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The view from our back porch. 1:30am. April 12, 2011. Exposure: 45 min. Photo: Matt Trueheart.
Years ago, NCAA skiing used to combine cross country, alpine, and ski jumping. Individuals could compete in one or all disciplines, but the best overall skier in all disciplines was considered the “Skimeister.” Unfortunately, in the age of specialization, we no longer have true Skimeisters. This past weekend in Vermont, however, afforded the opportunity for everyone to become a skimeister with ideal conditions on both the alpine slopes and nordic trails. Did I mention that it’s already April?!
Jake Whitcomb and Matt Trueheart get after it on skinny skis at Bread Loaf (yes, Patty, that’s two words). The grooming was impeccable and I ripped around on my new pair of Salomon Zero skis with a synthetic base for a kick zone–all the joy of klister skiing with none of the clean-up.
Out on the trail, we ran into environmentalist, writer, and Midd Prof. Bill McKibben and Middlebury Ski Team coach Andrew Gardner. The crew at Bread Loaf did a great job with the trails and groomed the Forest Road all the way to Ripton–a trail I’ve never skied before.
It was one of those days you dream about all summer, waiting for the snow to fall again.
McKibben and Gardner somehow dropped the much younger Whitcomb/Trueheart duo as they cruised beneath Bread Loaf mountain.
Does it get any better than a day like that?
Of course! Sunday was, in fact, even better as the temps rose and the sun came out. We opted to pull out the Alpine boards and head up the mountain to the Snow Bowl.
For some reason, they closed both Bread Loaf and the Snow Bowl after this weekend, despite one of the deepest snow bases in decades. I look forward to getting back into the mountains to hike up, earn some turns, and soak up the rays as we move further into April. Did I mention they got more snow last night?
The coming weekend might turn into a winter triathlon of nordic, alpine, and a lot of biking. . .the newest version of the Skimeister.
The trip from Wisconsin to Vermont was swift and uneventful. It’s pretty cool to still be able to pack all of my belongings (including two bikes and a lot of skis) into a Volkswagon and point it East. The journey took me through Madison to drop some things off at the CXC office with Yuriy and bid adieu to the old CXC Team van, which is also getting replaced.
The drive through Chicago was pleasant for the first time I can remember (though I wish I could’ve taken the Lake Express instead!). The traffic rolled smoothly and other than getting (quite literally) nickel and dimed at the tolls, the drive went smooth.
The biggest excitement along the way was seeing signs for Middlebury about 1000 miles earlier than I had anticipated!
And we all know that Bristol, my final destination, is only about 14 miles north of Midd. . .
Unfortunately, Bristol, Indiana is still a long way from Bristol, Vermont (and even further from Bristol, Tennessee).
I made a pit stop in Cleveland, Ohio and met up with the Hilltoppers XC — the youth division of Ohio Nordic. They are one of the most enthusiastic clubs I’ve come across, especially considering they are the only Nordic club within a couple of states. This was my third visit to Ohio Nordic and they keep bringing new skiers on board. It was about 60 degrees and sunny during my visit and not a flake of snow in sight, but we had fun talking skiing and checking out slides from life on the road. I’m already looking forward to my next visit when we can actually get out on skis or roller skis.
I finally made it out to Vermont after two full days on the road. . .and that’s when the real adventures started.
I’ve let the suspense build here at garrottkuzzy.com for long enough. In case you haven’t heard already, I recently took a job in Bristol, Vermont with VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. For some reason, I must really be attracted to companies with acronyms. After five years of explaining, people were finally becoming familiar with the acronym “CXC.” Now I’m explaining the acronym VBT instead. (VBT originally stood for Vermont Bike Tours, but the company has since expanded to bicycling and walking tours around the world). The new job started yesterday on April 1 (no fooling!).
The past couple of weeks since my trip to Switzerland have been spent packing and moving from Hayward to Vermont. It’s great to finally get settled with a day at work under my belt. The job with VBT is a year-round administrative position in Leader Operations, helping to ensure that all of VBT’s trip leaders are equipped to run the best trips possible. I’ll be learning a lot more about the company and the job in the coming weeks and months, but so far my experience has been very positive.
