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Entries in Krasnaya Polyana (5)

Monday
Nov042013

Sochi High-Speed Rail System Operational

 

Olympic Park Station- Sochi

 

Yesterday I took the new high- speed rail from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana for the first time.  The system, which began operations on November 1, is a spectacular improvement to the infrastructure in Sochi.  The trains are new, the ride is smooth and fast and the views are great.  I went from Sochi to Adler (through stops at Matsesta and Khosta stations) and from there past the airport.  At this point, the train accelerated to 115 kilometers per hour and we made the journey up the Myzimta River Valley to Krasnaya Polyana in about 20 minutes.  Along the way, the train passed over the river and through the steep mountain gorge.

 

We caught glimpses of snow-covered peaks as we approached Krasnaya Polyana.  The train stopped for a few minutes at Esta Sadok Station and just after we left that station, passengers had views of the ski jump, where athletes will compete for gold in February. Then we passed the huge new development at Gornaya Karusel and the train arrived at the last station, Rosa Khutor (which like Esta Sadok and the rail line is new,too), less than 5 minutes later.  I disembarked there and walked about 250 meters to Fort Evrika, a small hotel near the oldest ski lift in Krasnaya Polyana and just a short walk from Rosa Khutor.  There were quite a few other daytrippers who had come from Sochi to ride the rails and to see the views, the new stations and the mountain resorts being finished for the Winter Games.

I have made the trip from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana hundreds of times over the last few years.  It can take anywhere from 2- 4 hours based upon traffic.  Even from Adler Station it is never less than an hour and can take 3 with traffic.  But I just made that distance in less than 30 very comfortable and relaxed minutes.

Esta Sadok Station

 

Rosa Khutor Station

 

I was first in Krasnaya Polyana in 2004 on a short trip to Sochi with friends.  This was 3 years before Sochi won the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and at that time I was not even aware it was a candidate.  We drove up the road and spent 2 nights at Fort Evrika.  Then, this was pretty much the end of the road.  There were only a few hotels in the area and the small mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana.  There was not much to do, either. We took the single chairlift to the top of the mountain next to the hotel, saw the views and had a raft trip for several hours down the river.  

 

Fort Evrika Hotel

 

While I was riding the train to Krasnaya Polyana and, after,  when I walked to Fort Evrika, I thought about that first trip. It never occurred to me at that time that I would return to Krasnaya Polyana, much less that I would do it very regularly on a road choked with trucks and buses delivering construction materials and workers to massive mountain developments.  And when I went to Fort Evrika, I looked at the small hotel now dwarfed by the new resort just up the road at Rosa Khutor, another just down the road at Gornaya Karusel and flanked by a world-class train station suitable for an Olympic destination.  

 

Rosa Khutor and New Lift

 

Next, I rode back down to Adler and switched to the train bound for the Coastal Cluster.  I followed this route because the direct route between the Coastal and the Mountain Clusters is not yet open.  However, it is only a few kilometers from Adler Station to the station at the Olympic Park, so it was a quick trip.  I have watched the station being built there for the last several years, but it was the first time I was onsite.  The building is not yet open, but the platforms and the approach to the Olympic Park are prepared.

 

Olympic Park Station

Olympic Park Station

 

Several times I asked for information about train arrival and departure times.  The main criticism I have of the system was that the information I was given was typically not accurate- even when I asked in Russian. However, these are growing pains in a system that is only a few days old.  I noticed that train conductors had badges which identified the languages they spoke, most were pleasant and helpful.

All of the new stations- Adler, Esta Sadok, Rosa Khutor and the Olympic Park are built on a spectacular, grand Olympian scale and capable of handling thousands of passengers per hour.  Sochi has a 21st century transportation system, leapfrogging the issues caused by traffic and construction on the road system.

