March 25, 2012

OPA Finals

For our last week in Europe, we headed to Toblach, Italy for OPA Cup finals. I have always loved racing in Italy. There is great food, big mountains, good weather, and its much cheaper than the rest of Western Europe. Toblach was no exception. We stayed in a nice hotel right across from the stadium up high in a valley with beautiful mountains and it was about 60 degrees and sunny everyday. We also had a bunch more people join us from the World Cup which was great!

The finals consisted of a 3 day mini tour, which means that we had 3 races in 3 days and an overall winner was declared by combining our times for all three days. Day 1 was a prologue, which is a short (2.5k) individual start race just to sort things out and kick off the tour. I did not have a great day. It was icy out and all my injuries were acting up. Prologues are a tricky race to pace so I still have work to do there. Day 2 was a 5k individual start classic race, one of my favorites. I had a much better day, but I felt I was on the brink of having a great day and didn't quite make it there. Racing is Europe is much tighter so every second you give up out there equates to places. It is imperative to race very aggressively and make up time in every place you can think of. This is something I am still working to improve in my own racing. Day 3 was a pursuit start 10k skate. Pursuit start means that you start based on our time back in the previous 2 races so the person that crosses the line first if the overall tour winner. It generally makes for an exciting race. I had an OK race for myself. It is always humbling to spend some time racing in Europe and it also helps to identify your weaknesses and strengths so I feel that I am head back to the U.S. with a serious to-do list for summer training.  However, my teammate Holly Brooks was able to take the overall tour win which is a first for the U.S.!!!!!!!
We checked out a castle in Bled, Slovenia on the way to Italy. Bled is a beautiful area
Inside the chapel in the castle

Pietro Piller Cottrer and his fan club

APU ladies enjoying the sunshine

Watching the boys

APU Girls Team Photo, what babes

Some skate racing

Toblach has a pretty serious stadium and the race trail actually goes up and over this building!

The whole APU OPA team

Skiing in the Pursuit start race 
Enjoying Italy!
We spent the last night in Munich and I had a late afternoon flight so I took the opportunity to check out the city for the morning. 

Thanks to Holly and Lauren for all the photos! Next stop, Craftsbury, VT for the last 5 races of the year!

March 11, 2012

Rogla, Slovenia

This was my first time to Slovenia so I was pretty excited to see what its all about. Rogla is basically a giant resort on top of a mountain so I'm not sure I got the full Slovenian experience, but we were able to get into a city so I did see some of the country. Slovenia is definitely the border of Western and Eastern Europe. The scenery is much like that of Western Europe, lots of skier, pretty big mountains, old castles and the like, but the food is not anywhere near that of Western Europe. They eat lots of potatoes, meat with lots of gravy and fried everything here and it is much more affordable then most of Western Europe, much more like Eastern Europe.

We stayed up on top the mountain which was great because we got to ski right out our door and didn't have to drive up the windy road to get up here, but it definitely limit our options on things to do when we weren't skiing.

As for racing, I had a total mixed bag of a weekend. This weekend we started racing OPA cup races which are a continental cup, or the step below the World Cup, series for Central/Western Europe. With a dozen or so countries present, these races are much more competitive than the continental cup races available in the U.S., hence the reason for going on this trip.  Saturday was a 5k skate race, something I was looking forward to because sometimes its nice to just do 5k and push yourself really hard the whole way. Unfortunately, I never found myself able to push very hard. My legs were not having much of it. This had me ending the day in 18th, not at all what I was hoping for. Feeling really frustrated with my racing lately, I wasn't sure how to react or what to do to turn this trend around. I tried my best to just write it off and really not think about my racing. I made a plan for how to make this weekend's classic experience better than last weekend and just hoped for the best. I'm not sure what I did better, but Sundays race was much better for me. It was a 15k Classic mass start race, one of my favorites. I unfortunately didn't have the best start and with a little slower skis than the rest of the field I was unable to ever even see the lead pack, let alone ski in it, but I just focused on what I could do and kept pushing on behind the pack picking off all the people that got spit out of the pack and by the time I had finished, I had worked my way up to 5th! I was looking for top 10s in these races so I was very pleased with 5th.

The main building of the Rogla resort, as you can see there is not much snow left here.....By the end of the boys race today, there were many grass patches on the inside of all the corners. 

