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Archive for February, 2012

2nd Ski Mountaineering World Cup in the Sicilian Sunshine!

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

When people think of Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island, they often think of sunshine, sandy beaches, sweet cannoli’s, lemon trees, gelato and La dolce vita, the sweet, slow pace of Sicily.

Pure Sicilian Sunshine (Photo from www.stephanmantler.com)

There is also Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in Europe.  Did you know that the first ice cream came from Sicily? Greeks and Romans sent runners  to the top of the Etna slopes to get some snow, which was then sweetened with Sicilian honey,  nuts and berries.

What you probably don’t think of is skiing, a ski-mountaineering World Cup none-the-less. Well, there is in fact skiing on Mt. Etna!  The locals are also passionate about ski mountaineering on this active, unpredictable volcanic peak. The 2nd World Cup, in a 5 world cup series was held on snowy slopes of Mt. Etna, in the dichotomy of the sea against the snow.  Perhaps we were not so different from the runners of roman times, only we racers were running around in lycra race suits and skis on our feet!

Racers in lycra suit on Mt Etna (www.stephanmantler.com)

The night before we arrived, Sicily received over 2meters  of fresh snow. That is over 6 feet for those of you who think in inches!

Officially "snowed under!"

There was so much snow, not only the access road was blocked, but also the chairlifts.

Officially snowed under (parking lot of Mt. Etna Ski area)

Thanks to a hard, working Sicilian road crew, just like Katy and the Big Snow, (a book my boys love), we were able to get to the race. 

The most baffling thing was that even though it snowed 2 meters, there was no powder!

Sicilian Snow Removal

The snow quickly transformed and condensed to hard pack. Skiing down was like skiing in sand, with a layer snow crystals washing over the hard surface, making a very cool swishing noise. I was stoked I could use my new swix poles with super lightweight baskets! Thanks Swix and Michael for prepping them in time!

More great shots from Stephan! www.stephanmantler.com

There was a real rendezvous of nations here for this race, with the top athletes in ski mountaineering circuit from France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. We were welcomed in an opening ceremony of parade of nations. Friday the vertical race was straight up the slopes of the volcan with a boot pack in the middle. This was a nice change from the  the normal straight up against gravity verticals.

Opening Ceremony of Etna World Cup

Talk about extremes. Two weeks ago when I set foot on the starting line it was -20 C, and I was sporting amour for the cold (hand warmers and mittens) and this time a complete opposite of 14 degrees Celsius. The vertical was for me all about the ‘gitter done attitude adopted from the John Deere roots in my own family.

The fight against gravity with a smile on the World Cup Vertical Race

The vertical was a pure fight against gravity, one of the steeper verticals I have done. I managed to find some  power at the boot pack and kept thinking of Anders message to me to have a happy race and finish with a smile.

from my budding little optimist

Sicilians are on Sicilian time, not Swiss time, much to the dismay of the heavily present Swiss team. It is a refreshing change  to the hubbub of today’s modern pace and one we all can all meditate on in a full breath. Briefings starting 30 minutes late, starts delayed due to traffic mayhem on the access road, no problemo. Tranquillo….just breathe…

A race with a view (photo:www.stephanmantler.com)

Saturday the heat was on and I was ready. Plenty of Hammer Nutrition Heed in my camelbak, check  Sporting my white national team suit to avoid melting in the hot sun! check . Once again, yours truly, finds her pace at the middle of the first climb. This course was not so long (1450m) with2 long climbs, and not so technical up or down so it favored those who are good climbers and difficult to gain much on the descents. I did managed to find my power on the 2nd climb and had some clean and fast transitions, passing 3 WC women, 3 FISI women, finishing 9th overall WC,  in the 82% from the winner, a drastic improvement from last year.

You don't get many downhills like these! (photo www.martinavalmassoi.com/)

Nina on the 2nd downhill on the individual course (photo http://martinavalmassoi.com/)

Adventuring to the top of the Mt Etna Crater with my austrian teammate Veronika after the race was a highlight of the trip, reaching the snow summit and looking out towards the sea  in the distance breathing in the two

Looking out towards the sea

Here are some photos from the journey to the summit.

