A Nor-Am Podium…Finding the Groove in GS

Well, I’m back overseas racing the European circuit.  Just before I left, I was in Sunday River, Maine, racing the Nor-Am tech series over there.  I raced my first GS race of the season there as all the ones on my schedule before that had been canceled.  I had been training GS and felt like I was making progress in the event and skiing well, but I wasn’t sure exactly how fast it was.  The snow was good and hard and the conditions were still great for me with bib number 29, and after the first run, I found myself sitting in 5th place.  On the second go-around, I was just going for a solid run and to ski like I had in the first leg.  My plan worked out and I finished in 3rd place overall…my first Nor-Am podium and coming from a GS.  I hadn’t exactly seen that coming as I have had success on and off throughout my career in GS, but this is by far my result in the event.  I was very happy with the finish and it seems that my GS skiing is definitely coming along.

 

On the second run of that day, however, Charles Christianson, a friend and fellow college grad gunning for the US Ski Team, crashed through a panel and injured his knee, sidelining him for the remainder of the season.  This shows how brutal our sport can be after putting in so much hard work and time just trying to get a glimpse of the dreams we are chasing.  My thoughts go out to him for a speedy recovery. 

 

The next day, I started in the first 15 with the Nor-Am points I scored, and with the confidence boost from the day before, I put a little more heat into my run.  I had a fast run going until right towards the bottom, a silly mistake took me out of the race.  I just got caught up and stuck on my inside ski and couldn’t bring the turn around to the next gate.

 

The slaloms were next and I had some solid runs each day, but also some mistakeseach day.  I ended up with a 7th and a 5thplace.  I accumulated enough Nor-Am points with these results to put me into the top 15 overall rank, ensuring me with a better start position and within great striking range for the next slaloms in Nakiska, Canada in early February.

 

Back to Europe it was and back to the bullet-proof, water-injected snow.  I had couple of DNFs in the first difficult slalom series in Oberjoch, Germany.  I was skiing pretty well though so I wasn’t too worried about it.  After a 9 1/2 hour drive, I was in France ready to race another couple of slaloms.  In the first race, the visor guard of my slalom helmet broke off and fell down directly in front of my eyes.  I couldn’t see a thing and hooked the tip of my ski on a gate soon afterwards.  Not a great day.  The next day the slalom was a regular FIS race, but with the exact same European Cup field as the day before.  It was a beautiful sunny day as well (my first race taking place in the sun all year), which definitely put me in better spirits.  I put down two clean runs and finished in 7th place.  I was a little too far off the leader to score a result, but it was a great confidence builder for me to take to the next race and a great feeling to mix it in with the skiers of that caliber.

 

I am now waiting out another canceled GS race, a Europa Cup in La Toussiere, France.  It is dumping snow outside and it is supposed to keep snowing through tomorrow.  They will try to get the race off tomorrow.  Hopefully, we can get one more good race in before flying back home here the day after tomorrow.

Home For a White Christmas

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.

Winter-time in Colorado

Winter has arrived in Colorado, but unfortunately, it’s timing wasn’t the best.  For the most of November, there was no snow falling in the state, providing a pretty good training opportunity for me on the man-made surfaces of Loveland and Copper Mt.  It was great to train, on and off snow, with the U.S. Team and to have a pace at the level I need to ski.  I worked on becoming comfortable with my new equipment for the year and tried to find what works the best for my style.  I definitely felt like I made progress in my skiing during this pre-season camp, pushing myself to become more aggressive and ski faster.  Now it’s time to put the progress to work.

 

The Nor-Am circuit was planned to begin on Monday of this week, but a three-day storm, unloading a supposed total of 60 inches of new snow on Loveland Pass, postponed the races for a day.  The untimely snow definitely created soft and difficult conditions for today’s first slalom race.  By the time I ran on the course at only bib number 14, grooves and ruts were present at the gates, but I still managed to ski down in 9th position after the first run, among most of the U.S. technical team and elite World Cup skiers from other nations including France and Switzerland.  A mistake in the second run proved costly, moving me back 17th position in the tightly packed field, just 0.5 seconds away from the top 10 to give a picture.  Although I didn’t get the result I was hoping for, there were things to be happy about as I had one good run and my skiing is in a place where I can definitely obtain some really good results on a good day.  There are three more Nor-Am slaloms here in CO in the next few days as the GS races in Winter Park have been changed to slaloms due to a lack of snow to hold the giant slaloms.  Still plenty of chances left.

