Day 2:

In full disclosure, one of my besties from college and her boyfriend also came out to Vail last night. This is a “work” trip, but I’m never going to pass up a chance to have some laughs with my best friends. Lesson here: Alcohol + short time at elevation + cross-country-skiing-into-full-dehydration-and-until-you-wanna-die is not a great combo!! Plus I’m sore- all over body aching SORE!

With that as my backdrop going in to Day 2, Dan Weiland, my ski trainer, met me in Minturn, a few miles from Vail, and we carpooled up to Camp Hale. This area is HIGHER than Vail, and apparently we are doing “back country” training today- you know, breaking trail and all that.

Camp Hale is flat…..and then it’s not. We skied along a narrow footpath for a while and then Dan said, “go right and lets break trail across this open field.” It turns out the snow was at least 3 feet deep. Cross country skis floated higher than I imagined and so this was not bad, but we went, and we went, and we went.

I’m thinking, this is that Vail fit thing right, do everything to the extreme. Dan isn’t even breathing hard. Then he skied right and stopped at the top of a steep 14 foot-ish ravine.

“Alison, come here.” Ha ha. Nope, I kept skiing.

“Alison, come here, we are going to cross this. You might find one in Norway.” No (I thought), they don’t have those in Norway, Dan!

Crap. Reality hit me, I have to do this along with many other uncomfortable things to get ready for crossing Norway. The ravine had gushing water at the bottom with sections covered with an ice bridge. We side stepped down. He stepped, I awkwardly slid, picture Bambi on skis, and yelled and made it, yay! He crossed first, testing the bridge with a big stomp, and then I crossed.

Up the other side of the ravine, we found a road and skied. We skied fast, setting a fast pace (slow to him), and skied uphill for a longggggg time. I was beyond exhausted. I faked stops “Oh, I have to take off my jacket now”, and faked another stop “Oh, I have to put my coat back on now” just to keep my heart from exploding. Where was my darn water bottle? Oh, in the car. Rookie mistake. Then, I finally threw in the towel and asked to turn around. We had gone a long way uphill and the view was gorgeous looking down this high mountain valley.

Going down was fun, really fun, all joy. Dan didn’t have to, but of course he did- he took a left off the road and brought us to the top of the same dreaded ravine. Really, I thought? Really after all that uphill torture you are going to do this to me!!??

This crossing was not nearly as elegant. My skies caught branches and I fumbled my way to the bottom. Same thing- Dan found an ice bridge, stomped on it, and crossed, nodding to me, your turn.

So I’m in the middle of the ice bridge when I start to hear the cracking sound. It’s happening, I’m going in. I slide backwards, loud scream, and I’ve dug in my poles to the front portion of the ice bridge, holding on. The back half of my skis are fully in the water and I don’t know when the rest of the bridge is going to give way. Luckily, with x-country skis you have more mobility with your heels coming up. I threw my body forward and somehow managed to pull myself up on the ice bank and save myself from swimming.

It’s easy to get angry and say to my trusted ski coach, “what were you thinking?” But the reality is that Dan knew exactly what he was doing. He was getting me prepared for anything and everything I might encounter in Norway. Dan is an experienced coach who wants to see me succeed, and I appreciated that later.

The good news back at the car was that we basically kept pace of what I need to do in Norway. The feeling of relief as I sat down and gulped water was overwhelming. I made it through the day! It sounds silly, but that day tested me.

Day 3:

This day we went back at the golf course to focus on technique and speed. We spent 1 hour speeding in a cut track with no poles (see pic). And, I made it down the two hills I fell on in my first day of training. I’m happy about that! Progress!

I splurged and got a deep tissue massage because they are the best, best, best.

I leave Vail happy. I hate being away from my family, but this trip was so worth it as I now know what it’s going to take to succeed on the trek. Dan and I talked about the miles I need to log in the meantime, and what to focus on with my trainer back in DC. I will be back to work with Dan again in March.