This spring, instead of concluding the ski season in the traditional klister, slush, and â€˜I’d rather be running’ mentality, the Green Mountain Valley School’s Nordic Team headed across the Atlantic for a change of scenery to test the tracks in northern Italy’s Alps.
For nineteen days the team toured SÃ¼dtirol, training and racing at six beautiful mountain venues. Graciously supported by GMVS’ sister school Sportoberschule, seven athletes and coach Jon Arne Enevoldsen set up base camp at Gasthof Iris in Mals, SÃ¼dtirol. We arrived on Wednesday the 18th of March after a long and exhausting flight, but were all delighted and rejuvenated upon meeting 75 degree sunshine and near perfect snow conditions up in the mountains.
After training and previewing the race course at Schlinig (last year’s Italian National Championship venue) for two days, the team competed in the 7.5/15k skate SÃ¼dtirolian Championships. All of the venues were at altitude (average 2000m), and because in most cases the third day training at altitude is the hardest, we didn’t expect any stellar performances. However, all of us raced exceptionally well and highlighting the day were overall junior victories from Tim Reynolds and Laura Spector, and a second place from Ali Demarchis.
For the next week the team explored the Mals valley, training at Langtaufers, Martell, and Schlinig and preparing for the Italian National Championships in Livigno the next weekend. On our day off we traveled to Bolzano to see the sights and let the girls (including Jon Arne) do a little shopping.
On Friday six of us headed over to Livigno together with the cross country team from Sportoberschule to spectate the 50K Skate. Two GMVS athletes opted to race at the Italian Biathlon Nationals instead and traveled to Martell Valley with the Sportoberschule biathlon team. The two hour drive to Livigno wove across the border through Switzerland and re-entered Italy through a two mile long one-way tunnel under a mountain. It was a beautiful drive to an even more beautiful place. In Livigno, we watched as Giorgia di Centa and Gabriella Paruzzi added Italian National Titles to their already impressive World Cup and Olympic records.
Saturday and Sunday were our turns to race. The weekend began with a 5k/10k skate on a difficult course winding up the side of a mountain. We had perfect weather for both races: cold and sunny in the morning but warming up to 50-60F. Spectators could watch the entire race from the stadium; they followed the skiers up steep hills and down even steeper ones in a 2.5k loop. Laura Spector took top honors for the team by claiming gold in the female Aspiranti category (’88 and ’87). The other athletes were unable to repeat their performances from the previous weekend.
Sunday was the Italian specialty: relays. GMVS entered two teams in the 3x5k and 3x10k cl/cl/sk event. The course was packed with howling fans and skiers, German and Italian blending together in a cacophonous muzzle on our coach’s splits. Even while he ran alongside us, we could barely hear Jon Arne’s information. The races went quite well with our female team (Audrey Bouffard-Nesbitt, Robyn Anderson, Laura Spector) finishing eighth and our male team (JA Enevoldsen, Ryan Kerrigan, Tim Reynolds) ninth out of approximately 25 teams for the girls and guys respectively.
Though difficult to believe, the final week of training delivered even better weather than the rest of the trip. We skipped our scheduled day off to train at Langtaufers in the morning and then ride the alpine lift to the top of the mountain. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun and skiing the alpine hills on skinny skis. Hitting jumps, racing, slalom, and quite a few good spills made the day fly by. The team had such a blast we did the same thing the next day. And the next. We finally took a rest day when it rained, and then traveled to our final races in Rein, about three hours away.
This last weekend of competition was the â€œDreilanderkampfâ€, the three nation championships for juniors. Southern Germany, Austria, and northern Italy all compete in this annual event. The GMVS team stayed in a beautiful hotel with superb views and the best food we ever tasted. The races began on Saturday with a 5/10k skate. Laura Spector and Ali Demarchis finished fifth and sixth and Tim Reynolds was also sixth, just behind his ex-GMVS teammate from Germany, Thomas Ebner.
On Sunday we competed in our last race of the season, a 4x5k relay. In order to make even numbers, GMVS recruited their old-timer coach Jon Arne to race one leg (he almost looks like a junior). GMVS Team A had a solid result after a fast anchor leg by Ryan Kerrigan and snuck into third place. Team B also did well with another strong anchor leg by Zeke Mammouri-Cortez and finished not too far behind in fifth place. It was a great way to end the season, and the team drove back to Mals for one more night on the town before flying out of Munich in the morning.
The Italian expedition was a great way to extend the season and a great experience for all the athletes. We all learned some German and Italian, had great races, great training, and an amazing and unforgettable time overall.
Tim Reynolds is a student and skier at the Green Mountain Valley School, and will attend Middlebury College next year.