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A Look Back in Time – Ten Year Reunion on the Stelvio

Reunion of sorts – Coach Beckwith (WJC ’99) meeting Peter Schlickenrieder (WJC ’89) – Moving Planet Day 2011

The past few mornings I have been waking up early enough that I might be rivaling past Middlebury College Coach, Terry Aldrich in his zeal for the dawn.  This pattern lends to a feeling of courting a day — certainly being ready for it — and being unmistakably ahead of your colleagues (or in my case, athletes) in exuberance by the time they wake up.  Bottom line — as the GMVS XC Ski Team is nearing the end of our first altitude camp of the 2011-12 — the Head Coach is fired up!

Today was a special day, not only because the kids got an excellent day of training on snow along side the Italian National Team, but because they got to link their passion to a bigger issue.  Today is a worldwide day of unity and awareness, drawn together under the name, Moving Planet — with the goal or reducing dependence on fossil fuels, looking to alternative energy sources and promoting a movement towards a world with 350 part per million of CO2.  We had a day we will never forget — one with snow, contemplation of our place in the world, and physical experiences (read, play) that link us to the planet in a respectful way.


Speaking of days I will never forget, on the eve of competing in World Junior Champs in 1999, in Saafelden, Austria — I witnessed the then fastest man alive, Peter Schlickenrieder duel with the fastest Austrian sprinter in a night sprint.  The town had shut a street and lined it with snow — for a single ski race that lasted no more than a few minutes.  Sprinting as an event did not really exist yet, this was an exhibition to help launch the Junior World Champs, and I was blown away by this man V1’ing in a yellow suit at what-seemed-to-be the speed of light.

Coach on an off day in Innsbruck.

Return to courting the day … here I am with the kids, watching them ski along side Olympic Champions, Spanish, French, and Swiss Junior National Teams and the Sud Tirol Coach points to a man who looks to be dodging his forties rather well, “this one is Schlickenrieder…” I am enthused explain in my broken Deutsche-English, my memory of this phenom of a sprinter.  “He has made silver in Salt Lake in the Sprint.”  I watch him pass and dream a bit.

Near the end of the workout I spy Peter propping his skis against the Stelvio sign and snapping a picture for his sponsor, Salomon.  I offer to help this idol of mine from years past — “Would you like me to take a picture with you in it.”  Boom — I’ve broken the ice and am now talking to an Olympic Medalist!  It takes me a minute to convey my story, but yes he remembers the sprint, and is flattered I have made the connection.

Inspiring views surround the valleys of the Sud Tirol.

We not only talk of ski racing, but also of the significance of the day and how Nordic Skiers are spokesmen for the environment.  He shares that he believes his homeland, Germany, is a world-leader in photovoltaics.  Most days he says he doesn’t have time for photos and chat, but he is very affable — offering that he is making a “revival” nearly ten years after taking the Silver Medal in the Sprint at the Salt Lake Olympics.  I am stoked and feel a real connection to this man who only existed before in my mind.

It all starts with play — and a desire to try really hard at something.

The view from our hotel — past castle ruins and into the Ortles Range.

Looking out the Martell Valley after our roller ski the other day.  20 kilometers and some 4000 feet of climb.

Shortly after this meeting I gather our team with the Sud Tirol Regional Langlauf team for a photo that makes me proud.  I explain the cause of Moving Planet and have a Swiss skier explain to the German-speaking-Italians what the significance of the day is and what we are supporting with our photo.  We are bringing together two continents and five countries under one cause and linked by the sport of cross-country skiing.  Pretty inspired indeed.

Kinda makes you want to smile!

Two hours on snow makes this one smile.

This guy too — first day on snow for 2011-12 ski season.

The view down into Switzerland.

 And for my play … well there is nothing I like better than going downhill on skinny skis — it sort of crosses the barriers of two worlds for me — and take me back to the beginnings of skiing for me and the sport itself.  Because of the recent snow — there are snowfields and bands of drifts that make a decent of several thousand feet possible.  I packed the kids in the van with Evan and pointed to a far switchback — “meet me down there.”  The ski was as adventurous as I had hoped, complete with crust, corn, rocks, grass, and some striding through a knee deep lake.  This is it!



