Elbrus and Mount Cheget are not the easiest to reach: take a plane or train to Nalchik or Mineralniye Vody then there is approximately a four-hour drive from Mineralniye Vody and about 2.5-hour drive from Nalchik. At the end of the Baksan valley, there is a cable lift station from Azau to Elbrus.

Set near the city of Trekhgorny, the resort of Zavjalikha (862m) is home to Russia's first six-seater chairlift - the Doppelmayr. The resort is a little limited with just eight individual pistes linked by four lifts. But what the ski area lacks in size it makes up for in pretty tree-lined pistes which cut through the lush forest. There are seven kilometres of cross-country trails. Snow cover can be variable in Zavjalikha due to its low altitude at 862 metres.

The nearest airport to Zavjalikha is Ufa, but there are expansion plans to build a new airport just 20 minutes from the resort, which will bring the ski area within half a day from Moscow.

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