Sunday, October 20, 2013

Passo dello Stelvio

After a short two-weeks at home in Melbourne, I packed my ski bags once again  (which were basically still untouched from my return from New Zealand…) and flew to Europe for the next on-snow training camp.

This week we are training in Stelvio Glacier, northern Italy. Stelvio sits right on the border of Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Interestingly it is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps. For the cycling fans, the Giro d'Italia often passes through this road, and was also picked by Top Gear as "the greatest driving road in the world." Big call.... 

For me it is a brand new mountain to explore which is always fun!

48 hairpin turns make up the Stelvio Pass. Must attempt this one on a bike!

We are sleeping in a hotel up on the glacier at 3000m. At this altitude, the air is thin, and everyday activities feel just that little bit harder. Walking two flights of stairs to my room is a workout. Usually when we train on a mountain of this height, we return to a more reasonable altitude where your body has a chance to recover after a long day’s training. Here, however, your body is constantly working…. even when you’re sleeping! And you really do feel it. Fatigue sets in quicker, your breathing rate is higher, your heart rate is elevated and your muscles feel heavier. A lot of the dryland training I do in Melbourne is designed to cope with these physical loads. The hours spent cycling, running and in the gym are aimed at being able to sustain the five hours plus of on-snow training each day.

We have joined forces with the French, Italian and Swedish Ski Cross National Teams, and are all sharing resources to make this training camp as successful as possible. The course is situated in a remote part of the glacier where there is no access to the piste by chairlift or t-bar. So instead, after each run we are taken back up to the top of the course by a snow cat. Also a very new experience! 14 athletes hanging onto a t-bar line from the back of the cat, and another 10 or so in a cage in the front. Truly a make shift chairlift.

What this means however is that for this week, the mountain is our playground. We have a snow cat and two skidoos to work with, and basically we have free reign. We can build what we want, train when we want and do as many runs as we can until we can’t possibly do another. It’s perfect.

Our make-shift t-bar.

The beloved Wu-Tang... Olympic style!

Alizee and I go head-to-head in training.


Northern Italian lasagna. Almost as good as Nonna's! Almost...

A real local. He rarely moved from his favourite spot!

Good morning Stelvio!

Warming up as the sun rises over the mountains.

Our ski technician Marcos definitely has a sense of humour...

An upgrade from last year's van.....

Today we head to Stubai Glacier in Austria for another four days of training on a new ski cross course. Joining us will be the Austrian, German and Norwegian World Cup Ski Cross teams. Then back to Melbourne for some much needed home and family time, and hopefully some beautiful late Spring weather! It’s time for some sunshine, surf and warm temperatures…

Below is a short 1-minute video of Alizee Baron of France and I going head-to-head on the ski cross training course. The spectacular mountains in the background are hard to miss!

Katya Crema(AUS) & Alizee Baron(FRA) training in Stelvio, Italy
from Katya Crema on Vimeo.