Italian Dream – GMVSxc

 It’s hard to believe we have only been here for seven days — there will be a lag on our pictures — as we process the truly remarkable experiences we are having on this year’s trip to Italy.  Our hosts have been so gracious (maple syrup is always a good thing to travel with:) and the mountains of the Sud Tirol are more accessible than ever with good weather and our increased knowledge of the area.  Each day seems to have it’s own magic and we are making some incredible training.
 Our first trip to the Stelvio Glacier was nothing short of awesome!  We chose to drive up through Switzerland, through the hometown of Dario Cologna, which affords a slightly less windy drive and as our Swiss Alum, Elena Luethi, always told me, unsurpassed beauty.  We saw one car on the drive up the pass and had a spectacular moon hovering over the valley as we ascended.  To get to the ski tracks you take two trams and a combination of Poma lifts that are fun in their own right.  There is slightly less snow than last year, but the track was groomed with better lines, climbing 120 feet over about two miles per loop.  The snow was very fast and easy to ski on, which is nice at 10,000 feet.
 Of course we cannot train much up that high, so our training is complimented by work down in the Valleys too.  Here Kaitlin is working on some classic technique at the Schlinig Roller Ski Track — the same trails used for World Junior Champs a few years ago.
 Antoine has been training with the Biathlon program here several times during the week — making good shooting and some combos.  Coach Andy is a favorite and has name Antoine — Tony.
 For a recovery session we took to the lakes by Langtaufers to give the legs a rest and get the core and lat muscles a little work.  The lake was formed when they flooded the Valley for hydro electric.  The old town was submerged and there is a beautiful clock tower that peaks out of the water a few miles north of where we began our paddle.
 Dev striking a classic “old school” paddling pose.
 Look at the form these nordic skiers have in the kayak! Must be a good teacher out there somewhere 🙂  Heidi, Dev, and Ryley getting some good upper body rotation.
 One of those special moments: when we came to the clock tower there was a faux building attached with a tile roof and Red Bull plastered to the side.  There was a cable stretched from one side of the bay to the other — “Something is going on here!” — so we sat and watched.  Here comes the surprise, a wakeboarder being dragged by a winch starts out of the water and heads straight for us!  No time to react and somehow Evan holds his camera steady as the Red Bull athlete takes full speed and carves a turn directly in front of us — soaking the entire lot with a heavy spray of glacial water — more refreshing than Double Mint Gum let me tell you!

 A moose? Victory stance? Who cares — we’re skiing in September!

 Tony learning the ropes of the kayak or “kanu” as it is called here.
 This is certainly a “rock on” moment.
 Arriving at the Stelvio.
 Getting instructions and gearing up for the first ski of the 2011-12 ski season.  We monitored heart rates and lactate and compared these with levels from below in the valley the day before.  The order of the day was to make consistent skiing with heartrates not exceeding Levels 1-2.  The kids did a great job with this and seemed to be better prepared for the altitude than last year.  The gradual track helped too.
 Evan has been taking some amazing photographs — this one really puts the experience and the setting in perspective.  Ryley near the top of the loop working on knee flexion and a serious tan!
 Looking down towards Switzerland and the mountains of the Sud Tirol.  Tony climbing.
 Kaitlin showing nice V1 form.
 Devlin ripping the fast corner near the top of the track.
 What goes down must go back up!
 Tony and the glaciers.
 Smiles for miles.
 Heidi following Fiona, a member of the British National Team.
 And I’m done.
 Perhaps some of you recognized our company on the top photo of the blog — British Superstar Andrew Musgrave was very friendly and let the kids tag along for a bit — he too was very cautious of his pacing and it was nice to speak with a English tongue after a week in Italian and German!
 Just for a bit Heidi!!!

 A little downhill training is a good way to capitalize on snow time and enjoy some gravity.  Taking the upper Poma.
 Taking in the “gobstopper” of a view.  Looking toward Bormio and some impressive glaciers, river valleys, and rugged country.
 Evan is a rock man — geology and music — is this heaven?

 Our new assistant coach has been
been taking some amazing photographs.  Evan Dethier soaking in the
Italian sun and getting in a little coaching workout.
Lots more to come — it doesn’t seem there is enough time in the days over here.  It snowed down to a 1500 meters last night, perhaps up to a meter on the Stelvio.  Tomorrow promises to be an epic day and we hope to ski on hardwax.  The Italian National Team is here for camp.  I have to run to dinner.  Our internet problem seems to have resolved itself — stay tuned to the blog and enjoy the ride.