Snow and Avalanche Center 2011 Avalanche News

Avalanches no problem for Sochi Alpine events
6:44 a.m. CST, December 26, 2011

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (Reuters) - Organizers of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have greatly reduced the risk of avalanches that could have jeopardized the Alpine skiing events.

They have installed 30 extra anti-avalanche devices (gasex)at the Roza Khutor ski resort, which will host Russia's first Alpine World Cup events, including men's and women's downhills, in February.

Last February, the Organizers were forced to shorten the men's downhill, part of the Europa Cup event, by several hundred meters because of the risk of avalanches -- a common problem in the high Caucasus mountains that surround the Black Sea.

"We had too much snow at the top of the course so we decided to lower the start of the men's event," the area's managing director Alexander Belokobylsky told Reuters.

"The athletes' safety is a paramount concern so you don't want to jeopardize it in any way.

"But at the same time, you don't want to compromise any of the sporting elements, especially because a World Cup race is a top-level event compared to the Europa Cup. So we added 30 extra gasexes. We had four last year -- now we have 34."

The downhill course starts at 2,045 meters for men and at 1,745m for women and finishes at 960m.

Krasnaya Polyana, once a sleepy mountain village with 3,000 inhabitants some 70 km from central Sochi, will host all the outdoor Olympic events, such as bobsleigh, luge, Alpine and cross-country skiing, ski jumping and biathlon, in 2014.

(Reporting By Gennady Fyodorov, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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