Moving from Finland to Japan while staying in Russia

It’s hard to imagine how really big Russia is – not only in terms of space but also in xc skiing geography and traditions.

Almost anyrywhere you go in the country , you see fantastic opportunities for cross country skiing development – especially now, when the global warming is wrecking havoc with so many traditional skiing “sweet spots” elsewhere in the world, there are many places in Russia that enjoy months and months of snowy winter….


..Hello, I’m Denis Kabanen

Some of you might remember me as a dedicated ski marathoner and an enthusiastic blogger and a promoter of xc skiing and MTB biking. I was in a company of Erik Wickstrom and Teemu Virtanen on 24 hours ski record 1,5 years ago in Are, Sweden. I also contribute for Visma Ski Classics website.

At the beginning of September this year my life took a new turn – I “upped sticks” and moved for a better climate, mountains and interesting sport-related job from my native Karelia – region bordering Finland , to Sakhalin – large island next to Japanese’s Hokkaido.

Can you think of moving 1700 km to the South but also 6500 km to the East (9500 km drive or 10 hours flight)? Why not if I can get much more sun in the winter, a lot of snow, mountain peaks, 70+ km of groomed ski trails and can you believe it – the Southern-most ski marathon in Russia!


Meet Russian’s Far East

In Europe it’s normal to know every skiing spot there is in the country. But it’s just really hard to check all places in Russia – it’s too large. So last winter I went to Vasaloppet China but not with a change in Beijing what skiers usually do. Instead, I found really nice and efficient way to visit Russian Far East capital Vladivostok on the way to Changchun. First step to Pacific Ocean port city was an truly eye-opener! In the New Year’s morning it was around -25 C, thin layer of snow and unbelievably bright sun. Eventually it was -5 in day time – just enough to for a salt water in the bay to get frozen.

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On the starting line of Vasaloppet China 2017. Was 24th – not bad with Ski Classics PROs

When you see so much sun each day on the trip to Sgambeda or Marcialonga you fill miserable because it’s the darkest period of wintertime at home. The same feeling was this time when I came from Far East of Russia. I’ve found out that it’s located at the same latitude as Southern Alps. Now I felt that it’s a perfect place to live. Because of not only weather and great nature with rolling hills and ocean, but also because all Asian destinations are close.



On the way back from Vasaloppet China I even skied on ice. And of course I’ve tasted it. Guess what – it was really salty

March 2017 was a game changer of my life

I’ve started to receive some information from another Far East destination – Sakhalin island!

Alexey Chernousov (brother of the Olympic bronze medalist, Ilia Chernousov) had won ski marathon there.

Wow, I didn’t even know that there are such a good snow conditions – normally Sakhalin receives 1-2 meters of snow in the winter.

It was point-to-point 50 km race – wow, it’s a really unique feature for Russian marathon to make it in one loop or even from point to point.

There was 450 meter mountain pass! Unbelievable! Even tracks in the beginning goes by Pacific Ocean shore for 10 km!

Sakhalin Ski Marathon track

In summer I’ve checked all available information about Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk – it was a big ‘investigation’ using all open and private sources, interviews with locals, fresh arrivals and even expats working on the island (there’s a huge offshore oil and gas drilling industry based on the island – so, it’s a bit like Norway, even same people are coming to work) …. And of course I was evaluating a lot.

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I’ve checked a lot of logs from Strava of local athletes and was impressed with all training opportunities for any sport:

– Running and biking up to 900-1050 meters high mountains right from the city. With ski lifts that can bring you down it you want it;

– 5,5 km roller ski tracks in the city;

– 45 km road with 500 meters pass that is good for roller skiing;

– 70+ km ski tracks in the winter It was one of the most important reasons to move to Yuzhny (short name of the city).

Downhill ski area Gorny Vozduh is a perfect place for enudance training


Plus: – International Sakhalin Ski Marathon with a history going back 32 years

– except that now the community, flush with oil tax money, is ready to invest into sport and social infrastructure – it’s really nice place to live

– A lot of expats fighting for KOMs in Strava – gas and oil industry foreign workers from Australia, Scotland, Korea, Canada also enjoy living here.

Australian Shane Whitfiels (49) learns how to ski, step by step. He wants to do Sakhalin Ski Marathon this winter

I’ve got a job offer to represent this sport infrastructure, to develop the Sakhalin Ski Marathon (4th of March), 70.3 Sakhalin triathlon (12th August) and Aniva charity running marathon (9th of September) into significant and recognizable international sport events.

Fisrt two months

It’s two month now since I live in Sakhalin and I didn’t had a minute thinking that it was a wrong decision. I fall in love with a great nature, 1000 meters high mountains, cold Pacific Ocean and hot Sothern sun.

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In September I went for 215 km road bike trip to the north. I was amazed with fantastic views


I won uphill biking race to Gorny Vozduh (Mountain Air) downhill ski resort that starts right from the center of the city.

In October I run 5 km skyrun race with 800 meters of accent to Chekov Pick – was 6th, just two minutes to the winner. Another epic race.

Finally, two weeks ago, I had a time to start rollerski training – I felt that all cycling and running in the mountains payed off well and my legs are in great shape. I’m waiting for a snow season now. Check out my Instagram, Facebook and Strava pages (feel free for PM). And be sure to like Sakhalin Marathon’s Instagram and Facebook – to get all important updates about this great sport region and it’s sport events.

All ski sports are popular in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
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