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Back in the Mad River Valley

We’re in our third week back in the Mad River Valley since our last blog post from Italy. Days at GMVS are incredibly busy but that means the time flies by as we count down toward winter. In just four weeks we’ll be packing our bags to hit the road again, this time heading west to Sun Valley, ID and West Yellowstone, MT for our early-snow camp that includes our first races of the 2017-18 racing season.

Here are few photos in summary of the last three weeks on campus:

We’ve gotten in a lot of roller skiing, cruising scenic roads that are both paved and not. Here’s part of the team classic skiing on dirt toward the end of a point-to-point distance ski.

Nick leading the team during a uphill skate ski that wound through the Mad River Valley, hitting the bigger climbs one after the next.

We’ve been getting into the gym for two strength workouts a week but also targeting ski muscles through specific strength w0rkouts on rollerskis. Here’s Emily pushing through a double-pole speed while Greg says hi on his way back down the hill.

Most of the team got to jump into a classic rollerski race on the loop in Jericho, competing against skiers from other clubs and several college programs. Here’s Matt climbing one of the bigger hills on the 10k course.

Rena, Grace, Emily, and Matt are running xc this fall and have done two races since we returned from Italy. Here’s Rena widening her lead on the flat course at People’s Academy. All four of our Gumbies finished in the top ten at People’s. They also ran a larger race hosted by Montpelier and will run there again later this month.

As we get closer to snow flying we start in to increase the speed and intensity work. This month we’ve done intervals and speeds both on foot and on rollerskis. Here’s part of the team doing some L3 running intervals around a snowmaking pond in Warren.

Aside from training our nordic athletes are all full-steam ahead in academics, but also working hard on college applications, theater rehearsals, PSAT/SAT studying/test taking, visiting college campuses, and playing soccer with the GMVS soccer teams. It’s always amazing how much we manage to fit in during a single day on campus!

Stay tuned to our Facebook (GMVS Nordic Ski Team) and Instagram (GMVSxc) posts for daily (or almost daily) updates and photos. There’s a lot more excitement still to come before we head west for our first snow camp!

Thanks for reading!

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Italy: An overnight adventure

Hello GMVSxc families and friends,

This blog entry will cover two days as we were away from internet last night….read on to find out why!

Yesterday (Tuesday) morning we had an easy morning off from training and took a tour of a WWII bunker with two local tour guides.

One of our guides laying out some background history that helped us understand why the bunkers were built but also the impact that both WWI and WWII had on this area.

Looking down on Mals (in the foreground) from atop the bunker.

Our guide pointing out some other defensive structures that still exist in and across the valley from Mals.

The side of the bunker where the entrance/exit is.

Heading inside!

Just inside the entrance. Here our guide is explaining (through Jere’s translations) some details before we head further town the tunnel.

Down on the bottom floor of the bunker. The photos on the wall show how it would have been set up during WWII.

Emily and Ursula sitting in a storage space in the bottom floor. Without headlamps, phones and camera flashes it’s completely dark in the interior parts of the bunker.

In the afternoon we drove up to the Reschen See where Colin and the athletes put on rollerski gear to ski up the Langtaufers Valley. It didn’t take much elevation gain before the low clouds started to drop snow on our skiers.

Olivia smiling despite the chilly precipitation.

Emily striding toward the finish point.

Matt looking relaxed while climbing.

Nick leads Greg, Tanner and Colin early in the ski.

The crew skied to the top of the valley where the road ends before retreating down to the parking lot of the Maseben Hütte. From there we stashed the rollerski gear in the vans and picked up packs with dry clothes and supplies for an overnight at the hut and began to hike. The walk up followed a forest road and took about 45 minutes. The hut sits just above tree line and is beautiful inside.

The Maseben Hütte

We had a bit of free time to relax by the wood stove in the dining room before dinner….

Card games

Board games

Dinner was an amazing ordeal from start to finish. This dish (above) is actually dessert: a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a berry sauce. It was delicious.

The main course: ribs and potato wedges.

The vegetarian option: cooked vegetables topped with gourmet cheese and made to look like a complete work of art! Emily said it was delicious! Our hosts did a great job catering to the various dietary needs of our athletes and everyone went to bed with a full stomach.

