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Italy: Day 8

Today we trained right outside our door again, joining skiers from across the region in their fall fitness testing. It was very official with bibs, a start list, and numbered stations run by coaches from the Mals Sport Oberschule. After a short welcome (all in German) the morning began with a weigh-in and height measurement.

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One of the coaches from Mals welcoming the crowd and explaining how the morning would be run. Our crew did a good job following along with their respective age groups to get through all of the stations.

The first true testing station was a skate rollerski agility course, not unlike those we’ve done at home in Vermont, though slightly easier and definitely shorter, with most finish times coming in between one and two minutes. They ran the station without poles (we usually use poles) and on matched skis which were very light.

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Nick takes the clockwise hula hoop turn.

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Carl goes counter clockwise while TK heads toward the finish on the right (in the background).

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The next station was a triple jump for distance: starting feet together on the line, one jump left foot, one jump right foot, then finish with two feet together again. Athletes had two attempts at this test. Here’s Rena working for every centimeter!

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Next was a 30 meter dash complete with laser timing to measure acceleration. There were two attempts at this test as well. Here’s Olivia pushing hard off the start line!

After the 30 meter dash the next station was a chin up test. We don’t have any pictures of this one as it was inside the gym basement where the lighting was terrible. This test was different from what is typically done in the US in that we always do pull-ups (palms facing down, not up) so the muscles tested were a little different.

Next up was a core stability station where athletes were asked to do a front plank keeping proper form for up to 4 minutes. They had adjustable hurdles touching each athlete’s lower back at the start of the test and stopped the test when the athlete could no longer keep their back touching the bar. Again, not a test our Gumbies have seen before.

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Greg and Elliot (in back) take on the plank test together.

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Rena and Olivia waiting for their turn at the plank station.

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Next up was a sit-and-reach test for flexibility. Here’s TK reaching for extra centimeters!

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Also for flexibility, the next station measured shoulder range of motion. It was a dowel with measurements marked out on each side from the center. Athletes had to hold matching spots on either side in front and then move the dowel over their head to behind them and back again without unlocking their elbows. This proved surprisingly tough for many. Here’s Olivia setting the mark for our crew.

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TK gets instruction from an Italian coach on the shoulder range of motion dowel while Tanner and Carl look on.

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The last test was a 3k run (7.5 laps) on the track done in groups of twenty by age group. Here’s the start of the oldest two groups of boys (U20s and U18s).

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Nick working with a pack of Italians.

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Elliot chasing two local athletes.

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Greg pushed through most of the run alone.

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Tanner staying relaxed and exercising smart pacing.

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TK pushing through his last test of the day.

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Rena took with win in the ladies U20/U18 group!

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Olivia leading several Italians as she passed Colin at the lap/finish mark.

After the testing the crew enjoyed some pasta served outside at the track complex, time for a shower and a short rest before we made the short trip down to Glurns to take in their Pear Festival. Actual pears were few but we did find live music, lots of locals in traditional Süd Tyrollean attire and many tasty treats (baked goods, chocolate-dipped fruit kabobs, coffee and bratwurst). After enjoying some time at the festival we explored the city streets a bit.


Glurns was built about 700 years ago and still has a wall surrounding it today. The streets are all cobblestone within the wall and many of them are narrow and feature really old homes sitting side-by-side with renovated homes.

Looking toward one of the three gates for entering Glurns.


A line of buildings above one of the main streets through Glurns. You can see a tower at the far end which sits above another of the three gates.


A narrow alley that faces the inside of the wall. There is an intact walkway above the street (top of photo) where you’ll see some of our crew looking down on Tanner (bottom left).


In a few places there were grapes growing on the inside of the wall….here’s Tanner picking some. They were delicious!


Nick looking down from the walkway on the wall.

After exploring Glurns the group split in two: one van heading for an ice bath in the glacial waters that run down a river outside the Glurns city wall and the other other heading to a nearby hill to check out the valley views.

img_5859A church we found on the hill. The existing structure was built in the 11th century but the original building went up even earlier! The age of many of the buildings here is hard to fathom!


Looking down on Glurns. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see the wall quite well.


Rena, Olivia and Greg enjoying the view from a bench they found.

img_5865We shared the hill with these ladies….the cows around here in Val Venosta have it pretty good!


A bench with a view.


Walker didn’t seem too upset with his vantage point!

That’s all for now!

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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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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: Day 4 on the Stelvio Glacier

Yesterday we had a perfect day for a trip to the Stelvio Glacier. The sky was cloudless, there was absolutely no wind, and temperatures were cold enough over night to freeze the track, but warmed up enough during our ski to take away the concrete corduroy that greeted us first thing. The drive up to the Stelvio Pass takes about an hour and is nothing short of remarkable. A short way out of Val Venosta (the valley that Mals lies in) the road starts to climb quickly, heading through no less than 48 switchbacks before cresting the top.


A sunny view over the stone guardrail on the way through some switchbacks.


Looking down from the parking lot toward the final switchbacks.


From the pass it takes two gondolas and ride on a poma lift to reach the skiing.


Sun streaming down on us as we climb further still….You can see the alpine training courses to the left.


From the top of the pommel we had to ski down part of the alpine hill (which is a little sketchy when the snow is frozen solid and the grade is steep) to reach the nordic loop (the squiggly line on the distant slope).


