Sunday, October 29, 2006

last day in Tux

Today was supposed to be our last day of training here in Hintertux, but lots of rain meant the snow was too soft to set a course. (Click here, here and here to see the view up there on the glacier at the moment; as I write this, it's a whiteout on the upper two cams.) So we're back at the hotel packing up our stuff and relaxing a bit. Tomorrow morning at 4:45 a.m. we'll leave for the Munich airport and then back to the States.

This has been a pretty productive couple of weeks for me. I haven't made any major advances in my skiing, but I've become more consistent, especially in my slalom skiing, and I've relished the chance to do plenty of skiing on sub-optimal snow conditions. In particular, it's been helpful to get out on some of the glare glacial ice, the real hard stuff that I used to train on back in Maine but don't see very often — OK, ever — in Winter Park. In fact, the skiing here during this camp has reminded me how helpful it is to ski on that stuff, so I'm thinking about taking my ski equipment home to Maine with me when I go back for Thanksgiving or Christmas and doing some training with my old ski team at Sunday River.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Today I rode up the gondola with a guy in sixties named Hans. He lives half an hour away in Mayrhofen and has spent his whole life here in the Zillertal valley. He learned to ski as a small boy in these mountains. His family owns a farm in a village he pointed out on the other side of the mountain, but now Hans works in the mountaintop lodge on Hintertux Glacier, serving tourists. I might've thought he'd be bitter about having to make his living from tourism after his ancestors made theirs from working the land, but he saw things differently. Before tourism and modern farm machinery came to Tirol, he said, people had to work too hard just to survive. In the early 1900s, he said, lots of people in Zillertal left Austria for more prosperous places; his uncle emigrated to Chicago, where he opened a schnapps distillery that counted "all the important people" among its clientele. The uncle married an American woman but died childless, so Hans no longer has relatives in America.

I asked Hans if the glacier used to be bigger than it is now. "Oh yes," he said. When he was a child — before the Gletscherbahn, when you could only get up to the glacier on horseback — they used to have to struggle to keep the glacier from tearing down the Spannagelhaus. Now, that building is separated from the glacial ice by several hundred meters of rocks and dirt.


When operating a European TV remote control, why in the hell are you required to press "1" instead of "Power" to turn the TV on? If someone could explain the origin of this utterly ridiculous practice, I would be eternally grateful.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

the push

First of all, check out this sweet 360-degree panorama image of Hintertux Glacier that I just found on their website.

Today was our fourth day on snow here in Austria. The last three days we've trained GS on the same narrow lane. One of the things about training in Europe is that teams set their courses very close to one another, and it can be a nerve-wracking experience skiing 30 m.p.h. down a course, with another skier two meters away skiing a parallel course at the same speed — not much room for error. It's funny how much has been made lately of the American trend toward doing everything faster and more recklessly, when it's the Euros who seem to be faster and ruder with everything they do.

A prime example is the phenomenon known — on our team, anyway — as "the push." The push happens every morning around 7:45 in the parking lot of the Hintertuxer Gletscherbahn gondola, when several hundred junior ski teams crowd into a small area between metal barricades, vying to be one of the first on the gondola when it opens at 8:00 a.m. It's one of those sights that has to be seen to be believed: something happens to make one or two people decide that the gondola might be about to open and pandemonium breaks loose, every kid and coach grabbing his or her equipment and pressing forward against each other to try to get as close to the lift entrance as possible. It's a free-for-all that's simultaneously hilarious and pretty disturbing. I'm sure people have been trampled in the push; this is exactly how people die at rock concerts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Kildow's Spirit Award Enables Six Physically Disabled Female Skiers Chance to Compete at The Hartford Ski Spectacular in December

U.S. Paralympics // October 17, 2006

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, has announced that it will sponsor six aspiring female Paralympic skiers at the 19th Annual Hartford Ski Spectacular in December, thanks in large part to the generosity of Lindsey Kildow, 21, (St. Paul, Minn./alpine skiing) two-time Olympian and winner of the 2006 U.S. Olympic Spirit Award Delivered by DHL. DHL provided a grant of $5,000 on Kildow’s behalf, which was to be donated to a qualified Olympic or Paralympic-related non-profit organization of her choice. Kildow chose U.S. Paralympics. Excited by her gesture, U.S. Paralympics has chosen to match her donation in an effort to reach out to as many prospective Paralympic skiers as possible.

“Our goal in assisting six women to Ski Spectacular is twofold,” said Stacey Wooley, Associate Director Winter Sports, U.S. Paralympics. “We want to create a developmental outlet for middle echelon skiers to compete, in hopes of developing a direct feed to the National Team. We also want to boost the number of elite female athletes vying for a spot on the team.”

