“Our course is outstanding because we started
from scratch,” said Chernyshenko. “We evaluated
and analyzed all existing Olympic downhill courses
with the involvement of one of the most recognized
experts in course design, Olympic champion Ber-
nhard Russi. We combined the best features and
particulars of the different courses for this one.”
The men’s downhill will begin at an altitude of 6,709
feet, descending down to a finish at approximately
3,149 feet — a course length of more than 11,000
feet and a substantial vertical drop of more than
3,600 feet. By comparision, the Streif in Kitzbuehel
has a vertical drop of only 2,821 feet, while the Lau-
berhorn in Wengen is 3,372 feet.
For the women, the downhill will start at 5,725 feet
dropping down to the shared finish area, amounting
to a vertical drop of 2,575 meters. The men’s and
women’s courses, separate at the top, eventually
join together as one approaching the finish.
“I’m really excited,” said Vonn. “It will be my first trip
to Russia. I’m really looking forward to having a first
look at the Olympic course and hopefully getting a
couple of good runs on it so I can prepare myself for
French speed specialist Adrien Theaux said the
new course benefits younger racers. “Unlike the
traditional downhills, it will not only be for the older,
experienced guys,” he said. “When you are young-
er its very difficult to be among the top 10 at these
races. With a new race and a new course, I think it’s
The men’s downhill course in Sochi will be the first
new addition in the World Cup rotation since 2004-
05 when Lenzerheide, Switzerland, was introduced.
Just before that, the Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek
made its debut in 2002-03.
Organizers faced difficulties last year during men’s
Europa Cup races when fierce winds and avalanche
danger forced the downhill start to be lowered sev-
eral hundred meters. One training run and a super
G were canceled because of the weather.
Since last winter, 30 new Gazex anti-avalanche
devices have been added to the original four that
were in place.
The region — known for unpredictable weather
patterns — experienced unseasonably mild tem-
peratures and a lack of substantial snowfall in De-
cember. But according to Chernyshenko, conditions
have changed rapidly.
“It’s snowing like hell in the mountains,” said the
Sochi 2014 CEO recently.
As a precautionary measure, 300 new snowmak-
ing machines now line the courses with the capabil-
ity of making “hot snow,” as Chernyshenko calls it,
even in warm temperatures.
The Russian Road Ahead
Anxious to see what the new Olympic competition
venue has to offer is U.S. Ski Team racer Tim Jitl-
off, who has Russian heritage in his family.
“My grandfather on my dad’s side was in the Rus-
sian Army and, like many people, emigrated to the
States during World War II,” said Jitloff, 27. “It’s cool
now because I’ve had family in the house growing
up that kept some Russian traditions and spoke
While Jitloff’s relatives won’t attend February’s
World Cup, he said that they are excitedly looking
forward to the 2014 Games.
“They’re pumped to go to Russia and get back to