One Day Breather

After a long 4-stage flight yesterday, I made it back home from Europe for a little break to rest up and refuel with a home-cooked meal before the next stage of my season.

 

The Europe trip ended up being quite productive, beginning with a training block on the Stubai glacier in Austria.  With a nice moderate slope and fairly hard snow, it was great place for me to get back on snow and get comfortable on my skis again.  I had a few good days of training before a weather front moved in and dropped a foot of snow on top of the alps.  Unfortunately, the snow became soft and spoiled the training for the last few days, and there wasn’t quite enough cover to go powder skiing.  I was off to go ski indoors though, so any bad weather thereafter was out of the equation.

 

After the training session, I traveled 6 hours east from the high alps down to the lowlands of France to find a warehouse built on the side of a small hill.  Inside, was a shallow slope and with no new snowfall indoors and no snow recycling, it was some of the iciest snow I’ve ever skied on.  Hard snow is always what a racer is looking for, but in this case, the snow was littered with small stones and sand which dulled my skis as soon as I put them on edge and the skis barely lasted one run before losing grip with the inclined ice rink.  I ended up putting a 5 degree side bevel on my edges to make them as sharp as possible.  That made my skis quite a bit more aggressive, which I believe was part of the reason that led to my straddle of a gate and an early end to my day during the first run of the race.

 

We drove another two hours into Holland to the next indoor race at SnowWorld.  The snow conditions here ended up being much better where the snow was still bulletproof minus the scattered rocks, providing infinitely more grip.  My performance in the race was not the fastest on the 22-second course when compared to the World Cup skiers in the field.  The slope was very flat from start to finish, which is not exactly the type of hill I perform my best on, but I still felt solid on my skis and I’m excited to get back to ski in the mountains.

 

Overall, it was a great trip to start off the fall, with a quality training block to get me back on my skis.  Even though I didn’t have the results in the opening Europa Cups, it is still very early in the year and there is plenty of time to prepare for the full season.

 

After my short break here at home, I am headed to join up with the U.S. Ski Team tomorrow to begin training at Loveland and Copper Mt., preparing for the Nor-Am series races in the beginning of December.  It will be nice to stay at home in Colorado for the next month and gain valuable experience with the U.S. Team.  I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Gone Skiing…

I spent the last part of the fall working and surveying the southern corner of New Mexico.  After roaming around the hot desert with a GPS pack, I came back home to find white mountains, reviving my thirst for the snow.  It’s time to go skiing.  Destination: Europe.

 

For the next ten days, I will be training in the glaciers around Innsbruck, Austria, gearing up for the first races of this winter.  At the beginning of November I plan to spend some quality time indoors as the racing season gets under way for me with two indoor Europa Cups in France and the Netherlands.  I’ve never been to an indoor ski area so this trip should be pretty neat.  The slopes are pretty flat and short when compared mountain runs, but the snow conditions should be ideal (hard and fast) for racing.  It is bound to be an interesting experience.

 

An Exciting Opportunity At Hand

On top of fact that I’m headed to go skiing, another piece of good news came my way at the beginning of last week.  I have gotten an invitation to join the U.S. Ski Team to race, train, and travel with them for the months of November and December!  This is a huge opportunity for me as it will allow me to directly ski and train with the fastest skiers in the U.S.  I will be able to see the lines that faster skiers take and compare techniques during training to build my own speed and ability.  This chance should also provide me with some of the good racing opportunities that I need to obtain the results I am looking for to officially gain a spot on the U.S. Team. 

 

I am so excited for the upcoming couple of months and the opportunity it is giving me.  It is within my grasp and now I just need to capitalize on it.  Even if things don’t go exactly as I hope, it will be an unbelievable learning experience for me and take me another step in the right direction towards the goals I have for this year.  It should be an exciting start to the season!