The first dish: a pasta dish served right in small frying pans.

Tanner and Brian trying to stretch out their stomachs before dessert!

After dinner the crew went back to playing games. It was great to see them interacting without the use of devices for such a long period of time!

This morning we had breakfast at Maseben before gearing up for a hike further into the mountains behind the hut. The ground was snow covered with temperatures below freezing so everyone had extra layers, hats and gloves along. We headed for a Planoil Scharte Pass, which was just under 3000m. Nine of our crew made it to the pass while the rest of us turned around a bit earlier due to cold toes.

Leaving the hut this morning.

Heading north before we turned uphill.

The trails are marked with red and white paint that looks like an Austrian flag. Some of the markings were easy to spot, especially early in the hike when there wasn’t much snow. When we started to gain elevation and the snow got deeper it got more difficult to follow the trail in places.

Our line of hikers.

Emily and Kat happy to be heading down.

Grace taking a break to get her feet out of the snow.

Jere on the descent.

We made it back to the hut to gather overnight items we’d left behind and have some food before heading back to the vans at the valley floor. This afternoon, after a short rest back in Mals we went out for an easy classic rollerski on the bike paths. Most of the team skied for about an hour before getting cleaned up for dinner.

Tomorrow we have our last day here in Italy and will head east to the Schnalstal Glacier again, this time to classic ski. Stay tuned for a short update on that adventure before we make the trek home on Friday.

Thanks for reading,

– Kat

 

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Italy: Day 2

Written by coach Kat Howe

This morning we woke up to sunnier skies and warmer temperatures. After a coaches meeting with our hosts at the Sport Oberschule Mals we headed to Glurns to start our skate distance rollerski. The same bike path that we skied yesterday passes just outside the city walls of Glurns, so that’s where we jumped on it today. This time we headed east/down valley to start before spinning around and heading back through Glurns and right up through Mals to our hotel. Probably the two biggest highlights of our morning were the sun (it was warm enough for tank tops) and the cow herd that forced us to take a break on the side of the path as they passed through.

Emily smiling as the cow herd passes on by. Some of the cows were quite vocal about having company on the path and didn’t seem at all psyched that we were in their way!

Emily, TK and Matt skiing along the edge of a cornfield as we head back into Mals toward the end of our ski. The sun had everyone in high spirits throughout the workout!

This afternoon we ventured east to the Reschen Pass (Russian Pass) for a hike combined with a history lesson and some exploration of WWI ruins. We passed this church tower on our drive to the trailhead. It’s pretty famous and is probably the most prominent landmark in this region. The rest of the church and surrounding buildings were flooded when a dam was built to ensure water to the farmlands down valley from the Reschen See.

From the Reschen Pass we hiked up a dirt road to a high alpine meadow that was fortified by Mussolini during WWI. The meadow sits right on the Austrian-Italian border and you can also see the closest corner of Switzerland nearby. We found and explored several bunkers and a row of spikes intended to keep tanks from crossing into the Venosta Valley.

Grace looking into one of the bunkers through the gun hole.

Some of the crew walking part of a concrete wall that led from the tank spikes up to some bunkers on the hillside above.

TK striking a pose on the line of tank spikes.

Jere examining the spikes up close….these things may have been built for WWI but they’re still very strong and sharp!

Jere sharing some history of the area before we set out exploring.

There’s a lot of history in this area so it was pretty neat to sit next to such a tangible relic (that’s the first bunker we explored behind the group) and learn about what happened right in this pass and the implications of the entire war on the South Tyrol region.

 

Some of the crew inside the first bunker….this one had a campfire outside it so the inside is filled with names and dates of visitors from all over the world, our group included.

The whole gang atop the first bunker.

