Wyoming to Bruson!

Easy skiing on Teton Pass with new Wyoming friends.

Easy skiing on Teton Pass with new Wyoming friends.


This is a long post but it covers from Christmas though a road trip to Wyoming and all the way to Bruson, Switzerland!
US Team Qualifiers in Wyoming
After the long solo drive to Colorado for the first set of U.S. Team qualfiying races, the road trip to Jackson Hole seemed easy. Just 12 hours from Vancouver and with my new travelling companion Kate, we broke the trip into two easier days. We arrived to full on winter in Jackson and were greeted by skimo friend and teammate Meredith Edwards who arranged for us to stay with some friends of hers (thanks Mike and Dave!).

Jackson is a bit like an Old West themed Whistler Village so it felt a bit like home but also a bit strange. We spent two weeks skiing around the area with old friends and a bunch of new ones. One of the unexpected coolest parts about my Colorado trip was meeting new people and being introduced to the skimo crew in each town I visited. This trip was no different and that was certainly the highlight for me. We didn’t tick off any super epic ski days – it really was a time for some specific workouts and then a lot of rest – but we did have a ton of fun skiing in Grand Teton National Park, Teton Pass, Snow King, and at the resort.
The race field at Grand Targhee.

The race field at Grand Targhee.

After two weeks of skiing and resting, all of the sudden it was two days until the race. My parents arrived in Jackson then as well so all of the sudden it was quite busy getting ready to go!

Saturday was an early wakeup to drive across the border into Idaho for the individual race at Grand Targhee. The race starts up some steep groomed runs but the skinning was good and I settled into 4th place before the first transition. Heavy snow and warm temps and then rapid cooling meant the descents were frozen trenches and chunder and without the sun to warm the snow, they were very difficult. I’m not the best skier and I knew that Max and Marshall – two VERY good skiers – were close behind so I skied as hard as I could and then charged on the uphills. When I crested the last climb with still a descent gap, I knew I just had to hold it together for the finishing descent down a groomed run. I finished 4th – my best result in a big US race and one I am stoked about considering the strength of the field.
Saturday afternoon was the sprint race at Snow King. We had a quick shower, lunch, and some food then it was off to the qualifier. I qualified 2nd thanks to some of the top guys deciding they wanted to save themselves for Sunday’s race and moved on the the final where I was slow off the line but worked my way back up into third.
Ripping skins during the Jackson Hole Race

Ripping skins during the Jackson Hole Race

Sunday was the Jackson Hole race. Previous years were marked by bitter cold temperatures and hospital visits for frostbite so I think everyone was a bit nervous. The warm temps continued however and it was quite reasonable. While the race starts on a groomed run, after about 25min you start up steep untracked mogul runs that are very difficult to skin up efficiently. My strength is on good skin tracks where I can use my Nordic ski technique to kick and glide. I don’t do as well on steep technical ground. I settled into my pace and watched a few skiers drop behind me and was passed by one. The race is a long one and by the final climb I was certainly starting to slow. I finished 6th – still a good result and about where I would place myself.

We had to quickly say goodbye to all our US friends and Kate and I hopped into the car for the drive back home. We wanted to maximize the short week we had back in BC.
My races in Wyoming solidified my 7th place placing in the US Team ranking and earned me a spot on the World Championships team in the Teams and Vertical events (just the top four will race the individual).
Short trip home to Squamish
Summit of Snowspider Peak on the Duffy Lake Road

Summit of Snowspider Peak on the Duffy Lake Road

We arrived back in Squamish and after a big laundry and gear sorting session, headed out for a few days of skiing in Whistler and on the Duffy Lake Road. Nick and I skied Snowspider Peak – commonly done in a few days using the two huts along the way but rarely done car to car in a day. Paul, Will, and I had an awesome day skiing a handful off slack country lines behind the Blackcomb Ski Resort. Andrea had to work most of the week but we did get out for a tour in the Mariott Basin area with Nick and Karina. We also had a fun Chilli night the night before my flight and it was good to say goodbye to my Squamish friends.

My last day in Squamish was packing and repacking to get my duffle and ski bag each under 50lbs. It’s funny now as I write this that I have already identified a handful of things I shouldn’t have brought along. Oh well. Andrea dropped me off at the airport in Vancouver and we said goodbye for a short two weeks until she joins me in Switzerland!
Packing for Europe

Packing for Europe

Andorra World Cup
Flying to Geneva was not as terrible as I was expecting (thanks to our horrible 2012 flights to and from Nepal) and I managed to sleep a bit and watch a few movies. I also got a decent amount of work done. Landing in Geneva, I had about 6 hours to kill while I waited for Kate’s flight to arrive. I headed to the rental car company and they told me the car I had reserved was not ready so they had a different one for me and that one would be ready tomorrow. I was not stoked to come back to the airport the next day but it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. I picked up the gar and started into the nearest village for some food and quickly realized that I had no idea what any of the road signs meant and don’t speak any french. The most confusing thing was that the centreline here is white so it always feels like I might be going the wrong way on a one-way. I found a bar and managed to order some tea and killed time until I could pick up Kate.
Melanie Bernier (CAN) scoping out the individual race in Andorra.

