I finally made it across the pond to ski in the States. You’d think that after 8 years in international racing and 6 years of full-time racing that I’d have made the trip, but with so many races and training options in Europe the occasion never came up. I have noticed that skiing in America seems to come with a few differences to skiing in Europe.
Firstly, the cold. Not like “I’m a bit chilly today”; it’s like I can’t feel my feet, my face or my legs and I think the tip of my nose has snapped off. The other day my teammate proudly showed me a blister on her toe due to frostbite, as if the goal was too have the least number of toenails rather than the lowest FIS points. I have learned that heated socks are my best friend, always wear double thermals, and never leave the lodge without your ski trousers on.
Once you’ve got over every part of your body going numb, you then have to realise that all those hours spent in the gym and out on the road bike feel completely redundant when you need an inhaler after running up the stairs. Living at 9000ft and skiing up at 12000ft makes your lungs feel like an asthmatic chain smoker. It saps the oxygen from your muscles too so even if you’re squatting twice your body weight, you’ll feel like a bodybuilder on leg day after a couple of runs. The positive is that once I get back to Europe and I’m skiing around at a decent altitude, I’m going to feel better than Lance Armstrong during his prime.
Although its cliché that everything in America is bigger than in Europe it is very pleasant to turn up to a house where people over 5ft4 can get a good night’s sleep. When you share a bed with a teammate you can make it through the night without spooning and you don’t end up with your skis lined up in the shower due to a lack of storage space. And as an extra bonus, I can get my daily footstep count in just by walking between my bedroom and the kitchen.
Continuing on from bigger is better: I’ve been out for breakfast twice in the past week. Now this may not sound odd but in Europe breakfast is not a big deal. Most Italians have their espresso out every morning and the French nip down to the bakery for their baguette on the daily. Here in America it’s an event. Something to get the team together and bond: it means eating your body weight in pancakes, eggs and bacon and chugging coffee like your life depended on it. Not that I’m complaining, downhill diet all the way but I don’t feel like it’s very sustainable…
Another huge positive to skiing in the US is a lack of small children in the lift lines who’s only goal is to trample on your skis, wheedle their way through your legs and do everything in their power to make sure they get on that lift before you. We all know that is what will make them the next Shiffrin and Hirscher. American skiers are a very encouraging bunch. I’ve yet to push out start gate without hearing “you’ve got this, you go girl”. I’m sure they are just as competitive as Europeans but their tactic seems to be “kill them with kindness…” us Europeans can be a bit uptight (who hasn’t avoided making eye contact with the Austrian team out of fear?!) so it is refreshing to be around a nation of girls who you can have a good laugh with, who encourage friendly competition and still make you ski faster because they can arc like Ligety and send it like Lindsey.