 


Adler Station

 

 

 

Monday
Jul162012

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group And Harald Buerkle Team Up In Rosa Khutor

 

Park Inn by Radisson- Rosa Khutor

Rosa Khutor is located in the Caucasus Mountains about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Black Sea in southwestern Russia and will host the alpine events during the 2014 Winter Games to be held in Sochi.  Rosa Khutor is a very ambitious mountain resort project and next to the high-speed gondola taking skiers and spectators to the mountaintop, a new European-style village with accommodation, dining and shopping is being built. This year, the Park Inn by Radisson opened its doors and during the 2012- 2013 winter season its sister property, the Radisson, Rosa Khutor will welcome guests for the first time.  The two properties sit just across the Mzymta River from each other and can be accessed by the pedestrian bridge (click here for a 360 degree panoramic photo of the site) constructed over the river.  

Lobby Bar- Park Inn by Radisson

I first experienced the Park Inn in February of this year, just after its January opening and during the International Ski Federation World Cup, when I interviewed Luke Bodensteiner of the United States Sk and Snowboard Association in the hotel lobby for SochChannel.com   At that time, I was impressed with the design of its chic lobby bar and lounge.  More recently, I returned and spent an afternoon with Harald Buerkle, the General Manager of both the Park Inn and the Radisson.  Mr. Buerkle was kind enough to treat me to a very good lunch of the best German food to be found in the area.  This is not entirely surprising given that Mr. Buerkle, with a Chef's Master degree, has a background in food preparation, including 5 years working in Michelin-starred restaurants.  Mr. Buerkle, starting at the age of 16, was precocious in food preparation and was promoted to prominent positions at an early age.  In fact, at 27, he was the Executive Chef at one of the most prominent hotels in Eastern Europe and managing a team of 70 people.  Harald (I hope he will excuse the familiarity!) previously worked in Moscow and also has served stints working at Radisson Blu Hotels in the United Kingdom, in Kiev, as the Food and Beverage Manager and at Ruegen, Germany on the Baltic Sea, where he held his first position as General Manager.

Harald and his wife recently moved here.  He originally came from Bavaria and Katinka from the German state of Swabia.  Harald keeps busy with the hotels, but he finds time to pursue his MBA in Hospitality and Service Management at the Glion School of Higher Education in Switzerland.  All this activity does not leave much time for him to golf, which he greatly enjoys. 

 

General Manager Harald Buerkle

After lunch, Harald showed me several categories of rooms at the Park Inn.  All are very comfortable and feature the modern design esthetic and ease of use that Radisson is well-known for.  The English-speaking staff, both polite and helpful, reflects the professional management of Radisson.  I arrived early for the meeting and while working on my computer discovered I was missing an adapter for my battery charger.  The bartender noticed and quickly produced one for me. This attention to guests will serve the Park Inn well in the future.  Large numbers of foreign travellers will be coming to the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, through the Olympics and after, to enjoy the spectacular scenery and the mountain's vertical drop of 1,776 meters (5,774 feet!).  The Park Inn has ski storage, a gym and nightclub, as well as its restaurant with Bavarian cusine and the hip lobby bar.  The hotel is accessible, too.  The road runs right to its doorstep and a new high-speed rail is being constructed from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana, with a station just a short distance from the village that includes the Park Inn and Radisson.

 

Guestroom

Although the Radisson, across from the Park Inn, is not completed, Harald shared details with me about it.  He told me that the hotel will be "the most luxurious in Rosa Khutor" and that the cool Black Bar and Grill will source local ingredients and the best quality imports.  There will a nightclub and also an entertainemnt zone for children.  All will be within walking distance of the ski shops, ski schools, shopping, dining and the mountain. Between the two hotels, Harald will manage nearly 400 rooms in the premium location at Rosa Khutor.  He and I  are already planning events there, including a charity hike, barbeque and party in September.  I will keep readers posted as to plans and developments.  

