Empty Slopes

Slow start for Putin's powder dreams

Nhat V. Meyer / MCT / ZUMA PRESS

Putin shakes hands with a U.S. figure-skating coach after Russia won the inaugural team competition in Sochi.

The first Sunday after the Winter Olympics began should have been the busiest day of the year for Russia's new Mountain Carousel ski resort. Its slopes were the only ones near Sochi open to the public that day. Its runs were groomed, and the weather was perfect. But the crowds never came.

"I don't know what went wrong," says Vladimir Drevyatnikov, a skiing instructor at the resort who was looking around for students at the top of the mountain. "This was supposed to be our big debut."

That, at least, was President Vladimir Putin's plan. In 2010 he came up with...

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