Returning to Russia

Moscow Sheremetyevo, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport brought back memories of 28 years ago with bitter cold you could see in the air as our Delta 767 touched down on the tarmac. But that’s where the memories stopped. Walking into the gleaming Terminal D with walls adorned with advertising and free WiFi throughout was a far cry from the Soviet Union I got to know in two amazing adventures in the ’80s.

Nearly 30 years ago my friend Peter Graves and I pioneered an adventure travel company, Worldwide Nordic USA, taking cross country skiers to far off destinations. One of those destinations was Murmansk, 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the then Soviet Union.

It took years to get permission for a dozen Americans to ski in the Murmansk Marathon. But a partnership with the New York-based Russian Travel Bureau eventually cut through the red tape and resulted in us being one of the first American groups ever to visit the city which played a vital role in World War II.

Three decades have passed since those two trips to Murmansk. Now the Soviet Union has dissolved and Russia is preparing to host its first Olympic Winter Games in 2014. Over the next few days I’ll visit the venues surrounding Rosa Khutor. It will be a markedly different experience than that of 28 years ago when a group of American citizen skiers took Murmansk by storm.