Kranaya, Russia

Eastern-based athletes in the snow and ice sports are now channeling their efforts on the next Winter Olympics, which are less than 13 months away.


The Opening Ceremonies in Sochi, Russia, on the Black Sea, might feature palm trees and tiki huts. It’s a far cry from frigid Moscow, about 900 miles north. On the final day of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, the temperature in Sochi (pronounced SO-she) was 60 degrees. When the U.S. Luge Team went there for a training camp in early November 2012, their first official activity was a team swim in the Black Sea as the temperature hit 75.


The Winter Olympics here? In the unofficial summer capital of Russia? That U.S. Luge Team story ended two hours north in a winter wonderland.The Sochi venues are separated into the Coastal Cluster, with close to 90 miles of Mediterranean-style coastline, and the Mountain Cluster at elevations of 6,500 feet. 


The first will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, hockey and skating events – the activities that, in reality, can be held anywhere there is artificial ice. The latter sites, north of Sochi in the Caucasus Mountains, will conduct skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, jumping and sliding races. 


The juxtaposition of these two diverse environments will certainly be the subject of news stories before and during the Games.But much of the reporting will center on numerous eastern athletes who could contend for medals. 


Among the notable Eastern-based skiers we look forward to seeing in Sochi include Bode Miller, originally from Franconia, N.H. and anticipating his fifth Olympic Games in 2014. Miller is rehabbing a knee issue this season and will not compete to ensure that he is 100 percent healed for the 2013-2014 Olympic season.


Andrew Weibrecht, of Lake Placid, N.Y., the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist in Super G right behind Miller’s silver medal, seeks a return appearance. Bill Demong, of Vermontville, N.Y., near Lake Placid, was a winner of 2010 Olympic gold and silver medals in Nordic combined. 


There’s Emily Cook, of Belmont, Mass., who appears destined to lead the U.S. women’s aerial ski team into Sochi. Two-time Olympic champion Seth Wescott, of Sugarloaf, Maine, a snowboard icon, and Lindsey Jacobellis, of Stratton, Vt., a seven-time winner in snowboarding at the X Games, could leave their marks on the 2014 Games.


Those interested in pursuing the unique experience that Sochi will offer should bring spring and winter clothing, their skis, and a strong stomach. Ludus Tours not only provides tickets and accommodations for the Winter Games, but also side trips such as a ski tour to modern resorts such as Krasnaya Polyana and a vodka tour.


Sportsmark is another specialist in the hospitality business, and similar to Ludus Tours, specializes in arranging stays at the Olympic Games. Both work with U.S. Olympic sports federations.


Now is the time to begin thinking about the Games if you are interested in this type of travel. Just don’t forget to pack the flip-flops. As this is being written, the temperature in Sochi is 52 degrees. Is it really possible to have a Winter OIympics in this kind of setting? You can bet your rubles on it. 


Photo: Krasnaya Polyana (Vertical Way Around)


(Editor's Note:'s Sandy Caligiori will continue to provide updates leading to the Winter Olympics. He will be on site to provide live reports directly from Russia next February.)