Words by Will Radula-Scott
Photos by Will and Ponchikz
After a hugely successful Vans Hi Standard event in Moscow last year Vans were straight back on the phone with Putin to see if he was down to host it again this year! Ok, maybe they didn’t hit up Putin but all the guys at Vans Russia and other organisers were hyped to have the series stop off in Russia again. There was one slight issue in the lead up to this year’s event, and it wasn’t the ball ache of everyone having to get visas, it was that there wasn’t any snow in Moscow. So a backup plan was put into place only a week before the event and the new location was going to be Sochi! Yeah, that place that had that other winter event on 6 years ago…
Sochi has mountains, though at the time of switching locations still not much snow on them, but that would all change quite dramatically by the time we arrived. Ironically, when we arrived in Moscow airport to then transfer on to another flight to Sochi it was snowing like mad and caused our flight to be delayed but we still made it to Sochi the same day and on arrival it was odd to now see no snow, flying in over the Black Sea and seeing palm trees! Only a 45 minute drive away though and we were in the mountains at the Krasnaya Polyana Ski Resort were we would be staying for the next few days and where the Vans Hi Standard was taking place on the top of the mountain.
So down in the town it was raining but once we headed up the gondola to the first station it all changed and we could see the extent of the current snowfall, it was puking and had been for the past few days, so much so that the top of the mountain, where the park was for the event, was closed. Too much pow! We weren’t too worried as the weather forecast looked much better for the event day. So in the meantime we went to ride some freshies. The crew was heavy, Euro Vans riders Sebi Springeth, Gian Sutter and Antti Jussila had flown over and we also had Vans rider Nikita Sehk, the local Russian that was an awesome host, such a sick rider and the best guy to go to a Russian bar with. Vans Euro TM Bruno Rivoire was also with us along with a host of Russian compadres. The snowfall wasn’t slowing down so after a little break at the end of the day we went back out for some night riding and by this point, we were getting face-shots under the spotlights.
The following day we woke up to blue skies and word that the whole mountain was open. Thanks to a very late shift from the park crew along with Nikita and Bruno the park had been shaped overnight and by the time we got there it was looking in prime condition for the Vans Hi Standard to kick off. But first…there were 2 barely touched powder fields either side of the park each accessed by their own chair lift ready to be charged! So for the hour leading up to game time we all went shredding some deep ass powder!
OK, so the pow had been shredded, it was time to get the comp underway and the turnout was as deep as those last few turns we’d made. To keep the jam sessions running quick there were 2 Skidoos lapping 6 or so riders at a time up to the top of the setup so it didn’t take long for everyone to really get into the session and start sending it off the freshly built kicker. Below the kicker, you had the choice of taking a tight turn up the quarter to the Vans logo stall or head straight down to a double table transfer or a mellow rainbow rail to impress the judges for the chance to get that Van Doren Cash. The locals kept sending it and the cash was flowing whilst Nikita hyped it up on the mic all day long. Once all areas of the park set up had been slayed the MVP’s were announced and it was Pasha Onishenko for the boys and Rondanini for the girls. Both will be flown over to Brighton Resort for the finals in March! ‘Best Trick’ went to Artur Kurgak and Ivan Kondratyev took home the ‘Worst Bail’ prize, he was a beast, but always got back up to send it again.
We asked Vans rider Nikita what this event meant to him being from Russia, "the Vans Hi Standard series is so cool, I really like the concept, that style is more important than the complexity of the trick. I am glad that for the second year in a row there is a stop in Russia, and that this year the competition was held at the resort of Krasnaya Polyana in the real mountains. I was so stoked to see so many shredders come from all over Russia and neighbouring countries Ukraine and Belarus. We were very lucky with the weather, sun all day! I hope it will become a tradition to make a stop here in Sochi." Nikita also filled us in on the rest of his winter plans "I'm hanging out here in Sochi for another week, then back to Moscow where there will be a couple of cool street competitions (which is like Frontline railjam). After that I go to the far North of Russia to shoot in the streets as it’s the only place where there is a lot of snow left. Then for the last part of my winter I will be in Vapunas in Finland."
Once the comp was over we headed to the bar at the mid station to sink a couple of beers with all the riders. Once back down to the town we went out for dinner with all the Vans crew and other organisers before taking Nikita’s suggestion of entertainment for the night…a short taxi ride to a little bar in the middle of the suburbs, which just so happened to be the best decision made by far this trip! The rest of the night was a blur of Vodka infused beer and their friend playing some heavy tunes all night long on the decks! The following morning taking 2 flights to get outta Russia was tough to say the least, but so worth it! Thank you Russia, you smashed it once again. Spasiba!
Come join us for one of the 3 other European stops on the Vans Hi Standard Series Tour!
Register for your chosen stop HERE.