Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ramsau Training Camp

At the beginning of September I travelled with my Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates to Ramsau, Austria for a training camp on the Dachstein glacier.  Last year we had a camp there at the same time and had incredible skiing conditions with everything from extra blue midwinter hardwax skiings to the more common sunny summer glacier skiing in t-shirts.  There was a 8-9km loop groomed on the glacier every morning and it couldn't have been more perfect!  This year as we packed to leave VT, we heard rumors of a melting glacier and questionable ski conditions.  With plane tickets, rental tickets and lodging already booked so we set out for the airport with fingers crossed for colder temps and new snow.  And the weather gods came through and our timing and we lucked out with a big snowstorm hitting the glacier just as we arrived in Austria.  We waited out the storm with dryland training in town for the first couple days and then the next morning we set out early for the first tram up to the glacier.  It's about a 5 minute tram ride that rises about 1000meters up into the mountains.  We were surprised with very fast and firm conditions.  The loop was shorter than last year with only 3-4km of switchbacks but the skiing was excellent!  Each switchback also ended with a very fast 180degree turn so it was an incredible opportunity to practice corning!

We had a little over a week of excellent ski conditions but each day the weather was a little warmer and a little sunnier.  Since there wasn't that much snow to begin with, the skiing didn't ever turn to sloppy slush as is common with glacier skiing but each day the snow looked a little dirtier and the glacier ice underneath the snow seemed closer and closer.  The last day we went up it was very warm and as we skied puddles started forming on the trails and by the end it started to resemble water skiing in parts.  The temperature was hot for the rest of the day and the rest of the snow melted that afternoon.  When we looked at the webcam the next morning we saw blue ice where we had skied the day before.  The Russian team went up just to check it out but didn't even finish a lap before they decided it was unskiable.  A low snow year and a warm winter created an obviously horrible combination and the difference between this year and last year was incredibly scary.  The Dachstein glacier is a very famous and popular summer ski location for Nordic skiers but it was terrifying to see it in that state.

We didn't ski again for the last four or five days of the camp.  The weather remained hot and sunny which was perfect for dryland training but not for reforming the snow pack.  Despite our original intentions of skiing, all of the training in Ramsau is amazing.  We went for many long runs and hikes in the mountains.  There are hiking trails all over town including through our front yard and the trails quickly ascend into beautiful mountain landscapes.  There is also an awesome rollerski track in town with huge uphills and fast curvy downhills.  Front the top of the hills the descent looks terrifying.  Trees even fifteen feet off the trail are covered in pads!  But the track is very well designed and the corners are banked perfectly so just letting your skis go its easy to carve through the turns.  We also rollerskied up the mountain passes for some serious elevation training.  One day I climbed over 3000ft in less than an hour and a half and another day I think I had close to 3000' of elevation gain in a double pole workout!

It was hard to leave such an incredible place but luckily the start of fall in Vermont is really nice too!

This picture is taken from the lower tramhouse looking up at the top of the tram on the triangular peak.  The glacier was on the backside of these mountains.
Looking down on the Ramsau valley from the top of the tram.
Heather, Em, and Alex watching the clouds clear off the glacier.  There was a huge downhill down from the tram house to the trails which then became a tiring ascent back up at the end of the workout.

A beautiful setting for a ski!

Crevasses on the glacier above where the ski trails were groomed

Emily and I skiing some laps on one of the less sunny days.

Incredible sunny afternoon klister skiing.  I could have kept skiing for a very long time but I didn't want to sleep up on the glacier so I had to stop in time to catch the last tram of the day. (Pepa photo)

Picturesque Hallstat, Austria

The town square in Hallstat with lots of open air cafes, flower boxes, and tourists like ourselves

A pair tree growing on the side of a house that was lush with delicious looking pears but unfortunately all of the low hanging fruit had been picked so I couldn't sample.

Little rollerskiers, BIG mountains! (Nick Brown photo)

Girls at the base of the tram after an afternoon rollerski uphill climb (Pepa photo)

The trails have benches everywhere for taking a break and enjoying the views.

Mike and Liz at the beach of an alpine lake we found deep within the mountains.

Lots of Austrian flags clearly mark the trails.  
This picture almost looks fake but I swear it wasn't staged at all!  Liz is running along the top of Sinabell Mountain at 2350 meters.

Sheep crossing

YES!! (Liz Guiney photo)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!  I celebrated in perfect style today by going for a ski! I'm currently in Ramsau, Austria with my Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates.  The weekend's snowstorm settled and we were greeted with fresh powder on the Dachstein glacier for the first ski of our training camp.  Despite the wind ripping across the glacier creating a fast tailwind in one direction and a brutal head wind in the other,  it was so much fun to be sliding across the snow, enjoying the best part of the job.

Labor day also traditionally marks the end of summer so as I put on my ski tights, jacket, gloves, hat, and buff this morning, I quietly bid adieu to a great summer.  The season seemed to get a late start this year with a very cold and rainy June followed by spending most of July in winter in the southern hemisphere.  But when I returned from New Zealand, I walked off the plane into a wall of Eastern heat and humidity and I couldn't have been happier!

Summertime at home in Vermont is my perhaps my favorite time of the year.  I quickly made a goal to swim every day until I left for Austria, a task that proved not much of a challenge.  The Craftsbury Outdoor Center is located on Big Hosmer Pond, making it easy to jump in and cool off after steamy training sessions.  I live in a cottage on Little Hosmer and frequently went for a quick swim in the evening before bed.  My parents live near Lake Willoughby and there is a big pond in the woods behind our house so it was always easy to find swimming locations when I was home in Barton.  I love the feeling of floating in the water for a long time, cooling my body temperature off after sweating like crazy in a hot training session.

Another reason I adore summer is the plethora of fresh fruit and vegetables, (of course interspersed with maple creemees galore!)  The payback for the hours spent planting, weeding, and preparing in the garden, hits hard in August.  We were over our heads with summer squash, zucchini, basil, kale, and cucumbers.  Every morning I started my day topping my yogurt and granola with fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.  Corn on the cob was ready to go before left Vermont.  And despite a late season tomato blight, we were still picking ripe cherry tomatoes off the vine and eating them like candy.

Finally, the past month has been a great opportunity to spend time outside at home with friends and family.  Eben came home for a week early in the month and then Elsa and Linden were in Vermont a few weeks later.  Alice Nelson, a friend from my days at Burke visited for a wonderful weekend of catching up.  And after spoiling myself with a new mountain bike, Pat and I have been been exploring lots of new singletrack around Vermont.

Here are some pictures from the past month.  Check back soon for more Austria updates.

Double rainbow over the Craftsbury Outdoor Center
Thunderstorms brewing
Morning mist rising off of Little Hosmer Pond
Dirt road cruising in the Northeast Kingdom
Rolling with Caitlin along Willoughby Lake
Heading out for an OD run with Eben

Family picture on the summit of Mt. Mansfield after the Race to the Top of Vermont.  This 4.3 mile race climbs up the toll road on Mansfield and has turned into an annual summertime sufferfest for me  This year Linden and Elsa finished their vacation travels with the race, Dad hiked up to cheer, and I was psyched with running a fast time up the mountain. 
Pat is psyched to ride!
Mountain biking with my new Santa Cruz
We built lots of fun new singletrack at Craftsbury this summer that I recommend everyone check out!  Here I am riding with Sheldon and Ollie on "Woodward's Wheelie."  
Cooling off in the river after hard rollerski intervals.