Monday, January 7, 2013


  When the elevation gets into the thousands and you're on top of a peak in Austria, the weather can't always be predictable.  That means skiers have to be flexible.  They have to be able to find the good snow.
   I picked Lindsey up in Munich and we drove to our hotel outside of Innsbruck.  We got in that night around 9:30, ate dinner, and  went to bed because it was business as usual in the morning; Lindsey was training with the men's Austrian Ski Team.  She woke me up after her workout at around 7:30am and we had breakfast together.  The weather was supposed to be good for the day but for the rest of the week we wouldn't be so lucky.  The day after we woke up to rain- in January, and in the mountains- yep, not so lucky.  It was wet and the snow was soft, making it hard to ski, and Lindsey fell a few times.  We needed a new plan for Lindsey's training so Lindsey's coach, Jeff Fergus-we all call him "Ferg-" decided to go where there was perfect snow and sunshine- Italy!  The Dolomites are one of my favorite places to ski in Europe so I was excited to get out of the usual routine.  But what I didn't realize was how difficult that was to do, and also, how difficult it would have been for Lindsey to even establish a routine.
    I have been traveling with Lindsey for around six months now, I haven't been to every race on the circuit but I'm getting close.  I am learning who everyone is, how things work, what to do and what not to do.  Before Lindsey picked me up in Germany last January, I had never flew on a plane by myself, let alone an international plane.  I had no idea what I was doing. None.  I thought I knew how to ski since I had been skiing since I was two, but I was wrong.
    The first time I was on the hill with her I got lost and took the gondola all the way up to the top of the mountain instead of to the bottom and I nearly missed her training run.  I'll save the story of when I tried to pass Lindsey skiing for another post.  The fact of the matter is that skiing is it's own world.  And navigating through it takes time.
    Lindsey has been doing it forever, she makes it look easy.  And that's what I thought: "this is so easy for Lindsey. Why is it so hard for me?"  And Lindsey probably doesn't like to admit it but every once in awhile she'll give you a story that makes you realize she's not immortal, that she had her hard times, too.  For example, I don't like the palma lift.  I have had bad experiences.  Lindsey always laughs at me. But then she told me about her bad experience with the palma lift.  She was 9 and racing in Europe by herself for the first time.  She was trying her best to fit in and act cool.  But that day while training, it was really wet and she had a baggy rain coat on.  She told me she got all the way to the top and when she pulled the palma away, her coat got caught.  She got dragged all the way around until the emergency stop.  Lindsey was mortified.  As frightening as that story would be to have happen to you, I appreciated her telling it to me- I'm probably more afraid of those lifts now than ever- but it made Lindsey more human than hero.  And it's important to realize that she is only human.

    So we were ready to go to Italy for training.  We have a car full of stuff so it's important that Lindsey know how to pack up the car, that's why Lindsey calls it: "playing Tetris."  While she was doing that, I uploaded some new music and we were off.  We plugged in our destination on the navigation system and we would be in Italy in three hours.  
    Driving in Europe, on the Autobahn or the Autostrada, is not so hard.  You have to pay very close attention and you have to know the language.  When you're in the left lane and someone is coming up behind you with their left blinker on, that means "I am going faster that you are, so you'd better get out of my way," but if someone comes up behind you flashing their brights, that message is a bit more impolite.  That means "how could you not seem me coming up on you so fast, I am not going to stop for you so you'd better move!" 
     The real hard part is when you get off the highway.  We got to the town we were supposed to be in but didn't know the address of our hotel and the navigation didn't have the name of the hotel programmed, either.  It was already dark and hard to see.  We kept on making wrong turns and Ferg isn't exactly the greatest person to call for directions.  Finally we were getting closer but still couldn't find it so we tried to call for directions again but when I went to dial, no service. And no internet google maps. 
Europe doesn't have street names on every corner, it doesn't have big, lighted signs.  It has confusing roundabouts and small, unmarked roads.  Even having the navigation system doesn't always help.  I told Lindsey (who was quite frustrated being lost,)
    "think about having to use an actual map through these smalls roads!"
     "Uh yeah," Lindsey said, "I had to.  And we didn't have cell phones, either.  I had to either navigate us on a map or be the one to drive.  I don't know how many times we showed up to the wrong town or hotel.  I would come straight off the plane jet-lagged and have to drive 4 or 5 hours.  Then, would get to the place finally and realize that I was in San Anton, Switzerland, not St. Anton, Austria.  It sucked!"
    "When did you get your first Audi?" I asked. " I traveled with the technicians in loaded up cargo vans for a long, long time.  It wasn't until I became good that I was able to be sponsored by Audi myself."
      It never even occurred to me that Lindsey had anything other than a sick Audi with navigation that would get you anywhere.  Lindsey was once new to Europe, as I am now, and she had to navigate through it, as I am now, and she had to find her own way, as I will.  With or without an actual map. 

All for now, 
St. Anton this weekend- get excited!