IT IS DARK when we step from our plane onto the tarmac. It’s almost midnight, and a gentle sea breeze brings the fragrance of lush meadows and orange blossom wafting towards us. The leaves of a few dozen Washingtonia cotton palms which line the empty parking space – dark shadows against a sky glistening with stars – rustle sleepily. A dog howls in the night. Or maybe it’s a jackal? A Mediterranean setting. And yet we are in Russia. And we have come to ski.

A few miles inland, leaving the cypresses, banana trees and flowering magnolias behind, we pass through ancient forests of oak, beech and chestnut. Then, quite unexpectedly, heaps of snow start to line the road. As we climb higher, a continuous white crust spreads over crippled firs and rhododendron bushes… Continue Reading