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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Local Snowboarders Take to the Moscow Hills

MTA group of snowboarders fixing boots to boards on a slope near the Krylatskoye Olympic Sports Center in western Moscow.
When the city of Moscow undertook a multimillion dollar project to build up its modest ski hills early in President Vladimir Putin's first term, the newspaper Noviye Izvestia speculated that it was Mayor Yury Luzhkov's way of showing the new president they had some tastes in common.

But tastes are changing. On snowy slopes across the city, skiers are being outraced, outcarved and outnumbered by adventurous souls who lock themselves onto slippery fiberglass boards and adapt the techniques of generations of surfers and skateboarders to a colder medium.

It's all but impossible to ride certain metro lines in winter months without seeing boarders on their way to local hills, boards at their sides. The range of their ages -- from barely teenaged to near-pensioner -- testifies to the broad appeal of the relatively young sport, and their presence on the metro testifies to the range of options for snowboarders even within the city limits -- not to mention the dozen or so within an hour's drive.

The city's relative flatness means that most of the runs in the city are short -- on average, about 250 meters in length -- and of low-to-moderate difficulty. While this leaves the most serious boarders with little to challenge them, it makes Moscow a fine place to give the sport a first try.

One of the more popular snowboarding destinations inside the city is Vorobyovy Gory, overlooking the metro station of the same name. Standing between the Third Ring Road and the main campus of Moscow State University, the hills offer sweeping views of the city in every direction. The runs range from 150 to 200 meters with a maximum vertical drop of 40 meters, and are serviced by four high-quality lifts.

Prices for equipment rental and lifts are among the highest in the city, though. Snowboard rental starts at 360 rubles ($13) per hour, and requires a deposit of about $300.

One alternative, favored by Dmitry Ivanov and Dmitry Tikhomirov, two 17-year-old Muscovites out for a few hours of Saturday-night boarding, is the Kant skiing and snowboarding complex, near the Nagornaya metro station.

"We're out here every day," said Tikhomirov. "Other than studying, it's all we do."

Asked why they preferred Kant to other hills, Ivanov said, "You have everything you could want here. You can go boarding, then have a drink and relax." Kant boasts two cafes and a ski lodge-style restaurant at the top of the slopes, along with stores and other sporting facilities.

The crowds at Kant can be significant, especially over the weekend. Fortunately, the hills' seven main runs are well lit for skiing until midnight, seven days a week, and the city's glittering towers make an impressive backdrop.

Rental of a snowboard and boots at Kant costs 350 rubles per hour or 1,400 rubles for the day, plus a 10,000-ruble deposit. Lift prices vary according to the day of the week and the age of the boarder, from 7 rubles to 15 rubles per lift.

If you decide to take the plunge and buy your first board, a store at Kant offers a package deal for about $400 that includes boots and bindings.

Vladimir Filonov / MT

A snowboarder carving a steep turn amid a swirl of snow on a sunny afternoon ride.

For the best value but fewer creature comforts, you can take the chilly metro ride to Krylatskoye in western Moscow, where eight lifts serve the slopes near the Krylatskoye Olympic Sports Center. There are no warm cafes to refuel in between rides, but equipment rental begins at 250 rubles per hour, and lift access costs just 150 rubles for the day.

"Snowboarding is very popular in Moscow right now," Ivanov said. "Definitely more so than skiing."

"Skiing is just not interesting anymore," said Sasha Yudin, another metro-riding snowboarder. "Then again, I did grow up in Kamchatka."

Vorobyovy Gory: five minutes by foot from Vorobyovy Gory metro station. 939-0037.

Krylatskoye: metro Krylatskoye, bus 829 four kilometers to 51 Krylatskaya Ulitsa. 140-4308.

Kant: metro Nagornaya, five minutes by foot to 75 Elektrolitny Proyezd. 371-6101.