Communism may have ended, but Russians are still playing follow-the-leader. What Boris Yeltsin did for tennis, Vladimir Putin is doing for skiing. Until recently, high cost, poor equipment, and dilapidated resorts have limited the appeal of the sport in Russia. After the president and his wife visited Krasnaya Polyana last spring, however, the neglected ski area in the western Caucasus began to flourish, with $1.5 million in major improvements, including more roads and a new terminal at the Sochi International Airport. Vlad Sochnikov, travel manager for Interactive Russia, an American-owned company, is capitalizing on his countrymen's recent interest by launching the package Skiing with Putin (866/680-1373;; trips from $563): seven days in Siberia's Baikal region, where the leader spent his vacation. And artificial pistes are being added to the so-called Moscow Alps—small hills less than 30 miles north of the city—providing more accessible slopes to residents and visitors. What's next, judo?Putin is a black belt.
—Stephen Whitlock