Life in Europe is cruising along for Canadian snowboarders thus far. The snowboardcross team has been here for two weeks and has ridden in two countries. We started off at Hintertux Glacier in Austria for five days of riding. This is a nice resort about one hour’s drive from the city of Innsbruck in the southwest part the country.
The hill provided us with some great facilities. We rode the terrain park, and the groomers whipped up a nice little SBX course to train on. We had some pleasant company to run the course with, as the German and Austrian teams were training on the same days.
The next week was spent in Saas Fee, Switzerland. The road trip to get there was quite an ordeal. On Saturday we drove to Innsbruck for a night in the big city. This was great to chill out and get some down time. I managed to get in a nice jog along the main river that divides the town.
Sunday proved to be a big journey through the Alps and over into the southern part of Switzerland. We made it to town by dinnertime and met up with the halfpipe team.
The halfpipe team arrived in Saas Fee a day before we did. They got into full swing quickly, training up for the double header World Cup halfpipe contests this weekend.
They spent their day getting rid of jet lag and adjusting to the snow again… well, I mean adjusting to the ice. The pipe was not great and needed some serious TLC for it to become a World Cup-calibre facility. The last time any of the pipe team rode was in New Zealand in August, so squeezing in a couple of weeks on snow before the start of the competition season was a smart decision.
There was a Europa Cup halfpipe contest last week in Saas Fee. The lone Canadian was Whistler resident, Dan Raymond, who stepped up to the plate to take on 100-plus competitors from around the globe. It was supposed to be a nice warm up for the World Cup season openers, but Dan proved warming up was for the weak and won both the qualifying event and the one final run hands down. He earned some valuable FIS points and extra confidence for the road ahead.
I spent the first few days in Saas Fee training with both the pipe team and the SBX team. After a couple of days of juggling the teams, I decided to stay with the SBX team for a while and continue my European adventure with only snowboardcross events in my sights.
Saas Fee boardercross training was intense. The course was solid glacial ice with little room for error. The consequences of falling off course were dire, and riding the course at full speed seemed like an impossible task.
The time had come for the boys’ SBX team to step up and become men. The first day of training was pretty mellow. The weather was bad and most of the riders were thinking we should have stayed in Austria. By the sounds of things back home, we should all be riding Whistler powder and leaving the European ice to the locals.
Day two turned the mood of the group around drastically. The sunny skies helped lift the spirits of the team and the training went amazingly well. I was training in the pipe at the time and came over near the end of the session to see how my teammates were managing the conditions.
To my amazement, everyone was going off. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how fast the guys were riding the course.
The rest of the week of training was a huge success. Despite the lousy conditions, we all made the best of a bad situation.
The best part of the week was knowing that every other SBX course this season is going to seem easy compared to the Saas Fee track.
Another long road trip eastbound through the Alps was undertaken last weekend. Following the conditions we packed up and headed back to Austria for some more SBX riding. This road trip was even more eventful than the last — we had coach Don Swartz’s baby daughter puke in the van, a nice long detour through Zurich, and a speeding ticket in the Arlberg to add to the excitement.
But alas, we settled back in Hintertux. We will compete in a Europa Cup SBX at Kaprun this weekend. The pipe team is ready to go for the double World Cup in Saas Fee, also this weekend. The alpine team is competing in Colorado.
Everyone keep their fingers crossed. We’ll do our best to own the podium.