The decision to make the transition from full-time ski racer to an office job wasn’t easy. However, the opportunity to move back to Vermont and work in the bike and tourism industry was simply too good to pass up. My past five years in Hayward with the CXC Team have been awesome. It’s been exciting to actively participate and witness first-hand the growth of CXC Skiing and the excitement for skiing in the Midwest. The people I’ve met and worked with have been awesome. There are countless people who have helped me along the way. Specifically: Yuriy Gusev, Director of CXC, was instrumental in building the team and making everything happen behind the scenes. Bryan Fish, my coach for four years, taught and demonstrated what it means to truly work hard and innovate with complete focus. Fish provided every possible opportunity to take skiing as far as I possibly could and have a lot of fun along the way. Scott and Kay Wilson opened their doors to me and my teammates at Cresthill Resort where I lived for the past five years and provided the ideal training location in the woods of Northern Wisconsin. A big thanks to Yuriy, Bryan, Scott and Kay, among countless others, for their dedication and support of my endeavors!
The previous paragraph might read like I’m hanging up my skis for good. On the contrary; I’m thrilled to continue skiing, running, biking, and about a hundred other activities (like weekly yoga classes for VBT employees) while I’m here in Vermont. My roommates out here coach some of the local ski teams and clubs and I’m looking forward to helping them as well. Who knows what else will be in store. For now, it’s time to move forward.
What will become of g-kuz.com you ask? Well, it’s called “garrottkuzzy.com,” not “garrottskis” or anything else to that tune, so I look forward to continuing to share my photos, stories, and thoughts. My contact info will all continue to stay the same. As always, don’t hesitate to send on your thoughts, questions, and ideas. Stay tuned!
Crust cruising is one of my favorite kinds of skiing. Crisp, early morning temperatures allow you to cruise on top of the crust. Then the rising sun creates warmer temps and t-shirt skiing. Yesterday, we celebrated what would be Wayne Fish’s 62nd birthday with a quintessential spring ski into the Porcupine State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Bryan Fish organized the ski at Wayne’s request to keep the 15+ year tradition alive after Wayne passed away only a month ago. There was a great turnout for the 60km crust cruise into the park on a combination of ski trail, snowmobile trail, beaver dams, and stairs to the top of the lookout over Lake Superior. Everyone came prepared and the ski went off without a hitch, except for the fact that Bryan forgot his Dad’s remains, meant to be spread during the ski. “Oh well,” Bryan said, “guess we’ll have to come back again next year!”
Bryan, Bill, and I left Hayward early in the morning while the full moon was still illuminating the sky. We arrived in the Porkies a little early and had a chance to check out the ice flows on Lake Superior.
The crew came from all corners of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Here, Bill, Bryan, Tom, Dan, Phil, Paul, Mark, and Jon get ready for the 60km adventure ahead of them to ski to the high point of Porcupine State Park.
Although some sections were a little bare, we the sun was shining and the trail was faster than anyone anticipated.
According to the map, the trail was all uphill on the way to the summit. Somehow, it felt like it was all uphill on the way back, too, when the slow snow forced us to use a lot of V1.
The crust skiing over the beaver dams was awesome and we used each dip in the snow to milk as much speed as possible out of the terrain.
Bryan Fish, leading the charge.
At the summit, we enjoyed a spectacular view of Lake Superior and a moment of silence in memory of Wayne.
Things slowed down a bit on the way back and the trail played a real optical illusion. Somehow, the trail ahead looked like it went uphill. When you looked behind you, the trail looked like it went uphill as well! Guess that’s what happens 60km into a 5 hour ski.
We ended the ski at Lake Superior and played out on the ice drifts. What a day.
Of course, after skiing all day, we had to refuel at Henry’s Inn in Rockland, Michigan for their Allll-You-Can-Eat Saturday evening buffet. This was my second trip to Henry’s. This time, I was a little smarter than the first and paced myself through the buffet to avoid what our waitress dubbed: “The Henry’s Hurt.”
Like any good buffet, Henry’s places a much greater emphasis on their dessert selection than their entrées.
I opted for a banana split, with a cherry on top, to cap off a memorable day of skiing. Thanks to Bryan for organizing and to Wayne for starting the Porkies ski tradition and some great memories.
Back home in Minneapolis after a stellar week in St Moritz. Surprisingly, the 40 degree and sunny weather here doesn’t feel much different than in Switzerland.
