The last 2 weeks have been all about icy snow, bumpy skiing and tough competition. We are in Germany’s southern most province (sometimes called Austria) where ski racers are more famous than All Blacks are in New Zealand. It’s a commonly used analogy when explaining the ski racing world to New Zealanders. But honestly, I think Austrians are more fanatic about ski racing than NZ’ers are about rugby. The skiing World Cup races are televised live and are featured regularly on radio updates (amongst heated discussions about whether the mandatory time in the army for young Austrian men is still relevant in today’s society!)
We’ve had 2 weeks of training since arriving here. The first week was fantastic. We got the opportunity to train speed with the Swiss ski team. It’s great to compare yourself to some of the best skiers in the world. Sadly one of the Swiss skiers Patrick Kueng, ranked 13th in the world, had a crash and hit his head. He was helicoptered to a local hospital for inspection but should be OK after a few days rest. In the few days before that on the same training run one American ruptured her knee and one Canadian compound fractured her lower leg. Nonetheless it was great training. The local newspaper even ran a story about the Swiss and NZ teams using Saalbach for training!
We competed in our first European cup last week (one tier down from World Cup) in Kirchberg, following 3 days of heavy rain. Needless to say the conditions were icy and very bumpy. Both Ben and I skied well in sections but were unable to post results in these conditions. We have another European Cup tomorrow.
All in all, it’s a reality check. We compete in a dangerous sport, where perfection and speed are always fighting danger and plain stupidity for the top spot. Every time you stand at the top of a course, though, the adrenaline and hunger for perfection take over, and that’s when real ski racing happens.
Until next time!
Happy New Year!
I hope the holiday season was enjoyable, sunny and gluttonous.
Since the last update fellow national team member Ben Griffin and I competed in 4 Miele Cup races in Canada. Ben achieved his goal of a podium, finishing 2nd in one of the GS races. I finished above my ranking in each race with a best position of 10th. The results were not spectacular, but each run is getting faster.
The race series finished just before Christmas and left us with a 9 day break to rest and recuperate, before meeting up again in LA on the 1st to fly here to Austria, where I am right now. Ben chose to head a few hours west in Canada to visit friends where he used to train as a teenager. That left me with the 2300km drive to return the van to Reno. Alone.
I stopped halfway through the trip for 5 days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Now this is a holiday destination! The resort is in a spectacular range of the Rockies called the Tetons (roughly translated to tits). Their highest mountain is Grand Teton (big tit), sitting at 4,199m. Jackson is a quirky old west town now inhabited by a mirage of modern hippies living in a redneck area. The ski resort is world famous for steep slopes and deep powder. It lived up to its reputation and delivered some spectacular powder skiing.
After this I drove the van back across the Nevada deserts to Lake Tahoe, California where it belongs. Tahoe is crazy right now. It’s halfway through the season there and over 10 meters of snow has fallen so far. Floods in Southern California have been hitting the news lately. The upside is the resort of Mammoth has received a whopping 4.3 meters of snow over 4 days. They are literally skiing onto the 3rd floor of the base building. Needless to say I had to slip in another awesome powder day (marred only slightly with a minor collision with a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, luckily I wasn’t driving).
The business end of the season starts now. We are in Austria and have some training on icy slopes with the Swiss Team tomorrow. Our race schedule steps up now with European Cups and 2 World Cups during January, plus World Champs in early Feb.
The first stint is well underway over here in Canada. Ben Griffin and I have had some great training and a challenging first race series – North American Cup races.
We skied 2 5-day blocks of training with our coach Nils Coberger, a well-known Queenstowner, who joined us after the first few days. We made a lot of good progress, but as is to be expected, not everything went well. I had a minor crash with a gate, and cracked my helmet almost in two – check out the photo!
After the training we migrated about 2 hours west to Panorama, a slightly snowier and infinitely less sunny ski resort for the NorAm series. The migration was marred by our van, which you may remember made the 2300km journey from Reno, not starting and having to be towed by AAA to have a new starter motor installed. It has been dubbed the A-Team van, is spray painted black and as of tomorrow will have a Silver Fern decorating the door.
The first races went relatively well considering I started training almost a month later than most North American skiers this winter. I finished Super-G #1 with my best points result of the year so far, but was back in 22nd place as it was a tight race. The second Super-G was going even better, but unfortunately I encountered heavy freezing fog in the middle of the run and was consequently cautious and slow on the bottom half of the course.
The next 4 days bring some easier FIS races where Ben and I hope to podium. Following that I will gradually make my way back to Reno to drop the A-Team van off and fly to Europe (with a cheeky stop in Jackson Hole to ski some powder!)
That was a long trip. 24 hours of flying and 24 hours of driving and I have finally arrived in Nakiska, Canada. I’m told that I’m lucky right now as it’s fairly warm. Today’s high was -10. I guess warm must be a relative term.
The flight was actually not too bad. Overnight flights are easy, you can sleep. To be fair, though, I tend to cheat – sleeping pills make everything go a lot faster.
Ben Griffin and I flew into Reno to pick up an unused transporter minivan from a very good friend of mine who is also a racer, Errol Kerr. Errol is half Jamaican and competed in skier-cross at Vancouver Olympics for Jamaica, finishing 9th. ‘Cool-runnings 2,’ as it was dubbed, was Jamaica’s all time best result at the Winter Olympics.
Reno is not the ideal place to start a trip to Canada. But hey, a free van is a free van, and gas is still relatively cheap in the US. Ben and I shared the 2300km drive through Nevada, Idaho, Montana and part of Alberta. This was fine except for the fact that, without fail, every time I was driving, it was snowing quite heavily. Despite the distance our drive took us through literally nothing of interest at all. We shared a romantic dinner in Jackpot, Nevada, and spent the night in Idaho Falls, a place which is famous for a) its main street going one way in the morning, and the other in the evening; and b) an army surplus store where rednecks from all over come to stock up.
But we’re here! Tomorrow we start skiing finally. More updates on this (more relevant) topic to come.
Just a quick note to say that I am leaving tomorrow for Canada (via Reno to pick up a van and drive 19 hours up to the cold). It was a freezing -38 in Canmore, Canada this morning (very close to where we are going) so I am not terribly excited for the climate-shock. Other than that, though, I am rearing to go.
My long-time teammate and fellow Olympian Ben Griffin will be joining me for the season, and we hope to have confirmation that our coach Nils Coberger will join us when it becomes viable within the next few days. More updates soon.
“Well, it’s that time of year again. Only this year it’s far more tortuous than usual – the hot and dry Wakatipu spring has given me my first taste of summer in eight years. On top of that, instead of heading to Europe for the early part of the season – which shares an autumn not unlike ours – this year it’s straight to Canada. It’s…”