Melanie Bernier (CAN) scoping out the individual race in Andorra.

We spent the night in Vevey, Switzerland, and then picked up our car in the morning on the way to Chamonix. We had two nights in a hostel there and skied in the Argentiere basin. Chamonix is everything I was hoping for and more. I am definitely looking forward to spending some more time there later in the spring. The granite spires are bigger and more imposing that I imagined and the glaciers are huge, twisting, and broken up.

From Chamonix, we headed to Le Flumet to pickup Canadian fast girl Melanie Bernier and then pressed on to Andorra – a small country on the border of Spain and France. The venue for our first World Cup races, Andorra was the site of the 2013 World Championships and it was nice to have Mel along to show us where to go. The World Cup featured an individual race on Saturday and a vertical event on Sunday.
IMG_2828We got a few hours of skiing the individual course in on Friday and then headed back to the hotel in town for internet and rest. Apparently when a hotel has internet in Andorra that really just means they have it in the lobby. Internet has been a major issue for this trip. I thought wifi would be more prevalent but in these smaller mountain villages it is not. I’m quite thankful that my cell does generally get reception. I don’t get enough service to use the internet but can get messages and check email.
Saturday’s individual race was shortened due to significant new snow and wind (raising the avalanche danger) though the course did still feature some fun climbing and skiing. I lined up at the back of the field – not sure where I fit in – and after a few comments from the organizer in French, we were off. I was anticipating a blistering fast and rough start so was pleasantly surprised to find myself keeping up with the guys around me. It was still a bit more ‘elbows up’ racing than a typical North American race however. I settled into a good pace with some Swiss and French racers. We completed the first two climbs well and then started up the third climb – a monster of around ~600 meters.
IMG_2939I was anticipating a short race like they had announced and pushed hard to move up a few places on the big climb and then on the following short climb to the finish area. I gave everything I had to move up and was skiing well as we entered the stadium area. I couldn’t see the finish area anywhere but saw skiers ahead of me skiing up and out of the stadium towards the monster climb. I realized then that the french instructions were that the race had been extended and included a second lap of the big climb. So, after doing my finishing kick, I started again up for a second ~45min lap. With no gel or water left, I started bleeding places about halfway though and limped my way into the finish second to last.
I was a bit disappointed with my result and talking to some of the other racers, they were also unaware of the change of course. Despite the lack of communication by the race organizers, it was still an awesome race. The course was cooler than any I have raced on and the skin tracks were decent. We chowed down at the communal lunch full of ski stars and bee-lined for our beds.
I was pretty excited for the vertical race on Sunday. During Saturday’s race I found myself stronger on the climbs but getting passed by other skiers on the descents. In a uphill only race, I figured I could do a little better. The race was relatively flat but still featured a lot of vertical gain so I was able to put to use my Nordic technique. I lined up in the back 3/4 of the pack and we started hard again. I was very briefly ahead of Killian when his ski popped off and he had to stop to put it back on. Once he got going again though, he put on a quick sprint and passed the entire field again before we even reached the next switchback. It was a quick realization that even though we were in the same race, there were two separate races going on…
Vertical races are relatively boring. You just grind uphill as fast as you can without puking for 45min. Not much drama to report. I finished 45th – a big step up from the day before. One minute faster and I would have moved much further up the field. A promising sign. I managed not to puke and then met Mel and Kate to ski down.
Pre-World Championships
We drove through the night to get to Mel’s apartment in Manigod and stayed there and slept in late. Then we drove though Chamonix to the small village of Bruson, near Verbier where we will be staying for the next few weeks.
We have been in Bruson for about a week now. It is quite nice as we have a kitchen and laundry and can ski out the door up to the nearest resort via a nice skin track in the woods. We can also drive directly up to the resort or down across the valley to Verbier where the Worlds races are going to be held.
It has been snowing most of the days we have been here which is nice because the snow situation was not so great before we arrived. It does make the driving a bit unpleasant sometimes though. We have a car with snow tires now though which makes a big difference. We did have one sunny day and were able to link up with a Swiss Team skier who showed us around the Teams race course at Verbier. It is going to be a huge race. A long one with lots of vertical and technical skiing. I can’t wait.
Pascal racing at Torgon SkiAlpi

Pascal racing at Torgon SkiAlpi

This weekend, I have been feeling a bit under the weather so have bee laying low but the rest of the group (Kate, Mel, Pascal plus the newly arrived Canadian, Travis) decided to race a Swiss Cup race called the Torgon SkiAlp. As the only driver, I had to tag along despite not racing but got the chance to bring along the big camera and take some photos of the race. Pascal taught me how to say in French ‘I am an American magazine photographer here for the race, can I please ride the ski lift’ and I managed to get a quick ride up to the summit to watch the race unfold.

Now we have one more week until World Championships start. The American and Canadian teams are trickling into the area so it is good to meet up with everyone and Andrea and Nick will be coming in a day or two. I’m hoping my cold disappears quickly and the sun starts to come out so we can do some more exploring of the course before the races start.
Thats all for now! I’ve been posting more pics and minor updates on my Facebook page here.

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