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2-2-18 Crested Butte Alley Loop

February 4th, 2018 · No Comments

I don’t know if this group just doesn’t include anyone over 60, but not only was I first in my age group at about 2:45 but I beat the second placed guy by 15 minutes or so. I also beat some pretty fast people, with slow skis (which everyone had and the race was a lot slower than the last two years).

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1-28-2018 Seefeld XC distance races

January 28th, 2018 · No Comments

Another beautiful day here in Seefeld. After the Americans had such a great day with the sprints, everyone was excited to see how they do in the distance races. In addition to combined (jumping, then skiing, which is not a strong sport for the Americans), there was a men’s 15K and a women’s 10K. Part of the course took place on the same sprint circuit with some addition distance to make about a 3.7K loop with four passes through the stadium each loop.

Given the beautiful morning and knowing we’d be watching the races at 11 and 2 (men’s then women’s) I went off to explore some trails and go to the cabin at Wildmoos, about a 3K uphill ski one-way from the hotel.

I went with a couple from Jackson Hole, who are super into skiing (like me). Once we got going, I pushed the uphills just to get some intervals in. I’m feeling really strong and in shape so why not. Just about then, some Swedish men’s team guys passed by and I skied behind them. There were three other fast skiers who did the same thing. Who wouldn’t want to watch these guys ski and see what they do that normal people do differently. I’ve decided it’s the balance, smoothness and fearlessness on the downhills.

Anyway, the Jackson couple and I ended up skiing another loop that was flat or rolling and ended up after skiing about an hour back at the Wildmoos cabin.

It’s a pretty colorful place. Here’s a video of the inside.

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After that we went back to the races, skiing down to Seefeld, and I changed quickly into some dry cloths and saw the start of the men’s race. Then, with my incredible credentials, I walked around in places that I would have normally not been allowed, right up and onto the course, to watch the race in a few different points. Simi Hamilton from Aspen had an incredible race and ended up in 8th place after starting in 73rd place! CONGRATULATIONS Simi!!

Then the women’s race, where American Jessica Diggins was in the first two or three places throughout the race and then won! In addition to that, the American girls had other great placings.

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The group met again after an incredible day for Austrian curling, with Gluwein. which is more or less bowling with a huge weight that doesn’t roll or curling with a stone but no broom. Amusing but I won’t be pursuing it.

The Lumi Experiences website has tons of group photos and Garrett had just done a fantastic job all around. He gave us a parting gift of a book hot off the press about the women’s XC team (!!!) and a race jersey signed by the entire team and their coach, suitable for framing. I cannot imagine anyone could do a better job!

Final dinner and good bye to a few of the group. Tomorrow 5AM bus ride.

Thanks for reading!

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1-27-2018 World Cup XC Vorläufer

January 26th, 2018 · No Comments

Again thanks to Garrett, our group leader, and his pull as a former US Olympic team member and all-around good guy, we get to ski the World Cup sprint course before the racers to forerun the course. A small group from our group has volunteered.

It’s another beautiful morning, with the sun shinning and temperatures around 0 or so (32 degrees F).

We got bibs that said Vorläufer and forerun both the women’s course and the men’s course. The women’s course was shorter and much less steep. The men’s course was not only longer but it had a hill in it that even one of the men fell on. It wasn’t that it was steep (it was); it was that it was piled about six inches high with loose corn snow (it’s warm here). You had to step through it and step high enough to clear what was there.

As “volunteers” we got a free lunch, which was fine. I waxed about Aspen since people were interested and one of our guides and her son are planning a trip to Vail.

Our passes were amazing and we had access to all the usual off-limits parts of the course. Since so many in the group know the athletes personally, there were a lot of hugs and enthusiastic encouragement (screaming) to be sure. Here’s a short clip showing some action.

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After lunch we went back for more forefunning and were told our services were no longer needed. I was pretty moist from forerunning three times already so went back to the hotel and changed into dry clothes and went back out. I watched a bunch of heats and the finals. One of the American women, Sofia Caldwell, was considered the co-winner in the women’s race and Simi Hamilton from Aspen was in the men’s finals (fifth place). Great results for the Americans!

Anyway, spending the entire day in the sun was getting to me so I went back to my room for break. More racing and skiing tomorrow.