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The ski down was spectacular! We descended over 2000 meters on soft spring snow, weaving our way through lava rocks along the way and hitched out way back to town.

 Sunshine thoughts from Sicily: 

Yoga in the Sicilian Sunshine

Sunshine strength, fresh -infused new energy,  friendships, pace for a lifetime, relish siestas in the sun, take time to read, balance, yoga in the sunshine, smile .

Mission Accomplished-Finishing with a smile (photo www.stephanmantler.com)

 

So that is it from Sicily.  

 

Next skimo world cup just 1 week away, Lagorai Cima d'Asta, Italy! (photo: www.martinavalmassoi.com/)


The Heat is on in the Alps!

Monday, February 20th, 2012
Staying warm in the winter chill

Arctic temperatures have blanketed the Alps these last 2 weeks, some mornings with the thermometer reading -19 C (-2 F)!  Growing up in Vermont and Maine  these frosty temps are quite common in January. Back then I grew tired of freezing my tail off at the top of a GS course. Not only did I soon switch over to a more aerobic sport , cross country skiing, to keep my engine warm  but also moved to a sunnier state, Colorado. Now I have switched over to another sport, ski mountaineering which keeps my heart and mind equally warm.

Sunshine warms the heart

I have had a little break in the World Cup calendar. Despite the Siberian temps, I have bundled up just like we did when we were kids,and headed for the mountains on my own, with friends and with my family, all heartwarming and important moments to stay balanced.

Enjoying warm winter moments as a Family

Perhaps it’s only in ski towns in France that when teachers strike and there is no school, kids go skiing! These two weeks I took advantage of having some more time to pump up the volume in my training logging more than 15,000 meters of climbing in 2 weeks, but also get out find some new terrain that I had not skied before. I headed out with a friend one day  up the Col de la Floria, a good climb from the valley floor to the top (1440+meters) There was a nice long boot pack at the top and a great steep ski coming down. Another time I explored the, Aiguille de la Gliere Nord, once again a great varied climb, boot pack, with an impressive view to the other side. It is these kind of days in the mountains that bring me warmth and a smile.

Heading to the Hills

I managed to get in some good races as well in these 2 weeks. I squeezed in 2 Mountain Ski tour uphill victories ( Flaine and Les Contamines), both excellent for my own uphill climbing but also really fun ambiance.  I did not have these on my calender but decided to go as there were not only good training opportunities but also a great chance to see another part of the Alps and go with other from my local Chamonix Ski Mountaineering club. The Tour de Grand Veymont in the Vercours region of France was also the CAF (Club Alpine Francais) national championships. This time artic temps prevailed. Mittens and hand warmers were the ticket. It was a gorgeous course, a great sunday out as a club and I came home with the win for the women and the CAF national champion title.

Tour de Grand Veymont & Trophee de Gastlosen

 The Trophee de Gastlosen is the 2nd largest race in Switzerland next to the famous Patrouille des Glaciers, with over 1200 participants. Two years ago this race was a world cup and I raced with my USA teammate and pal lyndsay. It was the first team race of the year for me with 2300 meters of climbing. I raced in Chamonix Club mixed team.  We placed 23rd overall out of 210 teams with a time of 2h53 reaching our goal of being the first mix team and also breaking three hours. It was probably the coldest temps I have ever raced in with the thermometer around -21 C. at the start but the great backdrop of the Gastlosen mountains and the technical climbs and descents kept me moving and made for an excellent day.

 

Warm moments together

Now it’s tapering time for the next world cup which will be held on the active volcano of Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy. on February 24 and 25th. This volcano has been rather active these past few months so it will surely be an interesting race! See this article for pics and news. Surely the HEAT will be on in Etna.

Staying warm

This is a great time for everyone to slow down, breathe, and rejuvenate together.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”—

Anne Bradstreet