Alum Update: Chelsea in Italy

JNT alum and EC opener coach Chelsea, an ecology PhD student in Zurich, checks in after her first classic ski of the season – a marathon in Italy!

IMG_3322Last year Holly Brooks stayed at my house in Zurich before and after heading to Livigno, Italy, for La Sgambeda. Holly was doing the whole FIS Marathon Cup and this race in Italy was the first competition – neither of us knew much about it. She came back raving about how fun it was, how great and sunny the weather was, the beautiful mountains, a great race course, Italian food…. I quickly decided that I should try to do this race the next season!

Fast forward a year and I had gathered two friends and organized a hotel room in Livigno. We were going! Between the three of us, all scientists with day jobs, we even had an almost-complete wax setup!

The La Sgambeda organizers made the risky decision to try to hold the race one week earlier than they had before. Usually Livigno has good snow – last year it was more or less the only place in central Europe with reliable skiing in mid December – but this year they were not so lucky. A few days before the race we got an email that the 35 k loop was not possible, so they had a 6 k manmade loop instead.

When we arrived and went out to test some wax on Saturday, it was my first classic ski of the year. As soon as I started gliding down the track I was just filled with joy: I felt like a skier, and a skier who finally was skiing! Some years those first days on snow I feel like bambi on ice. But that day I felt like everything was natural and I was doing what I was made to do. It was a blast.

We had arranged half-board at our hotel, and for dinner the night before the race they served us meat fondue. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t fantastic preparation, but it was delicious. My motto for this year is to be serious when I”m actually in the race, but to try to be relaxed and have fun before and after, so I ate my delicious dinner (and a large piece of cake afterwards…) with glee and didn’t worry about the consequences.

Sunday came and we put some klister cover on our skis to be able to stride up the few hills in the rapidly warming conditions. This wasn’t my ideal race – lots of double poling, manmade snow which had been heating in the sun – but kudos to the organizers for pulling off the event at all! It was super fun even though I didn’t feel fast. Although with announcers talking in Italian, everything does feel a little bit more dramatic and exciting. On the starting line I spotted a Maine Winter Sports Center suit and introduced myself to Anna (Sprague) Van Der Rhee, a former Mainer who now lives in the Netherlands. Add to that my friend Greg who grew up skiing at Weston and it was a New England reunion, which was another fun touch.

We enjoyed the sun and the Italian food and simply having a weekend to relax and ski. By the time we were cooling down from the race it was definite t-shirt skiing and even though we were in a bit of pain, we skied an extra lap because we didn’t know when we’d get the chance again – there sure isn’t snow in Zurich right now!

And if there’s more snow next year, I’m looking forward to going back and testing out the real 35 k course.

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