Ski racing in Europe is spoiling us all. Not what you expected me to tell you?
Let me explain. The weather is perfect. The sun is always shining and the snow is typically of the hero variety. In the two months I’ve spent in Italy, only three days delivered less-than-perfect weather, only because of a light snowfall or a bit of fog. Despite the lack of natural snowfall this season in the Dolomites, all of the slopes are in great condition. The man made snow here is nothing like the East Coast: bally, chalky, and poorly groomed, but perfect hero snow that held up even as I started bib 96 last week.
While I’ve been here, I don’t think I’ve skied the same hill more than three times. We train different hills daily, forcing us always to adapt and change our style slightly. Going from a steep hill that was watered overnight, to a parking lot of a GS hill with fresh, soft snow in a matter of two days is exactly the challenge we all need as athletes. It’s also ridiculously fun; there is always a new area to explore and a new view to fall in love with.
Racing in Europe has forced a different type of racer to come out in all of us. It’s a completely different mental game. We show up to a race knowing nothing: what the hill is like, who the girls are, how many girls will be racing, what the penalty will be, etc. The only option left in this situation is to just ski, without any expectations clogging our brains. Except we better be prepared to bring it.
They say that in Europe the racer running last thinks she’s going to win, and it’s true. The fields may or may not be stacked. So far we’ve been to races with only 23 girls starting, and we’ve also been to races with over 100 starters, where the difference between 35 and 45 points means 40 bibs. But regardless, to score at a race in Europe, we have to ski faster than ever before. It’s challenging, but a great habit that we are all developing. From what I’ve witnessed so far, every one of the 15 girls on the team has grown as an athlete and a person. Though it may not be showing in all of our results just yet, I’m positive it will eventually, as we take new challenges, experiences, and knowledge into the rest of our careers, regardless of what direction that may be.