Tomorrow’s weather forecast looks good so we’re going to head up to the Stelvio Glacier for our first day on snow, a skate ski at 11,000 feet! The gang is all packed up and we’ll head out early in hopes of being on snow around 9:30 or 10. To get to the glacier we drive for an hour, either taking a steep ascent on the Italian side (look up ‘Stelvio Pass’ on google to see photos) or going through Switzerland for a route with fewer switchbacks. From the top of the pass we take two gondolas and then a pomalift to get to snow. The nordic trail sits between alpine runs so we have to traverse the alpine hill a bit before we start our distance ski. Most of the crew will aim for 2-2.5 hours of very easy skiing with a technique focus before we head down for lunch. In the afternoon we plan to hit up the gym for a strength workout.

Stay tuned for photos and keep your fingers crossed that we get some nice weather up there!

-Kat

 

 

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Italy 2017: Day 1

Written by Kat Howe, Nordic Coach

Today was our first full day in Italy after almost 24 full hours of traveling on Friday and Saturday. Luckily travel went smoothly this time from start to finish and we arrived in Mals with time to unpack before stretching our legs with an afternoon run/hike. Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been nice yet so we haven’t gotten any amazing photos to share but I have a few to wet your appetite.

Yesterday we went partway up the mountain that’s just north of Mals, climbing both on trails and bushwhacking through cow pastures. We found some cows and some of us were patient enough to pet them. Hiking in the mountains here is pretty magical when you’re surrounded by the sound of ringing cowbells!

Hiking up with Mals and the Venosta Valley in the background. Doesn’t take much vertical to get views around here!

Matt making friends with the ladies at the high point of our hike. This cow was particularly docile and followed us when we started to leave!

Ursula and Rena trying to get close enough to say hi…this gal was really shy!

We spent one night in the school dormitory (Sportoberschule Mals is our host) before moving to the Gauer Bear Hotel today. We will be eating our lunches and dinners in the dining hall where residential students with the Sportoberschule eat, while breakfasts will be right downstairs in our hotel. The square right outside our hotel is absolutely picturesque, with a narrow cobblestone street and beautiful geranium window boxes on most of the buildings. We are really close to the hillside to the north, with hiking trails heading up the hill from about a block away.

Our rooms at the Grauer Bear are cozy and comfortable. We’re in a mix of double and triples, which are tighter by our American standards, but small hotel rooms are the norm in Europe.

Movies between training sessions are better viewed with friends in very close quarters…..team bonding at it’s best!

Emily, Ursula and Grace standing in the street right next to our hotel (the hotel is just to the right of Grace, out of the photo).

This morning we woke to the same rainy skies that greeted us yesterday and braved the wet weather for an uphill rollerski to the eastern end of the Reschen See (Russian Lake). The Venosta Valley has a paved bike path that runs all the way down to Bolzano and doubles as a fantastic rollerski track. There are new obstacles that aren’t so common in the States, like cow pies, cattle grates, cobblestones, and drainage tubes. Luckily the weather didn’t get worse during our ski, however we did find stronger winds toward the end of our ski that had several of us quite happy to have brought wind breakers or raincoats.

This afternoon we drove just northwest of Mals to Planai, where we hopped onto forest roads for a run back to our hotel. The route started out mostly downhill but when we turned east it headed up significantly. We took a logging road that petered out completely and became more goat path than trail and had us scrambling through scrub brush for a bit. After finding some stinging nettles and bushwhacking we found a really nice trail that was built on an old irrigation canal that dates back to the 1300s, and took us almost all the way back to Mals. It was a mix of very manicured dirt surface and elevated wooden foot bridges. Very cool! We finished out the afternoon with some group stretching before getting cleaned up for dinner.

Heading up through the narrow streets of Planai to find our road back to Mals.

Heading down the road as we started back toward Mals. Planai is the little cluster of buildings that you can see in this photo. The town is perched on the hillside and only has one (very curvy and narrow) road that goes to it.

Heading down the irrigation channel trail….sorry the photo is blurry. It was taken while I was running!

Following TK down the walkways…unfortunately some of us found out the hard way that these boards are quite slippery when wet. There were a couple of unexpected spills before we got through the whole trail.

Tomorrow’s plan is to rollerski in the morning, this time starting further east and finishing at our hotel. In the afternoon we’re going to take advantage of the sunny weather that’s forecasted and go hiking!

Met this guy walking to breakfast this morning. Italian slugs are the real deal!