Check out this Swiss video from the Engadin last Sunday, specifically from 1:15 to 1:35. Check out that tall, lanky American sitting in the draft of eventual race winner, Remo Fischer, at about 20km into the race.
I’m off to Wisconsin for a fish fry tonight, then to the Porkies for the Wayne Fish memorial ski tomorrow morning. Looks like a great weekend ahead!
The 2011 Engadin Ski Marathon is in the books. I’ll post a full race recap once I return home, detailing my breakaway with eventual race winner Remo Fischer, as well as some other stories. For now, I’ll share some photos and brief commentary of the race day festivities.
Skis were prepped and powdered the morning before the race. Surprisingly, there was much less stress about waxing for this race than there seems to be for the Birkie. By 7pm when I walked past the wax room, everyone was done waxing and in the restaurant enjoying dinner and the company of their companions.
Race day itself, I felt like everyone was being herded like cattle: onto the bus, to the bag drop, into the start pen, and off on course. None-the-less, being around 11,000 other skiers from around the world is pretty cool. I also ran into a number of friends, both American and Swiss, and even made a few out on course.
Post-race is all about refueling and re-hydrating. Also, you don’t want to forget to get your Passport stamped. Here, Worldloppet Master Scott Ackatz gets his Passport stamped for his second tour of the Worldloppet circuit.
These were two of the friendliest “customs agents” I’ve ever met. Pretty standard here in Switzerland.
After the race, we avoided the crowds and walked to the Scaletta (the Engadin equivalent of the Moccasin) in S-chanf for some drinks and pizza.
Don’s old friend and owner of the Scaletta made sure we were taken care of on all fronts.
While it ain’t no Ideal Market we enjoyed some post-race brick-oven pizza. Mamma mia, pizza pie-a!
From here, the crew is off on a variety of adventures. Don’s off to Bormio and Aga’s off to Lugano; both are meeting up with friends for a few days before meeting with CXC Masters Oyvind Solvang and Dennis Kruse in Lillehammer for the Norwegian Birkebeiner. Jim and I are off to Zurich tomorrow, then have to bid adiu to Switzerland and head home to Wisconsin.
It’s been an eventful and successful, albeit much too brief, week in St Moritz. Thanks for following our adventures and, to anyone we’ve met this week, don’t hesitate to send an email and say hi: garrottkuzzy @ yahoo.com. Onward!
We spent our pre-race rest day expanding our recreational horizons, testing wax, and setting the World Land Speed record on the sledding hill in St Moritz. No time for words, so I leave you with a story in photos. . .
My secret to a fast sled!
Don’s four-wheel drift.
Kuz, Jim, Aga, and Don. CXC Varsity Sled Team. Interested? Sign up here.
Every Worldloppet has some sort of sprint event with big crowds and big prize money. Last night, the village of Sils Maria hosted the Engadin Night Sprints: knock-out rounds of racers on an icy, fast sprint course under the lights. This year’s event featured the likes of Olympic Gold Medalists Bjorn Lind and Christian Zorzi, World Champion Martin Koukal, and Birkie Champion Fabio Santus.
St Moitz by night or by day, both are pretty darn cool!
The Hotel Sonne has been our home away from home this week. A big thanks to Gus for finding a booking us the best hotel in town. There’s no Rolls Royce to pick us up from the airport like some other hotels in town, but we can walk anywhere we want, including 200m to the ski trail.
One of the highlights of the night sprints was seeing so many familiar faces. Here, Don catches up with former US SuperTour Champions Martina Strusova from Czech and Karin Caminsich from Switzerland.
The food and drinks at the Night Sprints can’t be beat. Gluhwein from an ice bar is obligatory to wash down a classic Swiss rindkabob. Here, Beat pours hot oil onto the kabob before lighting it on fire!
Oh yeah, there were some ski races too. Torin Koos ended up getting taken out on a corner in the Semi’s, but put in a valiant effort none-the-less.
Here, the Midwest crew of Jim Michler, Adam Swank, Tyler Kjorstad, Kuz, Paul Belknap, Aga Bednarz, and Don Becker get together for a group shot to cap off an exciting evening of racing and food.
Engadin Marathon starts at 8:20 tomorrow morning! Stay tuned for the full race report. . .