While Sochi is a coastal town on the Black Sea, the skiing events for the XXII Olympic Games are taking place about 40 kilometers (25 miles) inland. The venues are clustered around Krasnaya Polyana, a small town tucked between the Aibiga and Psekhako Ridges in the western Caucasus. This image—acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite on February 8, 2014—offers a view of the town and the ski facilities.
The Rosa Khutor Alpine Center is the home to the downhill, snowboard, and freestyle events. The combined downhill skiing area measures about 20 kilometers (12 miles) in total, with the men’s downhill course stretching 3,500 meters (11,482 feet) and featuring a 1,075-meter (3,526 foot) change in elevation. The highest lift climbs to the summit of Rosa Peak, which rises 2,320 meters (7,612 feet). While not being used for the Olympics, the nearby Black Pyramid mountain has downhill skiing trails as well.
The same steep slopes that make Rosa Peak good for skiing also elevate the risk of avalanches. To protect against falling snow, planners installed a series of gas pipes along the top of the ridge. The pipes emit bursts of oxygen and propane that create small, controlled avalanches. Event organizers also installed a series of earthen dams to steer snow away from infrastructure, and they have deployed two backhoes to the top of Aibiga Ridge to knock cornices away before they pose a risk.
The Laura Cross-country Ski and Biathalon Center is located to the north on Psekhako Ridge. It includes two stadiums, each with their own start and finish zones, two track systems for skiing and biathlon, as well as shooting areas and warm-up zones. The center is named for the Laura River, a turbulent river that flows nearby.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Adam Voiland.