As the Russian city of Sochi prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia becomes the new ski destination that should be at the top of everyone’s wish lists. Since it was announced that Sochi would be hosting, back in July 2007, the mountains around the city have been changing. New ski areas have been set up – complete with mountain restaurants – and old, slow chair lifts have given way to the Olympic luge and bobsleigh runs.
Three resorts have been set up in the Sochi area; Rosa Khutar is the main one, followed by Gazprom and then the smallest of the three, Mountain Carousel. While the resorts are still very much in their fledgling stages, the site of the Winter Olympics on the horizon is sure to persuade investors to continue developing the area to cater for more skiers and snowboarders. With that promising thought in mind, here are some top tips to help you get the most of your ski holiday for the least amount of money.
Obviously it depends where you’re travelling from, but it is fairly likely that Western European destinations are closer to home so your journey to Russia may end up being more expensive. However, book up to a year in advance to get the best deal, and the experience of a new, beautiful ski resort and a lack of heaving crowds will no doubt make up for the extra cost. You could even spend a week skiing before spending another few days exploring some of the surrounding area, or head over into Georgia.
Other means of reducing the cost of your travel may seem fairly trivial, but it will be worth it when it’s all totted up. Consider your transport to the airport from home, for example; there are good public transport links to major airports, so book a train a month or so before you travel and you could end up saving a small fortune on that alone. There is the option of asking a kind friend or relative for a lift, but it’s probably kinder to ask them to drop you off at the train station instead. Sorting out travel at the other end is key too, although this will normally be included in a ski holiday package. As the whole operation is relatively new, it’s best to ask a travel agent about airport transfers, rather than trying to book it for yourself.
Please do not forget to arrange your Russian tourist visa before travelling to Russia.
Food and accommodation
Booking your accommodation last minute can quite often be the cheaper option, but with a relatively small range to choose from it might be better to book in advance. There are a number of websites offering cheap ski deals for accommodation that will identify the most appropriate package for you. It’s important to decide whether you want self-catered or catered accommodation before you go; if you opt for catered, it might seem more expensive but it will save you having to cook when you get back from a hard day of skiing each day and will leave you able to relax with a cold drink while someone else does the work for you. Self-catering can be a good way to save some extra cash, but it’s worth checking the availability of food shops in the resort before you go to make sure that you will easily be able to get everything you need. It may even be a good idea – if you’ve got some extra weight to spare on your luggage allowance – to bring some staple foods with you so you don’t have to spend money on mountain food prices. As it stands at the moment, there is little choice for accommodation at the moment, but new hotels are being developed, so keep an eye out for any changes.
Ski passes and insurance
Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t get persuaded into buying something you don’t need. As it stands, the only way to get from one resort to another is by taxi, but you may decide during the week that it’s worth it. Each of the three ski resorts in Sochi has its own ski pass, and at the moment there is no option to buy one that will cover you for all three resorts. As a result, it’s better to buy one to start with and then see how you go. It will be cheaper to buy a couple of one-day pass for one of the other resorts than to buy one for the whole week, especially if you don’t know if you will be using it or not. The same goes for insurance; if you’re unlikely to be skiing off piste, then make sure that you don’t get talked into buying insurance that covers you for it as it will be considerably more expensive.
Russia may be new on the scene in the world of snow sports, but come Winter 2014 it’s going to be firmly on the radar. If you want to get ahead of the crowds and be able to proudly say that you found it first, get booking before everyone else catches on.