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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ski Tots Learn the Ropes on City's Southern Slopes

The kids standing atop a hill near the Nagornaya metro station looked like ordinary schoolchildren. But as, one by one, they began skiing down the slope, swiftly negotiating bumps and rounding stakes driven into the snow, it became apparent that they were significantly better than ordinary skiers.

Toward the bottom, the young skiers picked up speed, and at the end of the trail, each child skied under a gate and then snatched a piece of candy from a rope stretched across the slope.

This is a common way that children learning to ski at the Kant sports club test their skills. An hour and a half before a lesson begins, the instructors come to the slope to mold bumps and dig holes in the snow to challenge their pupils.

Nastya Zalezhneva, 8, one of the children going down the trail, has been studying downhill skiing for three years.

"I love downhill skiing myself," said Nastya's mother, Svetlana, 29, a finance manager. "I've been skiing since I was 8, but I don't think I could deal with such a complicated slope as Nastya does. The school's lessons have given her a lot."

The children's downhill ski school at the Kant club opened three years ago. Eight downhill skiing and snowboarding instructors work with children, ages 3 and older. Adults also can take lessons. And in the summer, the club offers classes in in-line skating and mountain bicycling.

"It is very convenient that we can ski here all together. When our two daughters are in lessons, my husband and I ski down the next slope," Zalezhneva said.

The club, founded eight years ago, is named for the Russian word meaning a sharp edge of a ski.

Anyone can join; members pay $1,500 to $2,000 per year to use all its services and facilities. Nonmembers pay a fee for each activity. A one-hour pass for the ski lifts, for example, costs 20 rubles ($3.50). Cross-country skiing along the club's new trail is free. All lessons are in Russian.

Kant is among several spots popular with Moscow's urban skiers, including Krylatskoye and Sparrow Hills. But its artificial hill is just a five-minute walk from the Nagornaya metro station, south of the city center.

"Some years ago when the Nagornaya metro station was being constructed, there was a huge dump on this place," Maxim Vinogradov, the club's deputy director, recalled. "We filled up the dump with earth, planted it with grass and got a wonderful hill with good slopes." To make the hill higher, trash was transported from other building sites.

"This hill even hides in itself the remains of the ill-fated Moscow swimming pool," said Vinogradov.

The pool was built on the site of Moscow's biggest church, the Christ the Savior Cathedral, after the Bolsheviks destroyed it in 1935. The pool was demolished when the cathedral was recently rebuilt.

The Kant sports club owns four lighted slopes with four ski lifts, the only half-pipe for snowboarding in Moscow, a vertical tube for ice climbing, the downhill ski school, a tour agency and a sporting goods store. A new 4.5-kilometer lighted trail for cross-country skiing opened in January. Three snow-grooming machines maintain the trail and slopes. Kant regularly holds competitions for children and the students of its sports school, as well as regional and city meets for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing.

Some say ice-climbers first took to the sport by scaling frozen waterfalls. Now many ski resorts have special slopes for ice climbing, but it is not easy to find a place to practice in Moscow. Enthusiasts can take their spiked boots and notched hammers and come to Kant to scale an ice-crusted circular brick building that is 40 meters high and 3 meters in diameter.

The building, which looks like a giant chimney, was once a boiler house. "When it fell into disuse, we pulled a water pipe inside," said Alexander Kozlov, the club's advertising manager, "and now as soon as winter comes, we turn the water on and the tube is gradually covered with ice. Now it has a 1-meter layer of ice on its surface."

Kozlov added that the tube is almost always in use, and because of its popularity the club plans to build a wall for ice climbing in the winter and mountain climbing in the summer.

There are other projects in the works, too, including small buildings for equipment rentals and changing rooms.

The Zalezhnevs and other sports-minded Muscovites find plenty at Kant in the summer, too. One of the slopes is covered with asphalt and used for in-line skating. Mountain bicycling also is popular, and the club plans to begin a bicycle rental service by summer. There also are tennis courts, a sauna, a swimming pool and a gym at the club.