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Russian Mountains were a predecessor to the roller coaster.
The earliest roller coasters were descended from Russian winter sled rides held on specially constructed hills of ice, sometimes up to 200 feet (61 m) tall. Known from the 17th century, the slides were built to a height of between 70 and 80 feet (21 to 24 m), had a 50-degree initial slope, and were reinforced by wooden supports. In the 18th century they were especially popular in St. Petersburg and surroundings, from where their usage and popularity spread to Europe. Sometimes wheeled carts were used instead of tracks, like in the Katalnaya Gorka built in Catherine II's residence in Oranienbaum. By the late 18th century, their popularity was such that entrepreneurs elsewhere began copying the idea, using wheeled cars built on tracks. The first such wheeled ride was brought to Paris in 1804 under the name Les Montagnes Russes (French for "Russian Mountains").
Among the early companies were Les Montagnes Russes à Belleville, which constructed and operated a gravity track in Paris from 1812, and Promenades Aeriennes ("Aerial Promenades", 1817, at Beaujon Gardens, Paris). The first loop track was probably also built in Paris from an English design in 1846, with a single-person wheeled sled running through a 13-foot (4 m) diameter loop. None of these tracks were complete circuits.
To this day, a number of languages (e.g. French montagne russe, Italian montagna russa, Portuguese montanha-russa, Spanish montaña rusa) use the equivalent of "Russian Mountains" to refer to roller coasters. Interestingly, when "true" roller coasters appeared in Russia in the 19th century, they became known as “американские горки” [amerikanskie gorki], or "American mountains". For example, Gagarin Park, the second largest amusement park in St. Petersburg has an "Amerikanskie gorki" ride.