This last week, we packed up from Planica and drove to Ramsau, Austria. The beauty of living in Europe with a home base is that we can easily get to new places for camps without feeling the drag of continually being on the road. Ramsau checks all the boxes for a perfect camp. First off, it’s an easy two hours from Planica, and we can train on the K90 where we’ll compete in December for the World Cup and then drive 40 minutes to jump the large hill in Bischofshofen.
We also stopped at the Atomic factory on the way in Altenmarket, just before heading up the mountainside to Ramsau. Our whole team is on Atomic cross country skis now, so we picked up some new skis to test and discussed what we needed before the winter. It’s pretty convenient to be able to just pop in to the European headquarters like that.
In addition to jumping, one objective was to get up on the Dachstein glacier, which is open for skiing almost year-round. (This year it was closed for much of July, a trend which is likely to only be increasing). I’ve probably been to Ramsau a dozen times now, but the view of the enormous Dachstein mountain towering above town never ceases to amaze me. Surprisingly, in all my times there, I’d never been up to the glacier.
Before we got up to ski, we had three days to focus on jumping. After a session in Ramsau, we drove to Bischofshofen the next two mornings. Bisch is a special hill, probably the most unique of any jump I’ve been on. The inrun is incredibly flat and long before it eventually ends in a 5-meter-high takeoff. It was fun to get some flying time here, and helpful to jump a completely different profile hill than the ones in Planica.
Check out the sweet video that Nathaniel Mah made from our first couple days in Ramsau.
The skiing on the Dachstein is just under 9000 feet above sea level, much too high to try to get a quality, high-speed intervals session in. We endured another long rollerski in the rain for our intensity session before shifting the focus to easy distance training. It was the kind of session that we dreaded all day as the rain poured down with no sign of a break in the weather. But once we got our bodies warmed up and safely navigated a few corners on the rollerski track, it turned out to be not all that bad. Asides from some skiing between our hotel and the track, we did our best to stay off the roads, where, believe it or not, its verboten to rollerski. This rule always shocks me in such a Nordic mecca – proud home of the 1999 World Championships, annual World Cups and a ski marathon. I’ve been lucky so far, but apparently there’s one cop in town that send you walking home and even give out tickets if he’s particularly irritated. Fortunately, the rollerski track is one of the better ones around, as long as you don’t overcook any of the tight corners. (Knock on wood, I haven’t joined that club here either).
The upside of rain in town was that we were confident in snow up high. In fact, the snowline nearly reached town on Wednesday morning. The following day, when we finally stepped out of the tram at the top of the Dachstein, we met Father Winter in all his glory. It was nearly white-out conditions and so windy that I’m not sure how much snow was actually falling from the sky or just being swept around from the gusting wind. A few of us took a mistaken lap on the walking trail before finding the skiing loop. After 15 minutes of only being able to see from pole to pole, and sometimes struggling to just stay on the groomed trail, we started to wonder why no one else seemed to be out there. Then again, we couldn’t see far enough to know, so we kept on that loop before reevaluating at the start and finding the rest of the skiers.
The Dachstein is a popular training grounds for cross country skiers, biathletes and Nordic combiners from all over. Other teams included a club from Thunder Bay, Estonians, Czech biathletes, Koreans, a Japanese para-athlete, and of course Austrians and ski technicians. We chatted with the Canadians, who were starting a three-week training camp up there, but otherwise most people tend to stick to themselves and their training priorities. After 2 or 3 hours of skiing, we load back into a tram, mixing skiers with the German-speaking tourists who came for the views and apfelstrudel at the tram station restaurant.
The weather and skiing improved each day on the Dachstein. On Friday, it’s not quite sunny, but we’re able to take in the phenomenal views and get a much better idea of our surroundings. On Saturday, we’re back to jumping in Ramsau on a beautiful shorts-and-t-shirt kind of day. By Sunday, for our third and final ski on the glacier, there’s enough skiing groomed that I barely repeat loops for a two-hour ski.
More images from the Dachstein in the slideshow below.
To end the camp, the Fichtenheim cooks treat us with Kaiserschmarrn – fluffy, eggy pancakes, shredded and served with powdered sugar and apple sauce (literally Emperor’s mess). We ate well and trained hard all week, so I don’t feel too guilty as I finish off my plate and serve up seconds. The Austrians certainly know that there’s no better way to make a guest want to come back again than serving this up as their last meal.
Now we’re already unpacked back at our apartments in Planica. We’re able to settle back in quickly and it feels just like home again. This weekend we have the final two days of Summer Grand Prix competitions. Planica is a new addition to the tour, and after a month-long break in the competitions, everyone is eager to get back at it here. Stay posted on Facebook for results and news from the competitions!
Before I go, I want to share my fundraising campaign on Rally Me. I already owe a huge thank you to the incredible donors who have already supported me since I started the fundraiser just last week! I am really amazed at how quickly people have stepped in. I couldn’t do it without this community supporting me! If you’d like to help out, check out my page below. Your support will help cover some of the costs necessary to train, compete and be equipped for this season. Also, be sure to watch the super cool video that Nathaniel Mah made at the page!
