ERZURUM, Turkey — Less than a day remains before the start of the 2012 FIS Junior and U23 World Championships. Despite language barriers and transportation confusion, the excitement at the Kandilli Nordic Ski Center was palpable in anticipation of Monday’s junior freestyle sprints. The sun even came out for the occasion, revealing a mountainous, moon-like landscape that had previously been hidden behind clouds.
Kandilli lies about 40 k to the west of Erzurum, where athletes are staying at the base of the alpine resort. As U.S. junior coach Gus Kaeding put it, the shuttles provided by the organizing committee to and from the venue each day have so far been operating on a “malleable” schedule, but the OC has promised to sort them out in time for Monday’s competitions. Though unreliable, the buses do at least spare most foreign team staff from having to drive on Turkish roads, where drivers generally ignore the rules of the road and liberally use their horns. En route to Kandilli, teams of different nationalities drop their fronts as competitors and bond over their shared experience and perception of Turkish culture thus far.
As fascinating as Turkey is, preparation for this week’s races was at the front of everyone’s minds. The junior freestyle sprint prologue begins at 10:00 am EET, and the heats start at 12:00 pm EET. The women ski a 1.3 k course, and the men 1.6 k. Though none of the race courses contain seriously steep climbs, there are plenty of steady ascents, and at over 5,000 feet above sea level, even the most gradual terrain takes its toll.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.