Athletes will be chosen by U.S. Paralympics based on their previous participation in local skiing programs and coach recommendations. The top six will participate at The Hartford’s 19th Annual Ski Spectacular, Dec. 3-10, 2006, in Breckenridge, Colo.

Paralympic-eligible disciplines include sitting, standing and visually-impaired. Applications can be found online at Once there, click on the link in the left-hand column of the page. All completed applications should be faxed to Stacey Wooley’s attention at (719) 866-2029. The deadline to apply is November 6, 2006.

Kildow became the first athlete in the history of the award to win despite not winning a medal at the Olympic Games. Despite being hospitalized after a spectacular training run accident on the second day of the downhill practice, Kildow returned to the slopes to compete the next day, finishing eighth. Still struggling with the injuries, she demonstrated incredible courage and commitment and went on to compete in four of her five events which resulted in two top-ten placements.

During the Olympic and Paralympic Games, DHL honors two individual athletes (one male and one female) and one team with the Olympic Spirit Award for best representing the Olympic Spirit through their courage, commitment, performance, perseverance and vision, both in competition and in pursuit of their Olympic dream.

For more information, please contact Beth Bourgeois, U.S. Paralympics, at (719) 866-2039 or

bis Hintertux

It's great to be back in the Tux Valley in Zillertal, Tirol, Austria. This is a really special place that I've been lucky enough to visit for three years in a row now. To get here you take the highway to Meyerhofen and then drive 20 km up a narrow mountain road that passes through half a dozen small villages. Each village has several classic-looking, family-run hotels and restaurants and a bahn (gondola/cable car) that takes you up the surrounding peaks. Some of these are closed this time of year, but others continue to shuttle hikers up throughout the off-season. At the end of the road you come to the town of Hintertux and then the bottom station of Hintertuxer Gletscherbahn, the series of three gondolas that take you up to the glacier. Our hotel, the Hintertuxerhof, is near the gondola station and surrounded by green, pungent-smelling farmland. There is really nothing like going outside at 7:30 a.m. into cold, sunny air that reeks of cow manure. The three Gletscherbahn lifts take you up 1750 vertical meters (5740 feet) in about 45 minutes; when you get to the top you're in what Zillertal's tourism board calls "Die Gletscher-Welt" — the Glacier World — and it's a really appropriate name. You feel like you're on another planet, with blinding white everwhere, dotted by huge rocky outcroppings, gray and blue cravasses in the ice fields that lie in between the groomed pistes, and then lots of green farmland, houses, barns, and hotels far, far below. From one of the T-bar lifts you can see a swatch of farmland, with a house and a barn, down in an otherwise uninhabited valley over a mile from the town of Hintertux. The dirt road to get there is insane, winding up over an imposing peak; in winter there must be no way to get there except by snowmobile or on skis. This is the way the people here still live, old Tyrolean farmers living alongside flashily dressed ski coaches from Innsbruck.

Actually, the coaches and athletes training here right now are from all over the world. It's common to see ski and snowboard teams here from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Korea, and all over Europe, especially the Eastern European countries that don't have strong alpine skiing traditions but are getting more and more competitive on the world scene: Russia, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria... last year I even saw teams from Greece and Israel. In addition to our team, there are also disabled skiers training here now from Finland, Slovakia, and the U.K. Everyone is busy up on the glacier from 8 a.m. till noon or 1, running courses, riding T-bars and generally failing to notice what an amazing place this is. Then in the afternoon everyone comes down off the hill, goes back to their hotels, and then goes outside into the 60-degree weather to go hiking, play tennis and soccer, and just generally enjoy the sunshine.

Today was our first day on snow, so we were mostly on our own, getting readjusted to skiing and riding T-bars and trying to remember all the things we were working on improving at Mt. Hood in July. We have two weeks of training here, so in a few days we'll start running courses and by the end we should be taking timed, race-like runs.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

getting ready for Tux

It's October, which means that Northern Hemisphere ski resorts are starting to get new snow. (Some American resorts, like Loveland in Colorado, should be opening pretty soon.) It also means it's almost time for the U.S. team's annual training camp on the glacier at Hintertux, in Austria (live cams: 1 2 3). We depart next Monday, the 16th, and will be there until the 30th. I'm looking forward to being back on snow for the first time since July, and also to being back in the Alps. Most of us on the team have certain things we've come to love about central Europe; for me it's the coffee and the chocolate, and of course the mountains themselves. The only things I'm not looking forward to: (1) the heady manure smell that dominates the Tux river valley until it starts snowing down there, and (2) not being able to watch the World Series on TV.