Stay tuned for more photos, both here and on our Instagram and Facebook feeds! The internet in our hotel isn’t awesome so I can’t promise that blog posts will be daily, but I will be sure to get some photos on FB and insta every day, maybe more than once a day, because that seems to load a lot faster!

 

 

 

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Italy: Day 5, 6 and 7

After several days on the road during prime photo-uploading hours, here is a three day update!

Thursday (Day 5): With some cloudier weather settling into the valley we decided to stay closer to home, doing a morning track workout with the local cross country skiers followed by an afternoon strength workout in the gym. It was nice to have a bit more down time between workouts, as we didn’t have to drive to or from our training venues. The track, which circles the local soccer field, is right across the street from our dorm. The gym is part of the Sport Oberschule and is a short 10 minute walk up the hill.

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The boys doing a little jogging with a couple of our Italian friends.

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Carl and TK pushing through some 200m intervals.

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Greg and Elliot working together.

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Nick taking on the local contingent.

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Alex running with some Italian ladies.

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Warmup technique and activation exercises led by one of the Italian coaches. That’s a BIG group of skiers!

Friday (Day 6): Today we ventured over (and under) the mountains to Livigno for some rest day exploration. To get there you drive into Switzerland via Val Müstair and take a tunnel under a mountain. To encourage visitors to make the drive up to the remote valley Livigno don’t charge taxes so the shopping is all duty free. The tiny town, surrounded by alpine ski slopes and also home to fantastic nordic skiing, is full of shops and restaurants and was nice to wander around. I don’t have many pictures as it was another dreary day.

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An entire wall of cuckoo clocks in a shop definitely geared toward tourists.

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Carl found enough Nutella for the whole team for the rest of the trip. No, he didn’t buy it.

On our way home we took a different route, climbing out of Livigno toward Bormio, where we spent another hour+ exploring narrow hillside cobblestone streets. Unfortunately much of Europe shuts down from 12:30 – 3:30 each day so many of the shops in Bormio were closed while we were there. We did find a grocery store to restock our snacking supplies and a few of the boys made a quick trip to the Ski Trab factory for t-shirts and a drink belt.

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Rena, Olivia, Lisa (our Italian exchange student from last fall) and Carl taking in a cobblestone square in Bormio.

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Rena and Carl in Bormio.

Saturday (Day 7): Today we hiked the Uinaschlucht with our Italian hosts in a group of about 30 people. Some of the local coaches were kind enough to shuttle all of the vans so we all (coaches included) got to complete the point to point hike. Unfortunately we had cloudy/dark weather again so views were very limited through our hike, resulting in few photos taken. Here’s the link to last year’s bike/hike for a better idea of where we went.

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Olivia taking in the foggy view from the most extraordinary part of the trail.

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A hut on the way off the mountain heading toward Schlenig.

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Sam heading through the last meadows before finishing up the hike.

After hiking much of the group made a quick turnaround and headed back out with the Italians for some mini golf down valley. Elliot is apparently the best mini golfer in the whole group, finishing with the highest score overall. Tanner and TK hung closer to home with Kat and Sam, watching part of a local soccer match, getting gelato, and a quick run to the grocery store to stock up on chocolate. We closed out the day with a great pasta dinner followed by study hall.

Tomorrow we are participating in a testing event with the local ski program at the track and soccer field complex that includes some strength testing, several running tests and a rollerski agility test on matched skate rollerskis without poles. It will be interesting to see where we stack up!

Good night from Italy!

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Italy 2016: Travel and Day 1

Gruße aus Italy! (Greetings!)

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After a long travel day we’re finally in Italy and had a great first day exploring. We flew from Montreal, connecting in Nice, France, before landing in Zurich, Switzerland, where our hosts picked us up. Nice looks amazing and I think a few of us wouldn’t have minded a long enough layover to leave the airport and explore the shores of the Mediterranean for a few hours.

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Flying over the Mediterranean coast on our way into Nice.

When we arrived in Zurich we discovered pretty quickly that there was a miscommunication during some point in trip planning, as our hosts weren’t there to pick us up! For some reason they thought we were arriving at midnight, not noon. That left us with a few hours to burn exploring the airport which, lucky for us, has a shopping mall in it!

