Sochi’s slopes ready for 2014 Winter Games
With Alpine skiing events due to get underway at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Sunday 9 February, athletes have been praising the slopes at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.
The competition will begin with the men’s downhill race, and defending champion Didier Defago, of Switzerland, is one of those who has been impressed by the condition of the course.
"The top is extraordinary. The snow is very compact and hard,” said the 36-year-old. “This is very pleasant to ski on. It is really fluid. The track is in good shape.
The USA’s Julia Mancuso won downhill silver behind compatriot Lindsey Vonn in Vancouver four years ago and will be looking to go one better when the women’s downhill takes place on Wednesday 12 February. The 29-year-old – who also won combined silver four years ago, as well as giant slalom gold in 2006 – is another to have revealed her admiration for the course.
"The hills are in excellent condition,” she said. “Actually the best we've had all year.
During the Winter Games, 10 sets of Alpine skiing medals will be contested, with men and women both participating in downhill, super-G, super combined, giant slalom and slalom.
The Olympic courses at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre stretch to a total length of 9km, covering an area of 43 hectares, and have been designed by the legendary Bernhard Russi, the 1972 Olympic downhill champion.
Located on the Aibga Ridge at heights from 954m to 2045m, the various courses will culminate in a single finish area for all competitions, where a spacious 7,800-seat stadium will be filled with enthusiastic Olympic fans, cheering on their favourite athletes.
According to Yves Dimier, the Rosa Khutor alpine sport manager, there have been several changes to the men's and women's downhill courses since the World Cup competitions were held there in 2012, principally based on feedback from athletes.
"On the men's we made some small adjustments, mainly on the course settings, to modify the profile a little bit, not too much,” he said. “But on the women’s course, we've changed one feature, the ‘Devil's Spine’, quite a bit. We did a lot of work removing humps to have a different profile altogether."
The Frenchman has been charged with making final adjustments to the courses ahead of the Games and has been pleased with the results.
"We are quite happy with the quantity of snow we have and the profile of the snow,” he said. "We will monitor the quality of the new snow we are expecting. In some parts of the courses we will mix it with the snow we have, in other parts it will be removed.
"On the speed courses we will use hoses and even the snow guns to water the course. Then we groom it and let the cold temperatures take over. But on the slalom course we will use the water injection bar. It adds water, at high pressure deep into the snow, about 30cm down, to create the hard layers we need. If needed we can use it on sections of the downhill runs, but it's hard work!”
Once Dimier’s work is finished, it will be the turn of the athletes to put all their training into practice as they target a place on the podium.
The Sochi 2014 Alpine skiing events runs from 9-22 February.