Originally, tomorrow we were to ski the 3.7K loop that is used a number of times for the longer races (10K and 15K). We were politely invited not to forerun that race because they have too many forerunners and logistics made it difficult. We do keep our badges so we can get anywhere on the course, including very select areas!

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1-26-2018 More XC Skiing — Leutasch back to Seefeld

January 25th, 2018 · No Comments

First, CONGRATULATIONS to Noah Hoffman (a loyal reader of this blog and designer of my fantastic training program) for being named to the XC Olympic Team to represent us at Pyeongchang, South Korea. Aspen also has Simi Hamilton on the XC team and on the alpine team: Wyly Maple, Torin Yater Wallas, Alex Ferreria, and Alice McKinnis. All are AVSC alums so Aspen is well represented.

We took the bus on a circuitous route, as a smaller group, over to Leutasch to XC ski. There is about 200Ks of XC skiing here, so it’s good to check out some other trails. After finding the trail, people split up and five of us ended up we skiing back to Seefeld. Just as we were getting underway, we were told we had to change our planned route because of high avalanche danger, which closed our intended route. We found an alternative route, and skied back to Seefeld, covering some of the same trails I had skied yesterday.

I cannot believe how many people here are into XC skiing — it’s like a crowded Aspen ski slope (albeit on a narrow path) at Christmas or a race, sometimes. Everything is groomed nicely and the weather was great. There is a ton of snow here, so that helps. The temperatures range from -4 to +4C (25 to 40F). The range of abilities is beginner and there are beginner areas and lessons, to, obviously, World Cup.

Anyway, just as we were getting underway, I looked at my heart rate monitor and it hit 42 or something even lower — I’m either in shape or the high altitude really does have a fantastic training effect.

Here’s a video at the start of our ski:

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We took our time, sort of, and skied about 25K from the drop off in Leutasch to Seefeld, stopping at a hut for a coffee and cakes. With us were two Jims, a Kim and an Elena.

The slopes are rated just like alpine ski runs (European ratings: green, red, black for easy, medium, harder). Everything is well marked and it’s super scenic, quiet and can be slow or fast as you want.

I meant to take an easy day which turned out to be a medium day. It turns out our alpine day sharpened up my downhilling and to go up, you have to go down.

There is one guy, Vlad, who befriended someone in the group when they were in Crested Butte, Colorado, on vacation and then showed up here. I guess he thought he’d save the money and mooch off the group. He seems to be a creap and is omnipresent. I ran into him lurking in the ski room and he asked if I was going to watch the races across the street (today is the combined — Nordic jumping then Nordic (XC) skiing. I said yes although I was going over to meet today’s group of skiers at the James Bondish outdoor bar, assuming he would go out to watch the event. Instead he turned up where we were. Just weird and to be ignored.

Speaking of the bar, the music at the bar is kind of amazingly old and hokey. I can hear it in my room until about 10 PM so I know. The playlist includes …tbd.

Here is a photo of the finish area for the races, at sunset. The tower has a video camera mounted to the top and is controlled from a seat at the bottom.

Another long meal, and not vegan at all. Vegan is out the window! Bring on the butter (lots of it), cheese, meat, etc… Speaking of meals, we have been eating those as a group but one of the guys got sick and he has cloistered himself apart from the group—no one wants to get sick. Even his wife won’t sit near him. Lousy situation!

 

 

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1-25-2018 In Seefeld XC skiing

January 25th, 2018 · No Comments

Seefeld is definitely a Mecca for XC and we are front and center looking (or at least I am) at the Olympic arena. The hotel is tired and the room is in desperate need of a renovation, but location and view is A+++.

The Day Begins

Anyway, I joined the group for about 5K and then it seemed like everyone was going a different speed or working on Technique, so I just went skiing. What was really cool was that the World Cup guys and girls were skiing around so first two Austrian team members came by, skiing really slowly, so I just skied behind them making sure I didn’t crowd. They were very nice and I just watched the technique and tried to emulate. They are smooth, are perfectly balanced and they really glide. Anyway, they stopped, and went a different way from me but said “Servus,” which is sort of “Aloha” in southern Germany and Austria. Very nice.

I’ve been on my skate skis the entire time here and have not taken the classic skis out. The conditions are just too variable (too hard to wax for kick) and I haven’t classic skied at all this year (I would be super sore the first time out) so those skis and poles may stay in my giant Rossignol ski bag.

