November 24, 2010
Who says the sun doesn’t shine in the winter in northern Finland? Ahvo and Ritva Taipale are on the road to Kuusamo again for the Nordic Opening! The drive up to Kuusamo was one of the most scenic ever. We probably could have taken a few hundred post card pictures. The sun was shining, the sky was spotted with some wispy looking purple, white and pink clouds and the trees are covered in snow with temps currently sitting between -13C and -18C. Ahvo’s job in Kuusamo this time is taking care of “international relations” while I (Ritva) am an attaché (no specific team at this point).
We started the journey on Monday (November, 22nd) from central Finland (well, Ahvo started from Minnesota at the end of last week, but I joined from my current stomping grounds in Jyväskylä on Sunday and we hit the road Monday). For the purpose of “acclimatization”, we first drove about 3 hours north to Vuokatti to ski a few kilometers and adjust to the chillier temps. There we observed (and got schooled by) international caliber skiers from at least Japan, Poland, Russia, Czech Republic, and Finland. We also filled our stomachs with food from the sport institute (urheiluopsito) for the long days of ski racing ahead (spectators have to keep warm!).
The early season trails in Vuokatti are in excellent condition. There is about 8km of hard-packed and lighted trails and the staff in Vuokatti is constantly brining in more snow from the pile they saved up from last year. Much of the rest of the trail system is skiable, but it is currently covered only by natural snow, so while the trails have been rolled, there are still some things (plants, roots, grass) sticking out.
After Vuokatti we continued the trip north with a stop at the Kontio Log home factory in Pudasjärvi for lunch (yes, this is part “international relations” and perhaps some “shameless” advertising too). Next we continued on to Kuusamo… Here, the weather is clear and the trails look great. The place is crawling with skiers, coaches, ski company representatives and media. Tomorrow (Thursday), is an official training day for skiers, ski jumpers and nordic combined (Nordic combined will also ), while the races start on Friday. This year, the Nordic Opening will be a mini “tour” format. Each race counts and at the end, an overall winner will be crowned. Friday will start with the sprint (classic) while Saturday will bring 10km for the men and 5km for the women (classic). Sunday will wrap up the action with a pursuit-format skate race (15km for the men and 10km for the women). Jumping and Nordic combined will be interspersed.
The latest headlines over here tell us that Vincent Vittoz (France) is out with an adductor injury and Petter Northug (Norway) is skipping due to some illness and possible overreaching (he took a whole week off and has just returned to normal training). Aino-Kaisa Saarinen is also out with a shoulder injury, but is keeping up with training and should be back for the WC action in Davos. We will keep an eye on the rest of the bunch and try to keep you all updated (maybe some pictures and a video or two).
Snowy greetings from the north!
Ritva and Ahvo
November 25, 2010
Training day at Ruka. The trails were crowded with skiers, coaches, service people and Ahvo (who was also testing wax). Testing skis, wax and checking out the course profile was the name of today’s game. The weather is perfect. The sun was shining, -13C, light winds, fast tracks (man-made snow). Attachés took care of practical issues today (for example, making sure teams check in their radios) and otherwise scouted out the area. This year I’m with team Norway (Nordic, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined – it will be a busy weekend)
Here are some pictures:
Happy Thanksgiving from Finland!
Ritva and Ahvo