Travel to Sochi

Yesterday was a LONG travel day from Zurich to Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Before we left, I went for a thirty minute run with Andy Newell and Ida Sargent. I was so full from the huge calzone I’d eaten the night before that I couldn’t eat breakfast. We arrived at the airport for the FIS charter flight to Sochi three and a half hours early, and we were one of the last teams there. On the way, Kikkan Randall found her perfect sized car.

Kikkan Randall's Small Car

There were 138 athletes, coaches, and staff on the flight. Each person was allotted three bags, but several teams, including the U.S. had excess luggage. There were a lot of bags!

FIS Charter Bags

There were so many bags they had to take out the last six rows in the plan and put luggage inside the cabin!

Luggage Inside Cabin

Still, we were the ONLY team that got all of our luggage. We got lucky. Some teams got most of their stuff while others got almost none. The charter was fun. It was like a normal flight except you were sitting with all of your teammates and you could chat with athletes from other teams during the flight. Here is Jessie Diggins (left), with Liz Stephen (center) and Germany’s Denise Herrmann:

Jessie Diggins, Liz Stephen, and Denise Herrmann

The flight was scheduled to leave Zurich at 1:30 p.m. We didn’t take off until 2:30. After the three and a half hour flight and three hour time change from central Europe to Sochi, we didn’t arrive until 9 p.m. The customs process to get into Russia was surprisingly easy, but sorting through the mountains of ski bags took some time.

Sochi Baggage Sorting

From the airport we had to drive an hour into the mountains. Once we boarded the bus, around 10:30 p.m., we sat in the parking lot of the airport for half an hour for unknown reasons. The drive was slow going with lots of stopping for construction. We arrived at the base of the gondola after midnight. We were the third or fourth bus to arrive so we had to hang out in the parking lot while we waited to be credentialed.

Sochi Waiting

After getting our credentials we were allowed up the gondola. From the top of the gondola we had to check in to our hotel and we were given dinner. Then we jumped in a van to take us to our apartment. Here’s Simi Hamilton and Jessie Diggins in the shuttle:

Sochi Shuttle

We finally arrived at our place around two in the morning. Luckily, the condos are amazing! Here’s my room:

Noah's Room

And here’s the common area:

Condo Common Area

There is a ton of heavy, wet snow here.

Sochi Athlete's Village Snow

We are planning to stay in these same apartments, up here on top of the gondola, for the games next year. Our venue is also located here. This athletes village will only be for cross country and biathlon. All the other “mountain” sports are on different mountains near the base of the gondola. The rest of the sports (hockey, figure skating, etc) are in the city of Sochi. We have a bit of a walk from the condos to the dining hall this year. Next year we’ll be eating in a hotel that is as of yet unfinished. The biathlon stadium is permanent and massive!

Sochi Biathlon Stadium

It looks awesome!

Biathlon

The cross country stadium is temporary and will only be used this week and for the games.

Sochi Cross Country Stadium

There is a lot of security around here. You have to show your credentials at tons of checkpoints.

Sochi Checkpoint

There are lots of workers and volunteers around here. We walked by some of the employee housing today. It didn’t look quite as nice as our lodging:

Sochi Employee Housing

It is a bit of a walk from the lodging to the dining and stadium. In a system that still has some kinks to be worked out, the organizers are providing snow shuttles:

Sochi Snow Shuttles

Also, we believe we’re the first ones to live in these condos. The upstairs showers leak through the ceiling and into the living room and bedrooms downstairs. There was a surprising amount of water!

Leaking Roof

I did a little exploring with Holly Brooks today. We found some sweet walking sticks in an awesome looking restaurant.

Holly Brooks Walking Sticks

August Teague, a friend of mine from Aspen, is here waxing for the Australian team. He found a cool old gondola car today.

August Teague

If it clears up, it looks like the views will be incredible around here.

Sochi Cloudy Views

There are a lot of construction projects here. I think this place will look quite different next year. It’s a happening place with the races, the operating alpine area and the construction.

Sochi Cross Country Village