I’m back in Planica, Slovenia, where I last wrote from. Since then, I spent some time in Stams, Austria and Oberstdorf, Germany, training and competing.
After training in Stams with the younger crew from our team – Ben Loomis, Grant Andres and Stephen Schumann – and some of the junior development athletes, I headed to Oberstdorf for a start in the Summer Grand Prix. Stams, just outside of Innbruck, is over the beautiful Fernpass from Oberstdorf, nestled in the Bavarian Alps. I had the unique opportunity to jump in both Austria and Germany the day before competing – training in Stams, then fore-jumping in the first day of Grand Prix in Oberstdorf. I don’t know about you, but I thought that was pretty cool.
In Oberstdorf, I was eager to get back into the mix of competing. I put down a good enough jump in a tough jumping competition to be in the fight for points. Unfortunately, I was also the only one of my teammates to race, after Ben Berend and Taylor Fletcher were disqualified and Bryan opted to rest his irritated knee, but I used this as extra motivation to represent us well. The race, which started at 8:30 pm, was an exciting 6 laps around the dark city streets below the jump stadium. Having not raced in a pack in 6 months, it was quite a shock to the system to be in a massive group of athletes fighting for points and struggling to hang on with the fastest skiers. I didn’t feel immediately comfortable in the group, and to be honest, its not my favorite race course, but I enjoyed the moment and knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity. Spurred on by a huge cheering section, I managed to finish in 28th, nabbing my first high-level points in two years. Despite all the German fans and European coaches, it almost felt like a home race with coaches, most of my teammates and a squad of juniors and Youth Cup competitors from the US cheering me on. I definitely used their excitement and encouragement to dig deeper than I could have otherwise.
If you’ve been following our social media since Grand Prix, you probably think that we’re part time mountain climbers. I can assure you that we’re working hard on the jumps, in the gym and on our rollerskis, but we have taken advantage of our surroundings more than ever these past few weeks. The day after racing in Oberstdorf, we hiked the nearby Nebelhorn peak, which has a tram servicing the resort running full time. Knowing that we had a solid recovery week ahead and wanting an extra challenge, I opted to run down rather than take the tram. I wouldn’t recommend this option if you want to be able to walk normal the next few days, but now I know that it is possible to descend on foot faster than the three-part tram ride. If you didn't see it already, check out the movie I made with pictures and the fly-through from my GPS watch.
Back in Slovenia, we’ve been exploring the mountains here as well on our distance workouts.
Last weekend, my teammates Grant, Ben, Jasper and I stood atop Triglav, the tallest mountain in Slovenia. We ascended the 2000 vetical meters from the valley floor in thick fog and occasional rain and gusting winds on the final ridgeline to summit. Most of the other hikers out there were decked out with heavy rain gear, packs for overnighting in the surrounding mountain huts, and Via Ferrata safety gear. (Via ferrata equipment allows users to clip into to fixed cables along non-technical but admittedly hairy sections of the trail). On the descent, as the fog cleared and we could see the sheer cliffs falling all the way to the valley below, we understood the rational for their equipment as necessary for anyone with a moderate fear of heights. We were able to travel light, with just our small packs, knowing that there was a mountain “hut” below the summit, where we stopped to warm-up and refuel with coffee, crepes and water for our packs. After around 5.5 hours on the trail, we jogged into the trailhead where we began, feeling surprisingly fresh and immensely satisfied. Now, we've been told that we should apply for Slovenian citizenship, as apparently summiting Triglav is what it takes to be considered a "real" Slovenian.
Below is a gallery from Triglav, and a video that Jasper made similar to my Nebelhorn one.
Since last weekend, it’s been cool and raining more or less non-stop, which isn’t ideal for jumping and particularly pleasant for rollerskiing, but we really can’t complain. For one, the wreckage left by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have provided a good dose of perspective. We're lucky to not be affected by the weather for any longer than the amount of time we spend out in it. In addition, we always have the ski tunnel here to ski in. It can be mind-numbing to spin 30 - 50 laps around the underground loop, but it’s awesome to be training on snow and a savior when its 40 degrees and raining.
We also lucked out with mostly dry conditions for our grueling intensity session this week: 8 x 10 minutes intervals at steady state. In total, it takes nearly 3 hours and we covered over 47 km in this single workout. Our coach was there to test our blood lactates with a portable machine, and each test gave us the "good" news that we could keep pushing harder, as we were still within our zone. Despite popular belief, training at low elevation isn't necessarily easier, as we are just able to push harder with the increased oxygen density.
I’ve been working hard on the jumps, knowing that this is where my biggest improvements can be made. All of our team is making great strides on the hills here. Ultimately, the best part about training in Slovenia is the jump facilities. It’s really important for us to jump on modern, low-elevation hills in Europe, and to get on a variety of different jumps. That’s really the only way to get prepared for the World Cup tour where you compete on a new hill every weekend.
Here’s a quick video I made of jumping in Kranj and Planica with my GoPro a couple weeks ago.
Thanks for all the support that allows me to be here. Next week, we'll go to Ramsau, Austria, to jump at two different venues and ski on the Dachstein glacier. Stay tuned for updates, and in the coming days you might be hearing from me asking for your support. Thank you for being a part of the team!
Where am I?