Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Epic powder day; now back to Lienz

Christmas break in St. Moritz was great.
Whilst it dumped with snow on Christmas day, and the mountain was shut due to avalanche warning. The following day (Boxing Day), we had an epic bluebird powder day. The snow was deep and light, and there was so much open terrain that we could ski fresh tracks all day.

(A little tumble in the powder)


(Julia and I take a stroll through the streets of Celerina on Christmas Day)

(Coloured umbrella's in a black and white world)

(Kaiserschmarrn for dessert; possibly the best meal ever invented. Chopped up pancakes with riasins, icing sugar and plum compote)

The following day I decided not to ski. And I think it was a lucky decision, as there was a large avalanche up at St. Moritz which killed a number of people. Scary!

2 days ago I returned to Lienz, Austria, where the team will be based for the next 5 days. Today we trained at Lienz on a well-built, large ski cross course. A number of other national teams were there (Austrians, Slovenians, Japanese, Czech…) so it was great to train besides some girls in head-to-head racing.

On the 3rd of January (after a most-likely not-too-crazy New Years Eve), we head to St. Johann, Austria. This is where the next World Cup will be held. Qualifications are on the 4th and finals on the 5th. To make things a little more exciting, it is a night race under the flood lights. Last year this was a very popular spectator race (as all Austrians love ski racing!) So hopefully there will be a sea of fans again this year.

I am feeling fresh after my break, so hopefully I have a great race. I am aiming to qualify well, and then get through the first round to top 16. Fingers crossed!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in St. Moritz

After having spent the night in Innsbruck, Austria, checking out the Christmas markets and enjoying a well-deserved nutella crepe and some gluweine, I left the following morning on a 6 hour train journey to St. Moritz, Switzerland. The last leg of the journey from Chur to St. Moritz was spectacular. I travelled on the infamous 'Glacier Express' train which through some amazing scenery... in particular the old stone bridges which cross the wide rivers. I am spending Christmas here with a friend from Australia, Julia.

(Chur to St. Moritz by train)

Yesterday we spent the day exploring the mountain. I've got a new pair of fatty's so it's exciting to get out there and free ski. There was a fair bit of untouched powder (as there always in in Europe, even weeks after it snows because the Euro's tend to just stick to the groomed runs). 

(Powder skiing with a view above Celerina / St. Moritz)

(Christmas Eve - the infamous Palace Hotel)

Today is Christmas day and the mountain is closed due to avalanche warning. It is absolutely puking with snow, so tomorrow could be a ripper. It's meant to be bluebird and no one will have been on the mountain for over a day and a half, so it could be the powder day of the year. Fingers crossed! So I think today is a day for scrabble inside and a nice long lunch...and afternoon hot chocolate.... and dinner... 

(Julia and I impressed with the size of the snowflakes on Christmas Day)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 32 finish

Today was the second World Cup. I had a decent qualifying run, and scraped into 32nd position; the last place to qualify! I was stoked with the result, considering how difficult the competition is. Between 1st and 32nd place was less than 2.5 seconds, so the times were very tight. I was very excited to get a start in the head-to-head action, which was televised on Eurosport in Australia. In the finals, I had a good fast start however because I was in the most disadvantaged gate (because of my qualifying time), it was difficult for me to gain a lead on the other girls. I didn’t make it through to the quarter finals, so ended up finishing in 32nd position.

(In the start with lucky bib 32)

(The golden bib - after having competed in world cup finals in San Candido)

Monday, December 21, 2009

First World Cups of the season

Things have been go-go-go since Norway. After a long journey home (this time I managed to catch a lift with the Swiss ski team back to Oslo as opposed to catching two trains), I arrived back in Molltaler, Austria. The team spent the next two days training on the ski cross course high up in the glacier, working on starts and head-to-head racing. Although it was very cold (around -20º C), we managed to get some very effective training done. It was fun to do some ‘risqué’ passing on the course, as you would in a race.

On Saturday we began training on the course. We were given an hour and a half, so I managed to squeeze in 5 runs on the course. This course was a little different to others. It is set like a super G, with big fast sweeping turns. Then within the course are some aggressive rolls and some large jumps with, unfortunately, very flat landings. Because of the cold weather, the snow is super hard and compact, making the landings bone-rattling. There is one jump in particular where we launch 20+ metres, with nothing but a spectacular view of the village in front of us. Unfortunately there’s no steep landing, so it feels like you’ve just jumped off a 3-storey building onto concrete. By the end of training, my heals, knees and back had taken a severe pounding.
Yesterday was qualifications. I started with bib 50 out of a field of 68 girls; the largest world cup field ever. I felt like I had a decent run; one mistake off one of the jumps (I got back and therefore caught a lot of air on my chest…not so fast and aerodynamic). I finished in 34th, a bees dick away from qualifying. Only the top 32 racers go through to finals, and I was only 0.15 of a second behind 32nd place. Pretty devastating. At least I beat half the field! 4 Aussies were racing in total. Jenny qualified in 23rd and Scott in 22nd, so they made it onto finals. Sam finished in 48th.

