Austria

Where to start, where to start… This is the toughest part about blogging for me; deciding how to get the ball rolling without losing readers in the first paragraph (please don’t go, exciting things have been happening!).  It would be easy enough to go for the “Last week I…”  intro, but I’d probably bore myself and never finish writing the post.  I’m not a big fan of starting with apologies for how long it’s been since I last posted, or how I promised to update sooner, either.  I mean, I’m not offended when someone else doesn’t update for a while – it probably means they’re out doing blogworthy things rather than sitting around blogging about not so blogworthy things (stay with me, this is a worthwhile post – I think).  An ideal opening (IMO) would be some sort of witty one liner or quip… but since I’m still shaking off jetlag and the bells have just stopped echoing through my head, I can’t say I’m in the best state of mind to say much of anything clever.  Alright lets go –

When most North Americans say “I want to travel in Europe!”, and you ask them where they want to visit they either i) don’t actually know, ii) want to ‘see a bit of everything’, or iii) want to check out the UK, France or Italy.  At least that’s the impression I get.  I’d probably be in the first group; as long as I end up somewhere where there isn’t too much political uprising or warring, has nice scenery, and is well cultured, I’d be happy.  Lo and behold should I be fortunate enough to land myself in just such a place on my first try!

Ahoy there, friends – I’m in Austria!

Travel started last Wednesday on the 17th and we arrived in our host town, Schladming, on the evening of the 18th.  For a number of people on the team, including myself, this was the first time flying over the Atlantic to Europe.  Despite all being slightly disoriented from time change, and drowsy from travel & lack of sleep (a strict no-napping policy was established once we got off the plane to help adjust to the new time zone), we were able to safely make our way down the German freeways and through the winding roads and tunnels of Austria.

I’m not a big fan of the actual travelling process.  The novelty of air travel rapidly wore off when my luck ran out and my standby tickets left me landlocked on a number of occasions this past year.  So I guess you could say I like the idea of travelling better than the travel itself – at least in the case of flying.  Driving isn’t so bad, at least you can stop and step out of the car to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.  Another plus when driving somewhere new is being able to take in the scenery – which, here in Austria, is pretty amazing.

Schladming is a niche little community of around 5000 people, tucked away in the Liezen district mountains of Austria (thanks wiki, no thanks for not making it obvious that these are the Alps though).  Hopefully it makes sense when I say this place is very ‘Euro’ – the architecture of the buildings, the narrow winding roads, the roundabouts, the balconies and terraces, the cows, the spontaneous church bells… very Euro, very touristy.   Now I’m not the best tourist, but I have managed to snap a few pictures here in town and up on the Dachstein since I’ve arrived. You can check them out at the end of the post.

This trip is not only my first visit to Europe, but also my first time glacier skiing.  According to my teammates, the Dachstein glacier is nothing like the Haig glacier, and that I’m being spoiled rotten for my first year on the team.  ahh well, what can I do?

I’ve been very impressed so far.  The Dachstein isn’t just a remote block of ice and snow hidden in some relatively unexplored mountain range like I kind of expected; it’s actually a comprehensive tourist site that offers a few downhill runs, a terrain park, mountaineering and climbing tours, hiking, an ice castle – oh and a groomed cross country track (can’t forget those).  I’m so impressed.

Training so far has been pretty good. We spent our first week here getting adjusted to the new training environment and being on snow for the first time in a few months. In the morning we drive from Schladming along a switchback road – where you’re thrown around the back of the van like a rag doll, through Ramsau – where they have more SkiWilly stores than there are FreshAir stores in Canada, and up to the Dachstein cable car – which carries you up the the glacier.  The glacier itself is at about 2600m elevation, so our time spent skiing is reserved for endurance workouts while intensity and strength are done down at lower altitudes.  We have about two weeks left of our trip and are just getting into the bulk of the training load now.

Although we are here for a training camp, and the main goal is to put in some quality work, it’s also important that we enjoy other aspects of being here in Europe. On Monday we took a break from being athletes and decided to be tourists for the day.

The day trip down to Salzburg proved to be very enjoyable and full of surprises.  I had a few ‘encounters’ with elderly ladies and street pedlars which were… interesting… but the biggest surprise of all was an impromptu NDC TBay vs. FC Salzburg street football game – soccer if you’re from NA.  The game of 4-on-4 was staged right in front of the Mozart statue, with the RedBull trucks all set up, the music was blaring, the German commentator giving everyone an earful, and spectators lined up around the courtyard, it was quite an affair.  The boys held their own and put up a 1-1 tie until some other civilians to subbed in to try their hand  try their feet against the pros.  All in all a very entertaining and refreshing day.

Now it’s back to training and I’m looking forward to getting some solid on snow time in and banging out some quality workouts.  This trip, so far, has been fantastic.  There’s been a lot of laughs and a real sense of camaraderie between everyone on the team, which really makes it easy to feel like you belong and that you’re part of something (cue emotional reaction).  It also makes it easy to forget about my biological family and neglect to keep them in the loop with what I’m up to – sorry mom.

Anyways, best wishes to the Ontario Ski Team who are also on their way to Europe and will be skiing in the Oberhof ski tunnel in Germany for the next week or so, and to everyone back home – I haven’t forgotten about you!  Thanks for reading, here are some pictures from the trip so far.

Looking down onto the track

Streets of Schladming

Gondola building at the bottom

Looking down from the top of the gondola

wow, what a fine looking ski.

Alannah’s not a fan of heights. I’m stoked.

On our way to check out downtown Salzburg

Looking down on Salzburg from the castle

The guys duking it out with some pro footballers

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