I skied on and two Germans passed me, going faster. Their speed was too fast so off they went. The weather was beautiful. Here’s a short video to see the trails:

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A saw a bunch of other team uniforms including Czechoslovakia and the US (I saw Simi Hamilton at the end of my ski). I continued to ski to a cabin that seemed like a good place to meet the group at Neuleutasch but was so early, I skied the 5K loop a second time, then called Garrett only to find out I was past the actual meeting spot near Wildmoos, so I skied an extra 10K or so, which really wasn’t a big deal since I’m here to ski.

The runs here are far easier than what I’m used to, mainly because of the low altitude and what the high altitude does to your aerobic capacity. The skiing is good and seems like early March conditions in Aspen (hard in the mornings, soft and slushy by 1:00 or so. Garrett met me at the refuge, and we spoke with a nice Austrian couple who walked there with their dog. People are usually surprised that Americans can speak even a word of German.

You can walk or ski, sit down and get a nice lunch served; it’s really a great way to be outside and I see the attraction. Alcohol is served, often as a freebie, it seems all the time. I don’t partake since I don’t want to ski under the influence, particularly.

I skied back to the hotel with Garrott and it’s great to ski with someone with fantastic skills; he gave me a couple of tips, gently. Hold my hands closer to my body. I skied a total of about 25K or so.

At 2:30 we walked over to the US XC Ski Team wax truck to see what goes on behind the scenes. The US has a new waxing truck and we got a tour from the coach, Matt Whitcomb, and the waxing team, which looks like at least five guys. Each wax tech has two ski team members (one guy, one girl) they look after. The truck is really amazing and everything is state of the art. It cost over $1 million. They have over 600 pairs of skis they carry around, plus some very well-equipped waxing benches.

The group (and me) were really into this stuff and everyone had pretty good and relevant questions about waxing, race support and the American team. We talked about the doping Russians a bit, since there truck was next door. It seems like everyone pretty much remains friends and lets the national bodies (IOC, …) figure it out.

After that, which took 1.5 hours, the members of the group who volunteered to forerun the course (which Garrett had arranged. He’s got some pull! ) got credentials, which is super cool. Now I feel really important. The idea is they send some skiers off before the actual race begins to give the TV cameras a reference to set up their shots, then again to close the course, then again before and after each run.

Because I’m writing this, I don’t have the time for the next arranged activity: yodeling. That’s too bad for me or should I say think you.

Dinners are set with many courses and for Americans very overdone. This evening there were five courses, maybe more, as I counted them. Dinners last a long time and are a production here. Tonight there were five courses and everything is cooked with tubs of butter, tastes good and is rich! I assume if you cook mud in enough butter, it would taste wonderful.

 

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1-24-18 Leaving Toblach and arriving at Seefeld via Innsbruck

January 24th, 2018 · No Comments

I tried to buy a poster before leaving Toblach but it was just too complicated and we were leaving at 10:00 a.m. (and I didn’t want to get left behind, something I’ve made into a joke).

Two hours on a bus filled with caffeinated and overly enthusiastic folks is not really a recipe for my calm, especially when the insist on singing with everyone encouraging it. I had left my earplugs in my bag.

Thankfully, we arrived in Innsbruck. It was a beautiful day, clear and cool. I actually remembered walking down some of the streets. It’s a nice city, about 110,000 people with a university, clean and quiet. It really does have easy access to skiing within 30 minutes, and unlike boulder, it’s true. One of our guides is Austrian and her son, who is in school in Innsbruck met us and had skied that morning since they had about five feet of powder. There were plenty of avalanches too, some of which you could see on the surrounding slopes five or ten miles away.

Innsbruck

I tried to take a selfie, the result is unimpressive.

In Innsbruck, which I visited in summer with my family a few years ago, the plan was to go to lunch, then ride the train to Seefeld. My plan was to grab a sandwich, and ride the train, alone and in peace, to Seefeld. Mission accomplished, almost. I feel asleep somewhere before the Seefeld stop, went to the end of the line (two more stops) and realized what happened. The train immediately started the other way, the conductor came to collect my ticket, I explained what happened, and he said fine after a bit more explaining.

