Assessment of the avalanche defence measures envisaged for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia
Fig. 1: View of the Rosa Khutor ski resort, where the alpine skiing events were held, also showing the construction works
for the mountain village (photo: SLF, S. Margreth).
The last Winter Olympic Games were hosted by the Russian city of
Sochi in 2014. The alpine and nordic skiing events were held in Krasnaya Polyana
in the Western Caucasus, which was home to the Mountain Cluster of venues (Fig.
region ranks among those that attract the most snowfall in Russia. The downhill and super giant
slalom slopes are especially prone to avalanches. For this reason, the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee
recruited the SLF to examine the measures envisaged at the competition venues
for guarding against avalanches, including retaining structures, dams
constructed from soil, and artificial avalanche triggering systems (Fig. 2). In this context, a team of SLF
employees travelled to the country to meet numerous Russian avalanche experts,
safety officials and the event organisers. With the aid of avalanche dynamics calculations, they
subsequently reported on the avalanche danger, examined the envisaged defences
and, where necessary, suggested additional measures, such as the use of hand
charges. The SLF team urgently recommended that avalanche bulletins, like those
that are familiar in Europe, be produced alongside danger maps and evacuation
plans for the individual competition venues. To this end, they proposed that a snow and avalanche
information system be established, and that additional automatic measuring
stations be integrated in the existing network.
Fig. 2: In numerous starting zones, avalanches are triggered
by permanent Gazex explosive
delivery systems (photo:
SLF, S. Margreth).