The sleepy Austrian village of Ramsau am Dachstein holds a special place in both mine and many others' ski racing career. My first ever international trip, to the 2000 World Junior Championships in Slovakia's High Tatras began with five days in Ramsau to acclimate before the races began. For the last three years, I've spent two weeks in October skiing the serpentine trails atop the Dachstein Glacier. "The place where champions go to put in some heavy work" is how I would most succinctly describe Ramsau. I know of no Olympic champion - ever - that has not melted at lease few snowflakes with their skis at this venue. If there is, let him or her be named!
Ramsau rests at 1200 meters. The base of the gondola resides at 1700 meters. The top of the gondola rises to 2700 meters. The top spire of Dachstein reaches 2996 meters into the air.
Dachstein has been doing some home improvements. Today, you can ride to the top either in the glass enclosed gondola, or atop the gondola in a steel cage, open to the elements. Riding atop the gondola is highly recommended to those without a great fear of heights, or feats of engineering. Above, the tram's station awaits.
In my limited experience, snow cover at the Dachstein has never been better. Everyday, we skied on the the big loop, which took about a half-hour to ski.
The last two years, I joined the Norwegian outfit Team Sjusjoen in Ramsau. This year, I teamed up with the Swiss Power Sprint Team. Here I pose with (L-R): Mauro Gruber, Eligius Tambornino, myself, Martin Jager. The Swiss Power team is led by Christof Schmid. In addition to coaching skiers, Mr. Schmid cut his coaching chops working in track & field, most notably the 800 meter world champion from 2001, Andre Bucher.
The Estonian National Sprint Team and Swiss Power combine forces at training camps throughout the year. This is a pretty sweet collaboration or national teams working together. It's also for this openness that I suspect I should be greatful that the two teams are happy to have me join them in their Olympic preparations. The Swiss Sprinters are great skaters. The Estonians are most talented in classic skiing. To have both teams to challenge each other with is an ideal situation. For those University of Fairbanks fans out there, NCAA alumni Vahur Tappan oversees the Estonian's technique and preparation, with input from Mr. Schmid. In the picture above, Kein Einaste takes on Marco Kilp in table tennis. The Estonians ruled on the small table, the Swiss on the tennis hardcourt.
Alaska has its Bridge to Nowhere. Dacstein must have been jealous. Now they have their own Stairway to Nowhere.
Until next time, Ciaoti und Viel Spass!