So You Want To Go To Sochi For The Games? Come Follow Us
Unlike four years ago when hundreds of thousands of North American spectators could easily attend the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, the 2014 spectacle in Sochi, Russia represents a veritable trek.
It’s a round trip of nearly 14,000 air miles from the Northeast. Great for mileage programs; not so much for bad backs.
Nevertheless there are numerous travel organizations that will make the experience as unencumbered as possible. After all, we are talking about the Olympic Games, the premiere snowsports event on the quadrennial calendar. It’s a privilege to attend, and a lasting memory to bring home.
Sochi, situated on the Black Sea in an area known as the Russian Riviera, will be the first Winter Olympics conducted against the backdrop of palm trees in the coastal cluster of venues, and abundant snowfall 90 minutes north in the mountain cluster.
Here are two tour operators that want to make you remember Sochi for the right reasons.
Loudus Tours (1-866-343-6133): The Texas-based company not only handles the Olympics, but in their lineup of events, they organize tours to soccer’s World Cup, the Masters Invitational golf tournament, the Running of the Bulls in Spain, and Oktoberfest in Munich.
Ludus Tours has no affiliation with the IOC, USOC or the Sochi Organizing Committee. Yet they are reputable enough that no fewer than six Olympic federations deal with them exclusively. You can access Sochi tickets through their affiliated My Ticket Line, but ski fans who are contemplating a trip should not wait much longer.
“Business is better than expected, but not super busy,” Raffaella Cinti, Vice President of Olympic Sports for Ludus Tours, told SnoCountry.com. “Some people are concerned about the (lengthy) visa situation, as well as a different culture and language. But Sochi is a very interesting place. It’s multi-cultural and there is cuisine from all over the region. And the climate is very good.”
So good, in fact, that on the final day of the Vancouver Winter Games four years ago, the temperature in Sochi was 60 degrees.
What about the ski events in Rosa Khutor? “I think a lot of people will go to the downhills,” Cinti added. “It will depend on who is competing.”
This leads us to the Lindsey Vonn factor. Her presence on the start list could impact ticket sales. Cinti recalled that when Shaun White competed four years ago in the halfpipe, tickets were difficult to get.
“So it depends on who’s competing. To start with, ski tickets may not be plentiful, given the limited number of seats around the finish area,” continued Cinti. “And spectators won’t be able to ski to the course. If you get access to the finish, you can watch on the big screen and see the final gates in front of you.”Given the installation of the bullet train which connects the mountain and coastal venues, it is possible to watch skiing and snowboarding in the day hours, and evening events in Sochi.
“We are getting lot of requests for figure skating, hockey and curling, especially from Canada,” she told us. “In general, there will be last minute tickets available but you won’t be able to pick and choose.”
Cinti also told us that spectators who are able to ride the gondola connections to the top of Rosa Khutor will not be disappointed.
“At the top there is a great upscale restaurant, and the view up there is awesome,” Cinti remarked. “You can see all the way to the Black Sea.” The new resort is managed by the French consultants Compagnie des Alpes.
Log on to the Ludus Tours website and customize your experience, based on how many days you wish to spend in Sochi and what specific events you’d like to see.
The four-night budget package is priced at $2,690 per person. The six-night Krasnaya Polyana deluxe package, in the mountain cluster, runs $5,690 per person. There’s also the six-night Krasnaya Polyana standard package at $5,000 per person. Taxes, tips and fees are included, but event tickets are not.
The tour operator provides private airport transfers, daily breakfast, a Ludus dinner party with big screen televisions to watch the Olympic activities, sightseeing tour, gift bag, staff assistance and a ticket concierge.
Cartan Global (1-310-546-9662), headquartered in California, has been in the business since 1899 and is an authorized Sochi ticket reseller in 41 countries. Cartan uniquely presents packages in three one-week waves.
Lodging options for each wave include a pair of three star hotels. The Burgas Hotel, a modern property in Adler, is just minutes from the coastal cluster of Olympic venues and the famous Russian Riviera.
The Grand Hotel Zhemchuzhina, a 16-story facility that boasts magnificent views of the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, is close to both the coastal and mountain cluster of venues.
Travelers willing to up the ante can step up to the Four Star Peak Hotel in Krasnaya Polyana, featuring the Chandelle Blanche Medi Spa.
Three-star packages are priced at $4,395 double occupancy and $5,195 single occupancy. Peak Hotel guests pay $4,795 double and $6,095 single occupancy.
Airfare and event tickets are not included, but Cartan Global can assist with both. Their packages include all taxes, airport transfers and baggage handling, accommodations, Cartan’s hospitality services, and daily breakfast.
Photo: Olympic downhill course on Rosa Khutor (Doug Haney/U.S. Ski Team)