Hitting up the Alpine Coaster

Checking out the courses and testing skis with my teammates

One afternoon we headed into Celje, the 3rd biggest city in Slovenia that our cab driver also informed us is the most boring city in Slovenia. We met some real characters over the course of the afternoon. 

We headed up to a castle that was built in the late 1200s/early 1300s 
Some parts have been largely renovated and there are still many functions that occur up here in the summer. 

Boys enjoying the sunshine

View down to the city

The watch tower

My teammate Lauren has a nice camera and is a good photographer, so you can thank her for all the pictures. They ALL came from her!

Celje, Slovenia

APU Team photo, Alaska is quite exciting to people here. I was asked twice what language we speak there and what currency we use.

Aren't we just the cutest

The old city

Walking along the river

We don't have many coaches or service techs here and the girls always race first so I have no pictures of the actual races........

The other thing I have been loving about being in Europe is Eurosport, greatest TV station ever. So my days here consisted of some training in the morning followed by watching all my friends race around the world in various races. This week happened to be Championship week as well. So, I watch World Championships for Biathlon (former Dartmouth teammate was 5th), the Cross Country World Cup (roommate and friend Sadie scored her first point of the season! and Kikkan won the Sprint Overall Title!!!!), Nordic Combined World Cup (U.S. won), Alpine World Cups (Lindsay Vonn and Ted Ligety won), NCAA Championships (Dartmouth nordic just killed it, bringing me terrible nostalgia), and Junior National Championships. Its great to know that so many people, that are my friends and teammates are doing well and the U.S. in general is really stepped up its game in the skiing world. I am so thrilled to know all these people and I hope that I too can work my way up there.

Tomorrow we head to Toblach, Italy and our team size doubles so it should be some really competitive tough races. I have always loved racing in Italy so I hope this is no different!

'til next time

March 8, 2012


Sunny, mountainous, warm, and expensive are the best adjectives for my week in Switzerland.  After a, thankfully, uneventful trip over the pond we headed to the Gstaad valley. One of the most famous valleys in Europe for alpine skiing, you can only imagine the beautiful steep mountains and quaint intricate Swiss villas that surrounded us. Having traveled over here a few times for races, I was not taken by surprise by much, but it is still different enough that it takes many trips and many races to become to the point of being unfazed by anything that may occur during travel, training, and racing.

The Gstaad Valley
Sunset in the Valley
Our Hotel
Day 1 of racing brought a 10k skate at noon in 60F degree sunshine, making for a bit of a slog fest. Feeling pretty confident with the small field, I went for it, only to realize just how much the heat and slush takes out of you at about 7k. Not my best race. Day 2 was something of a race of fears for me. We raced at 9:30 in the morning so rather than slush, we were dealing with solid ice, klister, and double tracks around the whole course. This meant high speeds, no second guessing, no speed checks, and fairly bad consequences for falling, none of which is my speciality. It as also a mass start race so there were about 30 other girls to deal with. In the past, I have only raced in Europe for big international competitions, which means they give you instructions in English. This however, was a Swiss cup, meaning everyone but me and my teammates spoke German. So as I'm shuffling my feet back and forth waiting to hear instructions, the gun goes off...whoops, not a great start. Next, I realized that I had less than ideal skis. I thought I could work around this so I kept pushing on, managing to stay on my feet and not loose too much time on the downhills. Starting around the 2nd lap, I had managed to wear all the wax off my bottom of my skis making striding rather difficult. The other funny thing about racing in Europe is that, despite being fully of really good skiers, they are incredibly relaxed about the actual race. So our course featured about 10 road crossings that were not exactly fully covered with snow. Coming down a fast hill, I flew across one of the roads, hitting a clump of mud, missing the tracks on the other side and falling hard on my side, leaving me upset and discouraged. So once again, not my best race. I finished 4th both days, making it a good effort, but not what I was looking for. Fortunately, we came to these races to work the jitters out and get some practice in so hopefully I managed that.

Enjoying the good skiing

A cheap skiers lunch

We got some sausage for entering the races!

Taking a break 

I love the mountains and sunshine!

Hans Rudolph our charismatic host

Who loved us girls, you'd think we were in Italy

The ritzy village of Gstaad


A very agricultural valley, the Gstaad valley has lots of cow bells

Now off to Slovenia!