On Friday afternoon after training, we packed up all our stuff (including over 20 pairs of skis), and headed for San Candido, Italy, around 2 hours drive. San Candido is in the heart of the Dolomites, right on the Austrian border. This is where the world cup SX season kicks of, with two back-to-back world cups.

(Watching finals in San Candido)

After tomorrow’s race, we have a break for Christmas. Although I would love to come home and see the fam and friends (and enjoy some summer!), it’s a little far to come home for just 5 days. I’m doing the next best thing and jumping on a train to St. Moritz where I will be spending Christmas with some Australian friends. I’m taking my fat skis and hopefully we get some fresh snow. I’m not going to think about ski racing for a full 5 days. I need a mental break! I’m just going to relax, free ski, enjoy some après-ski drinks, drink hot chocolate and indulge in cheese fondue and raclette. Aaah, I love Europe.
I have another chance to prove myself. Tomorrow is another day and another race. I’m feeling positive. I just need to put it all together to have the run of my life; and hopefully finish in the top 32.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A picture says a thousand words...

Over the past week I've taken the opportunity to take a few snaps. The views have been spectacular from up on the glacier. Here are my favourites...

(Molltaler Glacier, Austria)

(Above the clouds at 3200m)

(View from the top)

(Chairlift in the clouds)

(Start gate)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hello Europe!

Earlier this week we have been training at Molltaler Glacier, which is about 30 minutes from Lienz, Austria. A few other World Cup teams are here too, including the Japanese, the Slovenians, the Brits and a few others. High up in the glacier (approximately 3200m), the view is spectacular; mountains in every direction.

(View from the top of Molltaler Glacier, Austria)

(The daunting ride up to the glacier)

Up at the top is a small ski cross course with a start gate. And even the though the weather has been pretty average (wind and snow) forcing the mountain to be closed, we’ve still managed to get some start training in.

(Sami, myself, Matt, British coach and Sean heading up to training in the snowcat)

After much consideration, I decided to pack up my stuff and go to Norway for a 3 day adventure on my own. A Europa Cup and FIS ski cross race had been scheduled there (moved from the original location of Germany), and although it was a bit of a treck, I felt like I needed to give myself the opportunity to race before the first World Cup’s; and hopefully get some good results.

After spending the night in Salzburg at an airport hotel, I flew from Salzburg to Vienna and then onto Oslo. I then took a train from Oslo airport to Oslo city centre. From there, a change of train and onto Geilo; a 4 and a half hour trip. All was going to plan until the train broke down in Oslo city centre. A problem with the breaks apparently… So after lugging my 40kg ski bag and 35kg luggage bag onto the supposed final train, I now realise that I can’t collapse in a heap just yet. I have to move all my stuff onto the new train. And it seems like no one in Norway is very fond of helping people with their bags! At last, after a one hour delay, I can finally relax for at least 4 hours until it’s time to get off, in the dark, and search for my hotel in this very foreign town. Total travel time: 6am until 9pm. I’m exhausted and ready for bed. But the day’s not over yet. I have to prep my skis for tomorrow’s race! Another hour in the tuning room means I get to bed at 11pm. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a bad European pancake pillow!

Race Day. I’m on the ski hill warming up at 8:30am, and it’s still pitch black. The night lights are on in the stadium, yet the rest of the mountain is dark and quiet. By 10am, it’s starting to get light; however the sun never actually makes it over the mountains. It hovers just below the horizon like an extended sunrise.

(Sunrise at 10am, Geilo, Norway)

We inspect in the dark and then training starts. After only 6 people have skied the course, 3 have crashed and one is injured and taken down in the bucket. Not such a great start. Apparently the course wsa built just the night before, and some of the features weren’t running very smoothly. So the schedule changed and we spent the afternoon training on the course. The mountain get’s dark at 3pm, so we are forced to stop training. The race is then moved to tomorrow.

(Dark and lights on at 9am)

Today was race day. We did one training run, and I felt that I skied well. The course is very long, about 1 minute 20 seconds, so by the end my legs were burning. Good thing I did all that dryland training in Melbourne and Jindabyne, otherwise I don’t think my legs would have held out! My qualifying run wasn’t as good as I would have hoped for. I made a bit of a mistake on the pitch before the flats. There are a number of world cup teams here, making the competition quite difficult. The Germans, Swiss, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, Polish, Japanese (and a few others) are all here competing. I qualified in 12th place but then unfortunately didn’t make it through the first round of finals to get into the top 8. I’m glad I came however. It was a good experience, something I did completely on my own, and also a good introductory race to the World Cup.

Tomorrow I fly back to Austria to meet the team for a few more days training, then on to San Candido, Italy, for the first 2 world cups!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

World cups, rodeos and airports...