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The ladies found traditional Süd Tyrolean attire in the mall!

When the vans from Mals arrived we piled in and began the trek toward Italy. The weather was gorgeous when we arrived but quickly deteriorated during the drive. We stopped briefly for a late dinner on the road before venturing into the mountains after dark amid thunderstorms. We finally rolled into Mals around 10pm and found our accommodations. We are staying at a dormitory near the soccer field/track and will be eating breakfasts in our building while we have a short walk up the hill for lunch and dinner each day.

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Our building has a bridge over the road to a small parking lot where the vans we’re using  are kept. This is a morning view from the bridge. Not too shabby!

Today we woke up early for a 7:30 breakfast before driving up the Martell Valley to watch Lisa, a local Italian athlete who stayed with us for a month last fall, compete in the Italian Biathlon Rollerski Championships. It was fun to see her in action and exciting to also watch some of the Italian National Team members race around.

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Walker brought Lisa some Vermont Maple Syrup….she was pretty psyched about it!

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A view from the biathlon race course. There aren’t too many places around here where you can’t see big mountains in at least one direction!

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The crew on the spectator bridge cheering for Lisa.

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Dorothea Weirer, the top female biathlete from Italy. She’s consistently one of the top finishers on the World Cup so she gave us a solid demonstration of strong skiing and incredibly fast and accurate shooting.

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Weinerschnitzel for lunch!

After lunch back in Mals we made a quick turnaround and went for a hike just above town. The goal was an easy hike with poles to get our bodies moving after a long travel day. The mountainsides are steep here so we got some pretty amazing views throughout. There was some bushwhacking both on the way up and down, and a few of us got quite wet when a rainstorm passed through.

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A view on our way off the mountain. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you might be able to find Walker on the nearest ridge (look for his red shirt).

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Sam, Walker and Colin on our way off the mountain with a fantastic backdrop. This was shortly before the rain!

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One of the many cows we met today. Süd Tyrolean cows have it pretty good!

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A herdsman’s cabin that we came across on our way up the mountain.

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More mountainside friends, except these two were a little more friendly (and curious) than any of the cows!

After another great meal for dinner we’ve begun the task of staying up until nine to help our bodies adjust to the time change. There will be some homework, a quick meeting on tomorrow’s plans, and then a solid night of sleeping!

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Waffles for dessert….the kitchen has yet to disappoint! 

That’s all for now folks! Tomorrow we’re going to classic rollerski up Reschen Pass on the amazing bike paths and then go for a short hike in the afternoon.

Stay tuned!

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A little taste of fall….

Tomorrow we head across the pond for two weeks in Mals, Italy but before you see some amazing photos in the coming days, here’s a snapshot of our first two weeks of school!

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We kicked the school year off hard with a testing week. The shots above and below are of the group cooling down together after the 3k running test at Harwood High School track.

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You’ll always run faster when you’re racing against someone! So psyched to see these kids pushing each other without any prompting from coaches!

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Alex, a new team member and our newest nordie (she was an alpine skier last winter) trying out classic rollerskis. The Norwegian blood in her veins has her moving in good directions already!

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Carl looking way too happy for the end of an uphill double-poling test…maybe this shot was taken during the warmup.

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Walker working hard.

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Charlie psyched to be done with his first Plunkton double-pole test ever!

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A little recovery hike in search of views…we found them!

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Another afternoon hike up Mad River….

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Happy skiers

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Group roll on a HOT afternoon

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Balance and proprioception session with the alpine ladies. This balance work turned into dance…Greg and Elliot were awesome for sticking with the ladies right through the dance-off! 
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This view…probably one of the best along any of our regular rollerski routes. Never fails to impress.

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Rena taking the W in her first xc race of the season and her first in Gumby green! Go Rena!

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Brian, also in his first race of the season and first in (slightly brighter) Gumby Green and he ALSO took the W! Congrats Brian!

Tomorrow afternoon the majority of the crew begins the trek across the pond to Italy. Stay tuned for regular posts (pending good/regular internet access) over the next two weeks as we explore the trails, paths and roads around Mals, Italy! It’s sure to be an amazing experience!