The start of the trail.

Dinamo—Skiing in Irkutsk

Published: March 5, 2017

Dinamo Ski Base (Динамо Лыжная База)
Kaprinskaya 119, Irkutsk (Капринская 119, Иркутск)
9am to 9pm
Part of the SRAS cultural package
for spring, 2017

Dinamo is a skiing facility just outside of Irkutsk. It’s right near the K9 bus stop, where you can get the 4C, 102, or 113 buses.

My fellow SRASers and I went to Dinamo for a short and enjoyable but very tiring afternoon of skiing. Dinamo has several cross-country skiing trails (and some slides for tubing, which we passed on); we chose the 5k trail, or лыжня, which took us around an hour.


I’d never been cross-country skiing before, and downhill only a handful of times, not particularly successfully, so take all my descriptions here with a grain of salt. The skis are very long and narrow, and the basic premise is that you have to stay balanced on them in your little boots while you walk/shuffle forward (and watch a lot of old people really impressively speed past you). The path was mostly flat, with a couple of exciting downhill slopes and some strenuous uphill parts. There are little ski-rut path thingies (I have no idea what they’re called in English—or Russian, for that matter—I didn’t think to ask at the time) that you can ski within—they’re about the width of the skis and will point you in the right direction. The only problem was that every time I accidentally got my ski out of one of them, I would remember that I had no idea how to ski and would be all over the place. This usually happened in the middle of one of the downhill stretches, sometimes on a “dangerous turn,” as the signs put them. Don’t worry, though; it turned out fine, and if I can do it, I’m pretty sure anyone can.

I did amazingly well until about three-quarters of the way through—only one inevitable fall in the middle of going downhill—but then somehow it all fell apart toward the end, when I fell four times in a row trying to go *uphill*, somehow.


It’s really hard—if you don’t get enough momentum, you’ll just keep sliding backward, and then you will have to yell at your friend behind you to get out of your way, and then she may or may not fall as well… oops. Once I did get to the top of the hill, I skiied down flawlessly, to my great surprise and that of all the strangers who had watched me falling.

The one trick I learned was to make “ёлочки” (I interpreted this as “little Christmas trees” at the time, but apparently it means “herringbone” in this case) out of my skis—several more competent skiiers yelled this word at me as I was floundering. They all seemed to be climbing along with their skis in the shape of an opposite pizza (in American skiing lexicon), and it’s a lot easier to get uphill this way—well, comparatively. (Some other things that skiiers yelled at me along the way were “Put your hat back on! You’ll catch a cold!” and something I could not understand that I do not think was polite.)

While none of this may sound particularly complimentary, it actually was really fun, if exhausting. Cross-country skiing through the woods in Siberia, even if you’re only a few minutes out of a major city, is definitely a worthwhile experience; the area was beautiful, and I learned a new skill (kiiinda).

Very Russian-looking woods.

About the author

Julie Hersh

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar: $10,000 to Study Abroad

View all posts by: Julie Hersh