So far things have been going great here in Canada. The past 5 days training have been very busy. We started off the week by supporting our team mate, Craig 'Bud' Branch, in the Lake Louise World Cup Super G, where he did very well finishing in 27th spot. We then did some free skiing in Lake Louise. We skied mostly all off piste, and even managed to find a bit of untouched powder. Over the past few days we have done GS gate training, some super G free skiing and even downhill training at Nakiska with the Canadian provincial teams.

It has been extremely cold here over the past week. 2 days ago in Lake Louise, it was -29 C in the morning. A little chilly! Very cold in nothing but a lycra race suit.

(Jen and I at Lake Louise World Cup)

(Team Australia. Supporting our team mate Craig Branch)

On our last night in Calgary, we did as the Romans do (or in this case, the very ‘Western’ Calgarians), and went to see a live rodeo; the Professional Bull Riding Championships. It was definitely a new experience; something I can tick of the checklist of things to do.

(Jen, myself, Steve and Scotty and the rodeo in Calgary)

After 4 hours sleep and a 4am alarm, today we are leaving for Europe. Packing and unpacking every few days will again become apart of our routine as we will be moving very often. We will start our training in Lienz, Austria, where a number of the SX national teams will also be based. We then continue on to San Candido, Italy, where we have the first 2 world cups of the season. I’m a little nervous (it’s difficult not to be, especially when these are qualifying races for the Olympic Games), however I’m confident in my skiing and in my training; so I guess that’s all I can do!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Powder in Lake Louise

Today we had a great day skiing in Lake Louise. It was bluebird and about 15cm of fresh snow. Its great to get out there and just 'ski' - believe it or not, we don't actually get to go free skiing that often. We're either training gates, training in a SX course or doing drills. So it's always nice to just get out there and explore a mountain without racing gear on and 2-3 pairs of skis!

After a full morning in the trees, the open bowls and even a hike, we were wrecked (The photo was taken first thing in the morning...)

Below is Scott, Jenny and myself enjoying the sunshine at the summit of Lake Louise, Canada.

(Scott, Jen and I at the summit of Lake Louise)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Week 1- Canmore, Alberta

After an extremely long journey (Melbourne - Sydney - LA - Denver - Calgary - Canmore), I have finally arrived in Canmore, Alberta where I will be spending the next 2 weeks training.

It's not as cold as last time I was here, which is a bonus! I remember getting off the plane and walking outside Calgary airport, almost not being able to breathe! Going from 30 degrees to -30 is quite a shock to the body!

We headed up to Nakiska yesterday for our first day on snow. There were a few World Cup alpine teams there, including Canada, France and Austria, all training for the up and coming Lake Louise World Cup. On the main training hill was a sea of GS gates.

(See of gates at Nakiska)

We spent the day free skiing and 'finding our feet'. In the afternoon I started to feel a bit off. By the next morning, I could hardly walk! My vision was blurry, I went temporarily deaf and I had trouble breathing. I almost felt like I was about to faint. I went straight to the hospital, and was put on a drip where the nurses pumped in almost 2L of water into me. Apparently I had suffered from an accute virus and severe dehydration. My blood pressure had dropped to as low as 79 over 43 (normal is 120 over 80).

After a few hours on the drip and another 3L of gatorade, I was feeling much better by the afternoon. Not the best start to my overseas trip! Hopefully things go up from here.

It has started to dump with snow, so the plan is to free ski at Lake Louise tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a bit of powder skiing, as it doesn't happen every day, especially on the race circuit!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My adventure of a lifetime starts tomorrow!

Tomorrow I will head off overseas with the dream of qualifying for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Vancouver in February.

The national ski cross team will be based in Canmore, Canada, for the first 2 weeks of the season. Here we will be training out of Nakiska; home of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games. We will start off the season with lots of freeskiing, drills, alpine GS and super G gates training, and hopefully some powder!

We then head to Europe where things start to get a bit more interesting! We have 5 world cup races prior to the Olympic qualification date (Jan 17). By this date, in order for me to qualify, I must be ranked in the top 35 in the world. Not an easy task but definitely achievable! So I'm hoping for some really good results, perhaps 2 top 16 finished in the first few races to take the pressure off!

Dryland training has been very solid over the past 7 weeks here in Melbourne. I have been training twice a day, 12 sessions a week with one day off. Training occurs at the VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport), cycling on beach road, swimming and boxing. My fitness and strength is great at the moment, so I'm feeling confident heading overseas in good physical shape. I have also been doing lots of training on the custom made start gate (made by my Grandpa, Urs) in my backyard. This has been extremely beneficial in helping me to improve my starts; a vital part of the race!

(My very own custom-made back yard start gate. Thanks Grandpa!)

Although I'm loving this beautiful warm weather in Melbourne, I am looking forward to hitting the slopes once again!