Downhill skiing to the whistle of the wind
Georgy Gunter
A referee of the first category, Head of the Amateur Sports Department at the Moscow Alpine Ski and Snowboard Federation

Downhill skiing to the whistle of the wind

The snowy winter in the central region of Russia has again raised questions about the availability and quality of ski and snowboard trails. EcoTourism Expert spoke with Georgy Gunter, a referee of the first category, Head of the Amateur Sports Department at the Moscow Alpine Ski and Snowboard Federation, about what ski slopes are available in Moscow and the Moscow Region as well as about the prospects for the development of winter sports in the region.

- Are there places in Moscow and the Moscow Region where lovers of skiing and snowboarding can enjoy the time?

- Their quantity is not really the point! It’s interesting that many enthusiasts of winter sports, unfortunately, believe that they can go skiing only in ‘real’ mountains. In addition, après-ski activities are still important for many people.

Unfortunately, our ski resorts and centres satisfy the requirements as for après-ski activities, but the surroundings are not the same as in the Alps or Sochi mountain resorts!

In fact, as a person who in involved in organizing amateur competitions, I can say that for me, as an amateur skier, the ski slopes of Moscow and the Moscow Region are great for training because without proper preparation, amateur skiers are unable to use such ski trails that the skiers at the World Cup use. Moreover, this is an excessive burden, if they do not weigh their ambitions against their capabilities.

- And if they weigh them?

- Based on this, I would say that the ski slopes near Moscow - we, the panel of judges, call them ‘low mountains’ - are more suitable for amateurs to start skiing, and are good enough for those who goes in for skiing to keep fit.

Our ski trails are enough for one hour or two hours of good training even if they are two or three times shorter than the World Cup ski trails (which has from 50 to 70 turns, while our suburban ones have 20 to 30 turns)!

- As for advanced skiers and snowboarders, are our ski slopes suitable for such skiers and snowboarders? Or is it still better to go to the ‘real’ mountains?

- Sure, they are! We really can find ski and snowboard slopes to fit every taste. Of course, there are certain disadvantages, after all, trails are short, but the intensity of skiing still depends on an individual. Their length can be sufficient.

- What piece of advice can you give to first timers? How to choose ski slopes, what are the criteria?

- The world has changed a lot lately and become more friendly to beginners - both skiers and snowboarders. But, unfortunately, many of them make mistakes. What are the mistakes? Firstly, they do not use the help of a coacher or an instructor. Of course, finding and choosing a good one is a separate issue. At the same time, it is less likely to make a mistake while skiing and snowboarding with a coacher, since every coacher trains skiers and snowboarders and his job is to evaluate the result. If you take an instructor who is or was the coacher whose students have achieved good results in recent years using advanced sport equipment, most likely that the training will be good quality.

But the problem is that the training recommendations rarely change. There are new breakthrough techniques that allow the coachers to train amateur skiers quickly enough, easier, and more thoroughly. But they still want to make a training process shorter!

In my opinion, it’s better to use the right skiing technique from the beginning and try to improve your health, but not to do any harm to it!

- Is that also possible?

- Yes, I can say by my personal example that skiing helped in healing my knees. For the last decade, I have no pain in my knees, although before I started to ‘ski the correct way’, I used old equipment from childhood, and it took me four years to change my skiing technique. And until now, by the way, I still ‘put a foot wrong’ in skiing, but I corrected the manner of skiing and got rid of some pains due to correct skiing technique.

- Let’s return to choosing ski slopes for beginners.

- After all, the person who trains you to start skiing or snowboarding is of greater importance. In fact, it is not so difficult to do this, but you need to choose ski slopes with 5 to 10-metre-long low-sloped trails. This should be a usual ski trail for beginners or a separate training one.

Today, these are available almost everywhere. But there are situations when you need to get to the training ski or snowboard trail, and to do this, you need to go down a fairly steep slope - which is a strange thing.

In such situations, I started training at the top of the mountain. You can even use some kind of a snow drift, the goal is that a person goes on straight skis and stops on his or her own after about five metres.

What is important in this training? A person understands that he can stop, therefore, he has no fear. Of course, a beginner wants to immediately go skiing fast, but this will not happen if you do not start with ‘basic’ skiing techniques.

You can also use a ski slope of the mountain where a skier can easily stop on his or her own.

- And what skills do you train from the very beginning?

- On low-sloped areas, the most elementary exercises can be done, for example, skiing on one leg, jumping from one foot to the other. It is necessary to feel the balance and see what happens if you put pressure on certain pieces of your skiing equipment.

What will happen? In a safe environment, a person adapts to equipment, boots, skis, sticks, and begins to ‘feel’ them.

Further, the skiing distance can be increased and it is possible to begin making turns on parallel skis, transferring the centre of mass, the point ‘inside the abdomen’, it must be shifted at an angle of 45 degrees by five to ten centimetres.

In a word, one must be able to look for a low-sloped place on the ski slope that is comfortable for training. At the same time, today’s skiing equipment allows anyone to learn to ski from any level of training.

- Can you give your advice on choosing skiing equipment for beginners? Is it worth to buy high-end brands, or should the beginners first use the average-priced mass-market skiing equipment?

- For the very first steps, rental equipment is quite suitable. Why is it good? Because it is quite sufficient for mastering the ‘basic ’skiing techniques, although it is not an ideal one.

The quality of the skiing equipment is of importance in further training. If you really want to keep on skiing, you can immediately buy everything you need. Today, you can be advised in any store and you can choose what you really require. As for skis, the simplest recommendations are that skis should not be very long and very hard and your ski boots should not be big and hard. Today, fortunately, the consultants in all stores are fairly experienced and they are able to help a beginner.

By the way, today you can also take skis at a store for test skiing, such services are also offered today, it also happens that some companies bring their test equipment to the ski slopes.

But as soon as you understand that there is some progress, you need to buy your skis, because it is better, in any case. Much better!

- What is the future for the development of skiing and snowboarding in Moscow and the Moscow Region?

- I am engaged in the development of sports, so I do think that the prospects are great.

New ski slopes will be built. In fact, there are a lot of projects for the construction of new ski slopes, including even from the roof of a hotel when a 300-400-metre slope turns into a 700-metre or even 1-km ski slope, and they are rather steep ones.

We need investments. There are many very interesting projects requiring sufficient funding.

This year, the lovers of skiing had a sad event as Snezh.Com, a unique all-weather complex, was shut down. Perhaps, it was not very well built, but such complexes are very much required in the Moscow Region. They should be built, and this is also one of the options for the development of skiing and snowboarding in Moscow and the Moscow Region.

As for the natural ski slopes, a number of clubs are implementing projects to increase the number of ski trails without making new ‘hills’, this is another option.

The quality of the facilities at ski slopes must also develop, including hotels and après-ski facilities. This will result in new prospects, and the number of skiers and snowboarders will grow markedly!