Monday, December 27, 2010

Italian Christmas at home

After the very familiar Munich-Singapore-Melbourne flight (over 24 hours), I finally made it home for Christmas. I have had only one Christmas at home in the past 10 years, so as you can imagine I was pretty excited to come home for the occasion! Awaiting me in Australia was beautiful 25-degree sunny weather. A big difference to being in the freezer of Europe!

True to Crema tradition, we had a big Italian family lunch with 25 family members. On this year’s menu was lobster, oysters, prawns (Australian tradition) as well as suckling pig, a smoked leg of ham, home-made lasagne (grazie Nonna), vitello tornato, tiramisu, grappa, panettone etc etc… the list goes on!

 (The dogs awaiting their gifts, Diesel and Mya)

(Preparing the enormous smoked ham-on-the-bone)

(Mum with the suckling pig)

(My family)

(The Crema kids; Giulia, Nick and I)

(Big family lunch)

(Crema girls; Olivia, Giulia, Jessica and I)

(Jess and I)

It was a great Christmas and definitely worth the long trip home to spend time with family and friends.

I am now heading back to Munich this afternoon where we will start the second block of the season. The first block was mostly training with one Europa Cup and two World Cup’s in the final week. The second block is basically all racing. It means travelling every few days from mountain to mountain, country to country, and basically living straight out of a suitcase for the next two and a half months. Let’s just say after years of doing this, we ski racers have become some of the world’s best packers!

First up on the race agenda is St. Johann World Cup in Austria, which is the famous night race. Every year this race attracts huge crowds and is generally one of the most anticipated races of the year. It is raced on double-injected ice, a very steep pitch and under the stadium lights. So I’ve definitely got something to look forward to!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

First World Cups of the Season, San Candido

The racing season is now well on it’s way with the first two World Cup Ski Cross events held this weekend in San Candido, Italy. After an 11th place finish amongst a strong field of World Cup girls in the Europa Cup last week, I was feeling confident and ready to race.

(The ski cross start with the incredible Dolomites in the backdrop) 

(The beautiful town of San Candido)

The Dolomites course was turny and fast, with some big jumps and smooth features. On Friday we had qualifications for the first race. I finished in 23rd place, so missed out on qualifying for finals which was a bit disappointing. This year they decided to take only the top 16 girls for finals as opposed to 32 last year. It definitely makes the competition much tougher in fighting for a spot for finals. In the second race I finished 25th. I was definitely hoping for much better results at these first World Cups. I feel that I am skiing well however just didn’t manage to deliver on the day. All I can do now is put these races behind me, stay positive and look forward to the next World Cup in Austria in early January.

My teammates on other hand, Scott Kneller and Anton Grimus, definitely didn’t fail to deliver. Kneller won the second World Cup by a hands reach, beating Swiss skier Alex Fiva at the last minute over the line. We were absolutely ecstatic. I think everyone was rooting for Scotty, being the underdog in the big final. It’s Australia’s first Ski Cross World Cup victory ever, and Australia’s first World Cup win of the season. Young Grimus finished 9th which was also an incredible result, being only his second World Cup Ski Cross ever. Two great results for the Australian Team! Congratulations boys.

On another positive note, the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) annual awards night was held last Monday night in Canberra. I was awarded ‘AIS Education Athlete of the Year,’ an award which recognises athletes who have achieved academic success at the same time as balancing the demands of their sport. OWI aerial skier Lydia Lasilla won the AIS Athlete of the Year. So in total two awards for Winter Sports, which is a great achievement for winter sports.

(Members of the Australian Ski Cross Team) 

 (Scott Kneller wins gold; Australia's first ski cross World Cup victory)

(Medal winners)

(Aussie staff: Marcos, ski technician, and Nick, physio)

I am now sitting in Munich airport enjoying a bowl of coffee (literally) and a croissant. I've enjoyed the past four weeks in Europe. Training has been great, and although it was not the start to the world cup season I was hoping for, I am sure there will be good things to come this season! I’m about to fly back to Melbourne for a short 6-day Christmas break; just enough time to see family and friends and soak up some sun before heading back to winter! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

San Candido

After an 11th place on Europa Cup in Pitztal, Austria, we are now in San Candido for the first world cups of the season.