Walker, all smiles!


Carl and Olivia (and Rena, behind Olivia), working together to keep the pace easy and make the most of the time on snow.


Greg skiing with GMVS alum Peter Kling.


Elliot and Nick taking the switchbacks on the downhill at full speed.


Rena working on some technique pointers while enjoying the freedom that only snow can offer.


Sam joined us on skis and certainly got in a great workout skiing as long as most of the kids! 


Nick and Elliot climbing through a turn.


Elliot getting tall with his V2 alternate.


Nick – Suns out, guns out, tongue out.


TK and Tanner, inseparable as always.


Alex seems to have fallen in love with skating…she was all smiles!

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Olivia was pretty excited to be on snow in September and didn’t seem too upset with our choice of venue!

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Tanner leading TK in some double poling.


And we were lucky enough to see Petter Northug again!


Peter, Nick, Elliot, and Greg spent a few switchbacks chasing Petter. 


Alex looking like a true Norwegian with her skinny skis on….

From a ridge just above the nordic loop you can see over the back of the mountain that the Stelvio Glacier sits on. After we were done skiing we had to take in the view…


And there were jumping shots!

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Even Sam felt the vibe (with some encouragement from Kat)!


Obligatory team photo, because we look so good in our matching jackets, tights and smiles! 

After our ski we ventured off the glacier (skied down the side of the alpine hill via a partially groomed ski cross trail and back down both gondolas) and headed to lunch.


This is the view of the actual pass on the road. At the peak it is lined with little roadside shops selling all manner of touristy gifts. Tanner and TK bought some slippers that I’m sure will make an appearance on campus soon. 


This is Tibet, the restaurant perched on a cliff above the pass where we had lunch. Such an amazing spot to take in nourishment after a few hours above 10,000 feet!


Even Gumby made the trip!

This morning the crew did some track intervals with the local cross country athletes followed by a strength workout in the afternoon. In preparation for a rest day trip to Livigno tomorrow we’re doing two homework sessions today.

That’s all for now!

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Italy: Day 3

Greetings from Italy, where the weather continues to be beautiful, the food has been awesome, the training has been both fun and challenging (at times) and the kids are starting to get tired!

Our third day in the South Tyrol started with a long skate rollerski up the Martell Valley. The road climbs pretty consistently as it winds upward into the mountains and away from Val Venosta (the name of the valley that Mals also lies in). There are three sections of pretty tight switchbacks, the more notable at the very top of the valley before the road turns to dirt and ends.


Part way up the valley is a rollerski track and biathlon range (where we watched Lisa on our first day here), used for training in the snowless months and host to International Biathlon Union races in winter. Everyone got to ski on the loop and came to a unanimous conclusion that it’s a really challenging course. The hills are steep and the recovery portions are short!


Elliot, Peter (GMVS alum who is helping us during the duration of our camp), Greg and Nick on the roller loop.


Rena, Olivia and Carl taking a break after the second set of switchbacks. This lake is glacier-fed and it is every bit as cold as it looks! Some of the boys went for a dip on our way home!


A tiny church that sits right next to the road….we had to stop. Olivia and Rena got some great shots of the windows and door for their photography projects as well!


This abandoned hotel sits at the very top of the valley. After the road ends and turns to dirt you can walk across a bridge and walk up to it. Rumor has it that Mussolini and Hitler met here just before the end of WWII but we haven’t been able to confirm that as of yet.

In the afternoon we ventured west up into Reschen Pass in search of more relics from WWII. We had heard and read about tank barriers up on the mountainside that can be reached on foot. With some basic instructions from one of our hosts at our dining hotel we set out. Finding the parking spot and trail head was no problem….there was a giant sign with photos of exactly what we were in search of, so we headed up the mountain.

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An hour+ later about half the group was questioning our directions and not psyched to hike further when the plan had been for a short and easy hike. The other half (Rena, Olivia, Carl, Alex, Kat and Sam) headed onward after hearing from two mountain bikers that the bunkers were ahead, but they weren’t sure how long it would take us to get there. They said up to an hour.

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It took us about 10-15 minutes to reach an open area higher up on the mountainside and find the first bunker!

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The bunker was really neat but so was the view! Happy girls!

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From the first bunker we could see more structures so we had to venture further…

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And we found the tank barrier (panzer spikes). This line went on for quite a while and was pretty impressive. The concrete that holds the spikes was poured around tree trunks. One had cracked open and you could see the tree inside it.

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The view looking west into Switzerland.

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Inside the second bunker we found. This one was larger with two gun ports for lookouts facing west/northwest, a long hallway connecting two doors and a room in the middle.

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The view looking east toward the Reschen See and Mals. There were cows just below us too!

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Our hike was a little longer than anticipated so we were a little late to dinner, but after such a great hike no one seemed to mind one bit! This last photo was taking out the van window on our way back to Mals. This tower is all that’s left of the town that was flooded when Reschen See (actually a reservoir) was created. We’re going to kayak to it on Sunday afternoon!

Stay tuned for an update tomorrow on today’s adventure: we went to the Stelvio to ski and had perfect weather and a great time!


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Italy 2016: Travel and Day 1

Gruße aus Italy! (Greetings!)


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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!


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!


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


Another afternoon hike up Mad River….


Happy skiers


Group roll on a HOT afternoon


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! 

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!