Sunday
Dec252011

Rosa Khutor Opens

 

Rosa Khutor

 Rosa Khutor opened today, December 24, for skiing and snowboarding.  The gondolas across the mountain brought skiers up to enjoy the snow that has been falling for the last few weeks.  Locals have been looking forward to this for weeks and the recent showing of the snowboard film, The Art of Flight, had many people primed to take to the mountains.

Rosa Khutor Ski Area

Tuesday
Nov222011

British Banya

I went to the British Banya in Krasnaya Polyana recently.  The owner, James Larkin, is a native of the United Kingdom.  He came to the region in 1993 and has built one of the most unique businesses and best reputations in this part of Russia.

When we met, I expected someone much older than James.  I was waiting in the office with his assistant when he arrived.  He entered the room with the look and relaxed demeanor of a 24 year-old snowboarder from Colorado.  However, James' easy-going charm and friendly disposition belie a great eye for design and a prescience about the markets he serves.  And he is doing all of this in a culture and language not his own.

James studied engineering in the U.K., but before finishing he was drawn to Russia by the stories of a fellow student who came from Krasnaya Polyana.  When he came to Krasnaya Polyana he was intrigued by the culture and opportunities he saw.  This was 14 years before Russia won the right to host the Olympics, so Krasnaya Polyana was not on anyone's radar screen at the time.  

He started out with a small banya on the property.  The business grew and he eventually built a new, much larger facility.  James was not satisfied with the stove he was using in his banya, so he designed and built his own.  The quality and design attracted customers, so he and his wife now build commercially.  His design is more efficient, environmentally friendly and durable than those of usual construct.  His work is getting attention from businesss and political leaders in Russia.  He told me that he is in Moscow several tines a month, where he has multiple projects for the design and construction of banyas and recreation rooms in the homes of wealthy Moscovites.  James' designs include his own unique spa pool (shown below suspended on his property) and the banya stoves, which he builds on his property.

T

The British Banya is popular with locals in Krasnaya Polyana.  Alcohol, although customary at most Russian banyas, is not sold because of the dangerous combination with heat and dehydration, especially at altitude. The banya has a large round room with rocks for heat and steam, the suspended heated pool and a cold water pool for immersion between sitting in the heat.  There is also a room for massage and the leaf and branch treatments that accompany a traditional Russian banya experience.  The banya features a spacious area with seating and tables for relaxing and drinking water and tea during the banya experience.

Because of his great location and growing demand for hotels in Krasnaya Polyana, James is building a 10-room hotel.  The construction is also environmentally-friendly.  The building has a dramatic spiral staircase, spacious rooms and great views.  There also will be a roof-top terrace for guests to enjoy the Caucasus Mountain scenery.  Construction is expected to be completed in February- March 2012.  Foreign Olympic organizations have already called looking to rent the hotel for the Games. 

 

 

Wednesday
Jan262011

Sochi

The progress at the Olympic Village in Sochi has been very rapid.  The Village is near the beach, but a high speed rail is being built to connect it to the site of the Alpine events in Krasnaya Polyana.  When completed, it will take 25 minutes to travel between the two locations.  Krasnaya Polyana is also being constructed rapidly.  The entire valley is the site of many construction projects related to the Winter Olympics and tourism.  It is clear that Krasnaya Polyana will soon be a world class destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

Also, around the Olympic Village, Formula 1 Racing will be held starting in the summer of 2014.  At the same site, the Russians are building a new football stadium to accommodate the World Cup matches that will be held in Sochi.  There is a tremendous amount of activity and clearly the Russian government's efforts to bring major sporting events to Russia is spurring a lot of growth and development.

The Olympic Village is only a few kilometers from the border with Abkhazia.  As Tijuana and the beach zone south has developed due to its proximity to the American border, it is easy to foresee a similar pattern in Abkhazia,especially with its spectacular beauty.  It is very close to Sochi, which draws millions of Russian beach tourists and will soon host the Winter Olympics, Formula 1 Racing and World Cup Football.