Written by Kat Howe (nordic coach)

This morning we woke up to gusting wind, heavy cloud cover, chilly temperatures, and light rain in Mals, thus forcing us two abandon our plan to ski on the Stelvio Glacier. During breakfast we watched the webcams that are in the parking area and near the lifts, reassuring ourselves that we’d made the right choice. The parking lot, which sits at the top of a very narrow and steep road, was snow covered. The webcam closer to the ski trails showed nothing….literally just clouds and snow. White.

Our new plan for the day started with a jog and strength in the Sport Oberschule weight room followed by study hall time after lunch. Our afternoon workout was a distance classic ski up the Martell Valley, east of Mals.

The strength workout wasn’t too visually exciting so I’m not going to post photos of that (the internet isn’t great for loading photos) but our afternoon workout was great so here are a few highlight shots (yes, I got the good camera out this afternoon…it stopped raining).

The Martell Valley is known for it’s produce, specifically strawberries. The scenery is a gorgeous mix of alpine agricultural land and mountains mixed in with neat buildings along the roadsides.

Emily smiling toward the end of the ski. The whole road is uphill so the crew was pretty tuckered when we finished at the Martell biathlon and rollerski facility.

An early view from one of the first big hills. That building in the background is a castle ruin that overlooks the entrance to the Martell Valley. Unlike the Stelvio pass, the Martell Valley is closed and can only be exited on foot via hiking trails once you reach the top.

TK leading Tanner into one of the switchback turns early in the ski.

Grace, all smiles (as always) as she stops by the van to add a layer. The mountains surrounding the higher part of the valley were all snow-topped and the temperature dropped pretty quickly once the sun ducked behind the peaks.

Matt leading Rena and Olivia through a gradual stretch toward the end of our ski. We didn’t get to the top of the valley today because we had to get back to Mals in time for dinner (we were late!) so we left some terrain unexplored for those who haven’t been here on previous trips.

Ursula leading Emily, TK and Tanner in some synchronized skiing.

Jere and I stopped at a produce shop that sells produce from the Martell Valley and bought a big bag of apples and whole tray of strawberries. The strawberries (which make an easy snack for passing rollerskiers) aren’t as red as your typical American strawberries (think more orange than red) but taste a infinitely better. The alpine climate here allows the farmers to pick berries into fall and they are absolutely delicious.

Rena almost passed up the strawberry feed but is clearly glad she took a pit stop!

There’s nothing in this photo to give any size perspective, but this church is actually quite tiny and sits roadside with huge mountains behind it. It’s open for visitors and is surrounded by picnic tables and a spring-fed fountain. The fountains are all over the place over here, including in the square right in front of our hotel. I’ll try to post a few fountain photos in the next week.

Grace skiing through one of the two tunnels on our route. The Martell Valley walls are quite steep, making it necessary to protect the road from rock and snow slides in a few places.

Brian striding in the sun earlier in the afternoon.

The front group heading uphill early in the ski. You can see snow on the peaks in the distance!

This cute little cabin was near the Martell rollerski loop where our crew finished up today. There are lots of strawberry crops up there so this is likely some lucky farmer’s summer residence.

Tomorrow we’ll try again for a day on the Stelvio, this time with a perfect full-sun forecast. We’re planning to classic ski and have already applied a binder layer to our skis. The temps are supposed to stay cool and with the fresh snow from last night and earlier today the skiing should be amazing! After skiing we’ll get lunch at a hotel on the mountain before returning to the pass to stash our ski gear in the van. On the other side of the road from the gondola is a ridge that was heavily fortified during WWI and now has many signs explaining what transpired in the area. Our plan is to hike up with Jere and have another history lesson before driving back down to Mals for the rest of the afternoon.

Stay tuned for more photos and keep your fingers crossed that the internet is strong tomorrow so I can share a bunch of them!

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