In Seefeld I walked around (I had a general idea of where the hotel was). I would say, this is Aspen, more or less (at least age demographic-wise along with shopping opportunities) but with amazing access to cross country trails and World Cup events (cross country) coming this week-end. In fact, our little group (well, group within the group) is forerunning the sprints on Saturday and the short course, about 3.7K, on Sunday (the races go around a bunch of times).

Anyway, I found the hotel and of course they tried to put me in what Skip, my Ski.com partner, used to call the “Ha, ha” room (small but no view). Anyone reading this knows that that doesn’t work for me.

My new room is a lot better with an amazing view!

Here in Austria instead of saying sorry let’s find you something that works, they cop an attitude and act like it’s your problem. I don’t know who that would work on.

View from my upgraded window!

At dinner, which was many courses and very rich (that whole vegan thing is out the window), out of about 10 people the waitress asked me first, if I spoke German (in German) and then an unintelligible question (in German). I asked her to restate the question in Hoch-Deutsch, which she claimed to be speaking (she wasn’t). Garrett was sitting nearby and confirmed that first, her German was terrible, and second, she was likely Eastern European. Anyway, she spoke enough English that we got by. The question was, do each of the people at the table get separate checks (for alcohol). The answer was yes.

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1-23-2018 Alpine Skiing in Cortina

January 22nd, 2018 · No Comments

Who hasn’t Heard of Cortina? I’ve never alpine skied here, so what the hell. I’m here and it seems silly not to take advantage. One of our guides – Italian Elaina – has guided here and claims to know the mountain.I arranged lift tickets and ski rentals through my Ski.com contacts and off we went. I could have arranged a local guide but Elaina made it clear it was unnecessary. There are only three people on the trip, plus Elaina and me, who wanted to go and one last minute addition.

By the way, I’m writing this at 2 a.m. — I have to stop eating the sweats offered at dinner—they taste good but they haven’t helped me get over jet lag, if that ever happens.

From Toblach, where we were staying, near the cross country tracks we took a bus to Cortina. In Cortina, everything was super easy. Lift tickets were ready, as were ski rentals. Our Ski.com Europe guy has some contacts! The ride over reminded me of Independence Pass (about an hour over mountain roads) except there is harder core traffic, e.g. our bus and many huge trucks that passed us. Also, the peril was certainly more profound as a fall off the road would sure hurt (very briefly though). The views were amazing and there is a XC path that goes all the way to Cortina, more or less following the road we took.

Famous Mountain “3 Zinnen” Which is featured in every local photo

Once there the six of us skied fast on relatively steep runs on piste. It turns out anything hard, that isn’t groomed, is considered off piste and everything on piste is groomed. The snow was hard and fast and we skied fast, which was easy.

Wide Open and Fast with No One Around

The skiing was between Golden Horn on Aspen Highlands and Astec on Aspen Mountain in steepness (not terribly). We skied as fast as I’ve skied in a while, but the runs called out for that. In fact, those were my first alpine runs this season. Access to skiing is a pain in Cortina and it’s clear that you need a guide, especially if you want to ski the off piste stuff. A nice bit of trivia that you are reminded of getting on the cable car to the area is that Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone was filmed here. They have a bunch of posters from the movie on the walls. If you recall, it was meant to be set in Colorado and this looks very much not like Colorado. Hollywood.

The Wind was Blowing, Hard

We skied onto every lift and there was not a lift line in sight. The wind was howling but it was easy to navigate the area since it’s pretty wide open and few trees. Interestingly (well, kind of), they have a desiduous connifer which loses its needles in winter. I never knew that such a tree existed. I just thought they were dead.

I found out that some of the other folks on the trip have some impressive resumes for not only cross country skiing but running too (and academics too!). One guy (many years ago) ran a 2:35 marathon, another a 2:50 marathon and one woman ran a 3:10 marathon. My fastest was 3:18. I guess they sort of lost their interest in training at that level having burned out as younger athletes. Now it seems the masters athletes really are the ones who took up XC, like me, later.

Lunch at Refuge ?? with group whose names I have kind of learned (my jacket is on hanger in the background)

We had a fantastic lunch, the planning for which went: let’s grab a quick bite at a self-service restaurant to let’s sit down and get served some fantastic pasta for an hour plus in the mountain Refugio.

