Quick: What’s the highest mountain in Europe? If you said Mont Blanc, you’re off by 1,740 miles (2,800 km). It’s Mount Elbrus, a dormant volcano that tops out at 18,510 feet (5,642 m) in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, near the border with Georgia.
Skiing History contributor and editorial-review board member Patrick Lang has a new gig: As the newly elected vice president of the Georgian Ski Federation (GSF), he’ll help find ways to promote skiing and snow sports in the rugged Caucasus range.
Georgia got its first ski lift shortly after WWII and now boasts four main resort regions with lifts going as high as 10,000 feet (3,300 meters). Alpine, biathlon, nordic and jumping teams from the Soviet Union trained for years at Bakuriani, situated at 4,8oo feet (1,6oo m), including Valery Tsyganov, first Soviet skier ever to win an alpine World Cup race-back in 1981, at Aspen. Georgia became independent in 1991.
Lang, who has been writing about ski racing for nearly so years, and travels with the World Cup tour each winter, first visited Georgia in 2009.
“One has the feeling of reaching the ‘last frontier’ of western civilization here,” Lang says. “It’s a fascinating, friendly country. The superb mountains are a well-kept secret, but I’m confident things will change in a few years. The government is working hard to modernize the lift system, which dated from the Soviet era. And they’re designing new slopes with the help of established Western companies, such as Ecosign in Canada.”
For more information on the Georgian Ski Federation, go to http://gsf.ge. To read Lang’s story on former World Cup and pro racer Hansi Hinterseer, tum to page 13 -Seth Masia