Archive for February, 2011

Towering snow covered peaks and warm blue skies greeted our team as we drove up the Ridnaun valley last Friday to the site of U-26 Biathlon Championships. Our home for the week is the Schneeberg Hotel, a four star resort complete with a giant spa wing and five course dinners. Do you know the difference between a Finnish Sauna, a Finnish Sauna Vitarium, a Tyrolean Sauna, and a Climate Sauna, and a Caldarium? Neither did I, but I’m learning. The accommodations are amazing, and practically all the teams are staying in this giant hotel. My only complaint is the party tent next door that plays Oompah music all day and pop music late into the night.

The biathlon venue is literally right out the back door and we’ve hardly had to use our van since we got here. Our first race was an Individual format, biathlon’s longest race. Instead of doing penalty laps, each missed target results in a one minute penalty. I had a rough start to the race, missing 5 targets out of the first 10, but cleaned the rest to end up in the top fifteen. Racing action continues tomorrow with relays. My job is to be a super-fan for the day since we don’t have enough women here for a relay team.

“Are we going the right way? This doesn’t exactly look like the Schneeberg…” Kudos to Ethan for maneuvering the rickety Czech rental (a stick shift) up mountainside on very narrow switchbacks. A more amazing achievement: he got us back down again when we dead-ended.

The Schneeberg.

Other USBA athletes who have been to Ridnaun told me I had to find a certain shed full of sleds while I was here. Kelly Kjorlien and I went searching and were rewarded with a ride down the mountainside.

My biathlon teammates had also told me wonderful things about the Schneeberg’s weekly dessert buffet. Grace and I checked it out.

Local children on their way to opening ceremonies. I think all the school children in the valley must have played some role in the ceremonies. The best part was a fairy tale skit featuring a fight scene between knights and very young-looking dwarves.

This giant groomer can set 4 classic tracks at once. Ethan and Raleigh scoped it out and discovered that it has a computerized touch screen in the cab.

On the way to the range, we walk by the Schneeberg’s biomass boiler complex. The wax cabins can be seen in the foreground.

Mixing it up on the sidelines of the guys’ individual race with our friendly neighbors to the north. L to R: Rosanna Crawford, Claude Godbout, Grace Boutot and Corrine Malcolm.

Wynn Roberts grabs a feed from coach Pat Coffey partway through his 20 km.


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Our homebase in Ruhpolding

When I was a college ski racer, February felt crazy. It was the culmination of 6 weeks of winter carnival racing season, in which we raced every Friday and Saturday and missed a day and a half of class every week. Staying healthy, keeping caught up with school work and making time for ski training required super human time management skills. Now, as a full time biathlete with nothing to worry about except training and racing, February is a piece of cake. However, this year there weren’t any February biathlon races on the domestic schedule except for the World Cups.

So what is a biathlete to do? If you are Lauren Jacobs, you make the pilgrimage up to Fort Kent and forerun the World Cup. (Check out a neat article about the TV test race that she helped out with: http://fasterskier.com/2011/02/19-miles-of-cable-and-one-espresso-machine-how-biathlon-gets-on-television/) If you are Hannah Dreissigacker, you prepare to go kick some butt at the Birkie, America’s biggest ski race. If you are a US Junior biathlete, you might decide to stay in Europe following Junior World Championships for a couple extra weeks to race in Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. Another option is to rent an RV or “Wohnwagen” for 3 weeks and follow the German race circuit, which is what the Barnes twins and MWSC’s BethAnn Chamberlain decided on. (Read about their adventures here: http://bambambiathlon.blogspot.com/). Since I already had a plane ticket to Europe for U-26 Championships at the end of the month, I decided I’d fly over a week early and rendezvous with the Juniors and the Wohnwagen posse in Ruhpolding, Germany. A weekend of German Cup racing sounded like a perfect tune-up before heading down to Ridnaun, Italy for U-26s.

Juniors Raleigh Goessling, Casey Smith and Ethan Dreissigacker enjoying a spring-like day from the top of a Bavarian cow pasture.

My friends in the WohnWagen. Notice the impromtu drying rack they created to deal with Ruhpolding's damp weather.

The Guest House that we are staying at has three cats. When we leave our room door open, they like to come in and make themselves at home.

Ruhpolding is a biathlon Mecca. Every January, tens of thousands of spectators descend on this tiny town to watch the World Cup. Biathlon paraphernalia lines the shelves of local shops. Biathlon is Germany’s most popular winter sport and many of their top athletes live in this region. As I was traveling in, I had no shortage of people volunteering to help carry my giant ski bag, rifle case, heavy backpack and overflowing tote bag when I changed trains in Traunstein. They all wanted to know where I was coming from and they wished me good luck in Ruhpolding.

Ruhpolding is the site of the 2012 Biathlon World Championships. I'm hoping to be back next year...

With beautiful rugged mountain peaks on all sides, Ruhpolding is one of my favorite biathlon venues to visit. However, last weekend I understood why the World Cup team nicknamed the town “Rainpolding.” On the first day of the German Cup races, it down poured. We went through several changes of clothes and still were drenched and cold. Nonetheless, it was a successful day of racing.

Dave Gieck flew in from Wyoming to help USBA athletes with race support. Thanks Dave!

We competed in an unusual race format: a sprint race with extra relay rounds. We were allowed to hand-load up to 3 extra bullets to try to knock down missed targets, so very few people had to ski penalty loops. In addition to the Germans, we had a bunch of Brits, a Norwegian, and a Canadian in our race. I had some of my better shooting of the season, requiring only one spare round, and I finished 2nd, one second behind my US teammate Lanny Barnes.

Equipment control volunteers stay dry under cover.

The following day we competed in a mass start. We rarely get to ski in mass starts at NorAm races at home, and never against an international field, so it was a valuable experience. I got a little distracted during the first shooting stage when we approached the range in a big pack, and it caused me to miss 2 targets. I spent the rest of the race playing catch up, but I was able to focus better in the range for the remaining stages. Lanny had another good day and cleaned her fourth biathlon race in a row- that’s 60 consecutive hits during competition.

The American junior men were put into the senior men’s race for the mass start because they would have made the junior’s field too big. Craftsbury’s Ethan Dreissigacker had some of the better shooting of the field during both days of racing. He can be seen here winning the double pole sprint off the starting line in front of German Olympian Michael Rosch (#187).

On Monday, we drove to the town of Schleching to drop off skis at Bauer Rennservice. Muck Bauer gave us a tour of his ski grinding workshop and sports and shoe store. Muck grinds all the US team’s skis. Check out this giant poster of Tim Burke decorating his store.

Watching the Ft. Kent WCs on Eurosport was our favorite entertainment for the first few days. Now that those races are finished, we’ve taken up puzzling. Here Grace Boutot, Casey Smith and Kelly Kjorlien are hard at work.

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A Tribute to Ullr

The way winter should be.

Woke up this morning to yet another foot of new snow and made first tracks behind the Pisten Bully.

Ski jump construction by the BKLers for practice on a powder day 2 weeks ago. Check out the video Hannah made of this event at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUHxDwZO1u8

Lauren sledding down Elinor's field on a scoop shovel. We also did some actual shoveling to perfect trails for the marathon.

Hannah testing out her "new" tele skis and boots from the Outdoor Gear Exchange. Lucas has made a habit of grooming our summer bounding hill in front of the house for this purpose.

The Craftsbury solar array, freshly cleared of snow.

Driving out before the snowplow comes can be a challenge.

The view out our window today.

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