I’m waking up to another clear sunny day here in Falls Creek, Australia. The clink of the chair lift is just starting up; Finn Marsland’s apartment, where fellow XC Oregon skier Zach Violett and I, as well as Gaber Lah (Slovenian skier/former Archery Biathlon World champ/Austrian National Team Wax Tech) are staying, is right next to the main lift out of the village. The nordic trails are just a couple steps away as well. Temps dropping to -9 C at night and heating up nicely during the day has made for some sweet spring skiing conditions. Last week a combination of fog, 60 km winds, white-out conditions and jet lag, as well as overdosing on both vegemite and TV coverage of Olympic handball left me hankering for some Bend sunshine, Strictly OG coffee, and a Taco Stand burrito. When the sun decided to show up on Saturday, though, I forgot all about those thoughts. In fact, Aussie sunshine beats Bend sunshine, hands down, judging by the shade of red that Zach’s face attained over the weekend.
Living right by the trails has made skiing twice a day logistically easy, and with a weight room right just a heel skid down the hill, training is pretty well set up.
We hopped in the Australian National Championship races this weekend, which consisted of a 5/10 km skate on Saturday and a 5/10km classic on Sunday. The races counted as Junior Nationals as well, which mainly meant that the traditional intra-continental snowball fight took place after all the races (New South Wales vs. Victoria, I think?). The courses were moderate, but new snow the day before made it hard to tuck and rest anywhere on the course. On the plus side, the soft conditions made it nice on some downhill corners that could have been hairy.
Sunday’s conditions were similarly nice but kick waxing here always seems to be tricky. I’ve learned that the snow is wetter then it looks so I globbed the klister on my skis, maybe going a bit overboard, but I had kick. 5km efforts are hard in August! Not wanting to bury myself in the first kilometer, I concentrated on skiing pretty during both races, especially in the classic race, when I tend to fling technique out the window once I hit the start wand. Aussies are not stingy with their cheering; even us internationals (Czechs, New Zealanders, Frenchmen, Americans, Slovenians, Venezuelans I think that was it) received enthusiastic cheers around the course.
I’m planning to ski the outer loops today, which go around the lake and up on the rolling peaks. Flat light, fog and the lack of trees other than lonely snow gums made it hard to pick out the trail last week. There were a few times that I didn’t even realize that I had missed the downhill s-turns until I was face-down in a snowdrift. Today should be easy though; I just need to remember my camera and some sunscreen.