Today we had our official training day. The course runs really well... some nice jumps with smooth landings, and great hard icy snow. It is on the same hill as last year, however the course is quite different. Slightly longer and smoother running.

Tomorrow we have qualifications with finals to be held on Saturday. A second world cup on the same track will be held on Sunday.

I'm feeling confident after training today, and am looking forward to the competition tomorrow. After months of hard work it's finally time to show off what I've got!

Will update you after the race.

Here are some of the best photos from the week....

(Aussie ski cross team van)

(View of Lienz from Zettersfeld gondola)

(San Candido)

(Tuning room... and that's not even all of them!)

(Delisioso! Speck, rocket and parmesan pizza at the number one pizzeria in San Candido)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On the road to the first races of the season

Following two days off in Lienz, I was very ready to hit the slopes again. Although a day off is necessary to rest and recover, it does actually get a little boring! We occupied ourselves with a visit to the Christmas markets in Lienz, a gym session as well as a game of squash in the afternoon.

Yesterday, after a failed attempt at a day training day at Molltaler Glacier, we decided to go skiing at Zettersfeld. High winds and poor weather conditions closed the glacier which meant that we couldn’t train on the skier cross track as originally planned. Instead, we freeskied at Zettersfeld, a small resort 5 minutes from Lienz, Austria. The weather was warm and foggy, and the snow was soft… it actually reminded me a little of skiing in Australia. Such a change from the -25˚ C freezer days in Hintertux last week! 

(Not a bad view from my bedroom window!)

(Anton and I in the gondola)
Now, once again, we’re back on the road living out of our suitcases. We’re on our way to Pitztal, Austria today for the first skier cross races of the season; two Europa Cups. On the way we stopped for a free ski at San Candido, Italy, where the first two World Cup’s of the season will be held next week. It was a good opportunity to ski next to the race hill, and to get a feel for the terrain. The course is yet to be built and the race is less than a week away!  2 hours skiing and a delicious speck, rocket and parmiggiano pizza later, we’re back on the road for another 3 hours.

Tomorrow is the official training day on the track, then race Saturday and Sunday.

Will keep you posted!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas markets, crepes and a powder day... life doesn't get much better!

After four rather cold days of training on Stubai Glacier, we took the day off to rest and recover. We spent the morning in Innsbruck exploring the Christmas markets. The markets are full of traditional Austrian and European Christmas foods; sauerkraut, spatzle, kaiserschmarren, roasted marshmallows, and my favourite, crepes! Innsbruck is one of my favourite cities. It's modern and full of young people, yet has one of the most beautiful old towns I've ever seen. It's almost like a fairytale setting.

(Innsbruck old town)

(Roasting marshmallows at the Innsbruck Christmas markets) 
(Nutella crepes... you can see the joy in my face) 

On Wednesday morning we drove to Hintertux glacier. We are based here for the next four days where we will be training with a number of teams on a ski cross course.

After 6 days of average weather conditions, this morning appeared to be just like any other average day. Heading up the gondola, it was foggy and snowing like it has been for the past week. However as we reached the summit, we surprisingly broke through the cloud. The view was spectacular... blue skies, sunshine and endless mountains. Plus there was over a foot of fresh snow waiting for us to enjoy. I can't even remember my last great powder day, so as you can imagine, I was very excited for those first turns in the fresh, light snow.

(Hintertux Glacier summit, 3200m) 

(View from the summit)

(Tyrolean mountain ranges)

(Perfect unskied terrain awaiting us)

(Powder in Hintertux)

(True face shot)

It's still snowing up on the mountain, so hopefully another powder day tomorrow!