Pridy and Blog II – Episode 2
Here we are, regaining some semblance of sanity in Finkenberg after escaping the time warp of indoor training. I’m writing you from venue number two of our trip, Hintertux glacier in Austria, but before we talk about here, let’s do as we should and start from the start.
BC Ski Team’s 2018 Europe prep camp is underway. To save on the monotonous details of our travel I’ll keep it short form. Home -> YVR -> MUC -> Van (vehicle) -> Autobahn -> terrible roadside dinner -> Van again -> Autobahn once more -> Wittenberg! Now that that’s covered, we have arrived at our home for the next several days. The Wittenberg Alpine Center, a massive domed structured anchored into the flat lands of Northern Germany. For miles in any direction there is…nothing. Nothing suits everyone just fine though, because we are here to ski, and after Chile up-and-called-it-quits on us early, there is some unfinished business to be dealt with.
Morning of day one arrives and the crew is up before the sun. I’d like to think it’s due to sheer excitement for our first on snow session. In reality it’s the potentially week (okay, school week)-long battle with jet lag. Our first block is approaching and here is how it works. The hotel is physically attached to the ski hill, with the restaurant looking out at the slope. Our team gets two two-hour blocks per day, which amounts to plenty of time with the extremely fast turn around. These sessions vary throughout the day, could be we ski 8-10 and 2-4 or maybe a 12-2 and a 4-6pm. The time between, as the guys soon found out, is essential because you run through edges like crazy and everything needs to be tuned twice a day.
Stepping across the threshold and into the fridge is always an interesting experience. You go from mid summer to minus five and humid in an instant. The mountain scenery attached to the walls and the fake little trees don’t do much to mask the fact that you’re in a giant hockey rink, smell and all. Also similar to a hockey rink is the surface. Watered down or injected, with the only snow that actually resembles snow slipped to the side.
The ascent to the peak is a four-minute journey via what we will call a mid-speed quad. The view isn’t all that bad though, far left the French World Cup team is making it look easy, and directly below is a team of who-knows-who from wherever. They are making it look like something else entirely! Either way, lets plug one in and see where we stack up. The great province of BC isn’t known for its icy conditions, so the crew must have learned how to ski it somewhere else. Minus a few hiccups they perform admirably and get into the rhythm by the end of the session. Now that any doubts and jitters have been vacated it’s time to hit the process hard and make hay in the great indoors.
Time here blends together, minutes become seconds and hours often last longer than they have any business doing. A slow decent into googly eyed disorientation is certain. It’s undeniably great training, so much so that we added on an extra day. A decision based on the completely legit principal that if things are good you get all the good you can get when you can get it. Unreal training or not, this does very little to combat the Groundhog Day twilight zone love child that the Germans have created here.
You may be thinking “hell, I’m inside right now, what’s the big deal?”. I’ll tell you exactly what the big deal is; No windows, no need to step foot outside, jet lag in full effect, lunch and dinner identical buffets, terribly consistent weather in the dome, constantly varying session times allowing for weird hours and unconventional nap times. Then the topper, a thing I think they do on purpose. They play the same fifteen songs on repeat the whole damn time. Day one you are humming along to Forever Young and you can bet you’ll still be humming along to the same song two days later not knowing if any time has gone by at all. Before you know it you’ve gone full Bill Murray.
Let’s cast off and set sail before the alpine center becomes our very own Hotel California. Travel commences, Wittenberg alpine center -> Van (vehicle) -> Autobahn -> better roadside grill -> Van -> a whole lot more Autobahn -> Hintertux.
Horror stories have been coming out of the "Tux" all fall. The photos of blue and black ice have been well documented and distributed over social media. From the outside looking in it seems like a good place to break your slalom gates and probably also break down and cry. Our crew, minus Marcus, has all made the trip here before though, and as far as tough goes they know it isn’t even a Swiss ten. The coaching staff thinks the same thing…rumors build and build until we all know a guy who’s caught a whale and sent a quadruple on his dirt bike.
It’s been a long travel day prior, so we opt for a low stress first morning, taking a later session. Three gondolas and 5700 meters of vertical later we arrive on the peak, and the view looks… well it looks awfully shiny. Our first contact is with a fellow coach, a hard little eastern European man we know. “Welcome to hell”, he says.
Yeah, no. Nothing about this year’s conditions had been exaggerated. Glacier ice compressed by it’s own weight for the past millennia now lays bare on every training piste in sight, slippery, unrelenting, edge-eating ice.
Click in, buckle the boots, take a breath and let’s do this thing. One by one the team takes their first crack at it. Knowing what they expect themselves to do, but not knowing what to expect when it comes to the doing of it. Even parts technique and commitment are needed. Not enough of either and the most you can hope for is a wave from your coaches as you slide by. Perfect conditions to hammer home basics, with immediate gate-to-gate feedback provided by the surface. Each of the last days has seen the skiing improve for all involved. Small victories here are coming more and more from the crew, and with that comes the opportunity to finish the camp on a strong note.
Next stop for the BCST is home, well-deserved rest and then Sun Peaks.
– don’t break the universal rule of 4 days indoors;
– push scooters are fun, but having someone push you on a scooter is even better;
– hand vs. gate base…gate base remains undefeated;
– half the team are going as eggplants for Halloween (OUCH)!
~ Brilliantly crafted and submitted by Morgan Pridy