Your Writer

Cortina Panorama

We ended skiing early at 2:30 to catch the 3:05 bus, ran to give the skis back, and catch the bus for another harrowing ride back over the pass to Toblach (the German name) or Dobbiaco (the Italian name).

Tomorrow off to Seebach (German name) or Seefeld (Italian name). It’s snowing, again, outside as I write this at 9 p.m. French time.

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1-22-2018 On our Way to Tyrol

January 22nd, 2018 · 1 Comment

We are off this morning to Tyrol in Italy. Before leaving, I took a photo of a light fixture in the hallway of the hotel in Austria. I thought it was really cool.

We’ve arrived in Italy after about an hour bus ride on tight roads that the bus driver didn’t get too excited about. Not only were they narrow, but there were trucks heavily loaded with everything — from piles of logs to huge semi trucks. We arrived at Innichen/San Candido, took the lift up the mountain (it’s a ski area and looks pretty nice), ate nice Italian food (lasagne, ravioli, etc…) at a very nice restaurant on the mountain, had an espresso, then sledded down on locally popular sleds called “Rodels” to the bottom.

The sledding was on a course that was sufficiently steep and you could fly on the sleds. Luckily the sides of the course were built up snow banks since everyone definitely had to “slow down” a couple of times, trying to get the hang of it. Liability issues would clearly prevent something like this in the US but I saw little kids on sleds flying down and laughing like crazy while doing so.

It was surprisingly fast and fun and something the Aspen Ski Company should consider doing. Parents with little kids were there and the kids were loving it.

Then we kept our cross-country gear, everyone had a back-pack and changed into lighter wear, and we XC skied about five kilometers to Toblach. This is a border town so everyone speaks Italian, German, and English, it seems.

The entire town is over heated (I’ve had to sleep with windows open to cool rooms to reasonable sleeping temperature through the trip) by a plant that burns wood chips, then pipes the heat out to all the houses and hotels. This is the richest part of Italy and the state even supports the purchases of real estate for new couples by giving them part of a downpayment on their first home interest free. This was all told to us by Elena, who is Italian and really cared and it sounds good. She also took at least 30 minutes to describe bidets and how they are properly used (pants off).

We arrived at the stadium (“Nordic Arena Toblach-Dobbiaco) on a beautiful sunny day where the world cup sprints (cross country) were held in December 2017 and skied around there.

At the XC Stadium Sprint Course

I was enjoying it so much I didn’t notice the group was leaving (okay ditched me). I thought they just hadn’t left but realized I was forgotten — again. Let’s not dredge up stories of my childhood— just kidding.

I found my own way to the hotel. I’m just glad no one was hurt.

Before dinner, I walked around the little village.

We had a very nice three (at least) course dinner. Now the daunting challenge is to sleep. I’m finding that my jet lag is exacerbated by the rich food eaten late at night (dah).

Apparently you have to make your own bed here in Italy.

Tomorrow Cortina to Alpine ski.

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1-21-2018 Dolomitenlauf XC ski race

January 21st, 2018 · 3 Comments

Today started like any other day. Assuming you’re in Austria and planning to go skiing in a marathon distance (42K) cross country ski race. In any case that’s what was going on here today and I felt like it kind of worked out for me. I have no choice but to go out slowly because I was behind what I thought was about 1000 people but was probably 500 or a bit more, and many of them were awful Skiers. They don’t seed here so it’s a free for all. Poles are broken (not mine luckily) but I was worried. I ended up passing hundreds of people (the 42K race and the 21K race, which also had about 300 people, were started simultaneously) and never got passed, which in my mind is the best race I can ski. It was very pleased.

What was strange is that for the first half of the race, as I was passing people who were in both races, some of them who I didn’t catch until the end of the first 20 kilometers looked like they had drunk a keg of beer over the last years, and one guy in particular looked like he was 25 pounds overweight and was squeezed like a lumpy sausage into his race suit. Not only was it not a pretty sight, but how did he stay ahead of me for 20K? Another strange thing was that once I passed the 20K mark, I almost felt like I was alone. The 20K skiers had finished, and the skiers who were left were in the longer race, but they were all pretty far in front of me. The good and bad news is it gave me a chance to ski faster, but there was no one to ski with.

My time, I thought, wasn’t very good but given the competition (it was a truly international race), I guess it was okay. On looking at the photos on line I see tons of form issues for me to fix.

