After a snowy start to the year at the Nor-Am races in Colorado, we flew over to Europe hoping to find some hard snow and good training to prepare for the Europa Cup circuit. The day after we arrived and spent the night in a little apartment near Innsbruck, Austria, we went up and freeskied at San Vigilio, Italy, the location of the upcoming races. It was a nice sunny day and I got a little taste of one of the toughest GS hills out there…steep, dark, and icy. The slalom hill, being on the same slope, isn’t too much different.
We drove down to Paganella, Italy, in the heart of the Dolomites to get a few quality days of training in before the San Vigilio Europa Cups. Unfortunately, the snow followed us all the way over seas dumping over two meters of snow on top of the already unseen amounts of snow there. One of the locals told us that they haven’t seen that much snow in the area for 25 years. As a result, the slalom at San Vigilio and a following GS we had in our plan ended up being canceled.
We decided to head up north to Austria, where the snow hadn’t been so fierce and the conditions were quite good for training. We ended up getting three great days of training before the next two Europa Cup slaloms set to go in Oberegen and Pozza, Italy.
We arrived at the first race and conditions were prime. The snow was hard enough that with bib number 52, I had an opportunity to put down a good run and could get a decent result. I got on the chairlift to go up for my first run. Within sight of the top, the lift suddenly stopped. After ten minutes of sitting on the chair, I figured it was something more than someone falling out of balance by getting off the lift. After about 40 minutes, the chair finally started back up and I hurried to the start of the course. Luckily, bib number 51 and many after me were also missing from the start and they were forced to hold the race until the lift began running again and racers showed up at the start. Sitting on the lift in the cold for that long, however, will stiffen up anyone’s body. There was enough time at the start for me to warm back up though and I was ready for the run. I started off skiing pretty well at the top of the course, getting into its rhythm, but half-way down, I unfortunately got caught in bit of a rut pushing my inside ski towards the gate and causing me to hook my tip around it, disqualifying me from the race. Time to head to the next night slalom race in Pozza.
During inspection in Pozza, the snow also seemed perfect on the steep piste under the lights. It was only a thin crust of hard snow though, and it broke down into holes pretty quickly during the race. Even though in ragged fashion, I made it down the first run and into the top 30, allowing me to run at the front of the pack for the second run with the reverse 30 format. With a 26 finish position, I ran 5th for the second run. This gives a great advantage of a clean course to ski the way I want and know how. I tried to take as much of this advantage as I could and let my skis run onto the bottom flats of the course and finishing 6th for the second run against the World Cup field present. I moved up to 22nd overall finishing my first Europa Cup and even scoring Europa Cup points by finishing in the top 30 of the field.
It was nice coming home for the Christmas season to powder on the slopes without having to race. and with some success coming out of the somewhat difficult Europe trip, I am ready and excited for the next Nor-Am races coming up in Sunday River, Maine in the first week of 2009. I know I am skiing well and I am looking forward to more good opportunities for strong finishes. I hope you all had a great holiday season and have a happy New Year.