Here is a panorama showing the race start.

I ended up with 156th out of about 340 finishers in the 42K race. I was eighth in my age group.

Here’s a photo of me at the end of the race. I think I look great, but that’s just me. Thanks to Noah Hoffman for providing such a cool race suit and great training advice.

Fresh as a spring breeze

Here are results:

http://results.racetime.pro/results.php?CId=16658&RId=6131

One thing worth mentioning is that I was pulling up to one of the last stops for food and drinks and one of the guys serving drinks had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I asked smoking guy for “Essen” (food) and he pointed back to the table which I was already about 30 m past. Given the lingering cigarette smoke, I skipped this food stop. Welcome to Austria.

Garrett is insisting that everyone’s time is well spent so he brought the group to a distillery for a tour. Free tastings of hard alcohol—mmm good. Not my thing, but I liked the lighting in the cellar, a really great basement room. It would certainly make a good model for a nice private wine cellar.

 

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1-20-2018 Checking out the XC skiing, finally

January 20th, 2018 · 1 Comment

This morning, after honestly not sleeping at all (I’m jet-lagged about as badly as I can remember). We got an early start, ate a quick breakfast and took a 45-minute shuttle bus from Lienz Austria up to Obertilliach via a serpentine road.

One guy on the trip is a professor or something in Alaska and offers his very professorial opinions about everything. He reminds me of someone at home we know and is a Yale graduate. The group all went to the best colleges, some were very accomplished athletes on a college level, and are all really into supporting the US cross country team and the development teams and young athletes.

I overheard the professor tell Garrott about tourism and the mountain sports industry. Lots of free advice to be sure.

It was very cold, at least single digits and given my sleep, I seem to be susceptible to it. It was miserable. I think lack of exercise yesterday contributed.

Today was the classic race day, and a couple in our group participated. I’m waiting for tomorrow and the skate race. I estimate there were 750 people or so, from really fast to really slow. I saw a pretty bad fall at the start which given the chaos seemed inevitable. Garrott was remarking how cross-country just wasn’t that popular in Austria. Tomorrow’s’ race should have about 1,000 people. The average Aspen race has 15.

Anyway, Garrott, the trip leader, didn’t seem terribly interested in skiing and everyone was doing their own thing so I met one of our guides, Petra from Austria, and she told me to meet them at a restaurant in Rauschenberg. This was about four miles from the starting point in Obertilliach and one of Garrott’s “quaint mountain huts.”

It took 30 minutes of skiing to warm up, sort of, but when I arrived at the hut 50 minutes later I was still cold and uncomfortable. I sat there thinking I must have the wrong place since it wasn’t quaint, it wasn’t cute, or charming-it wasn’t anything more than a bar that served drinks and some basic off-the-shelf food. I had the Campbell’s noodle soup, then another, and waited.

If you tolerated the smell, the view was nice

Here was the atmosphere: next to the main road, filled with stale cigarette smoke and a table of Austrians enthusiastically watching the Hahnenkamm on TV. To be fair, it had a nice view, but it wasn’t enough to redeem it. I waited about a 40 minutes for everyone else to show up, and tried to warm up. Eventually another six or so people showed up along with the overly enthusiastic, borderline annoying daughter of one of the guests.

Rauch means to smoke in German. We Americans are simply not used to smoking and dealing with smoke anymore.

We went back down the trails to catch the shuttle back to Lienz and on a quick ski back to Obertilliach I was met by the trail police that asked for my trail pass. This is when English comes in handy, and I told him our group leader had it and she was right behind me and went on my way. Apparently she showed up and said Garrott was behind her with the passes (he wasn’t). It turns out Garrett was told passes were not needed during the races. Eventually I got to where the 42K classic race was still going on, and double polled with the slower folks watching the race. It didn’t seem to matter that a race was going on and I was skiing on the course.

Some notes:

We had a nice dinner and the group with some who even get my sense of humor.

We reviewed the race today as informed by the two people from the group who raced.

It’s snowing this evening and notwithstanding lack of sleep tomorrow should be nice. I slept this afternoon for a couple hours.

We decided to go alpine skiing in Cortina on Tuesday.

Garrott offered to arrange a biathlon ski for me in Seefeld.

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