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Archive for October, 2010

Fun things to do and see in Europe

31.Oct.2010 by Ollie Burruss

I love to people watch.  Absolutely love it.  One of my favorite pastimes, without a doubt.  Europe, as you can probably imagine, has proved to be an ever expanding collection of awesomeness for someone with my affinity for checking people out.  During our layover in Paris, I spent the entire time posted up in front of one of the security lines with Matt, just watching the people come out.  I don’t know exactly, but I’d say we spent at least two hours cracking jokes about everyone we saw.  I loved every minute of it.

Here in Muonio I get to combine people watching with one of my other favorite activities: skiing.  So far I’ve seen an Estonian who is a dead-ringer for Glenn Randall and a Swedish biathlon coach who strongly reminds me of my dear friend and former coach, Peter Graves.  Every time I see Estonian Glenn Randall I wonder what will happen when American Glenn Randall gets here and they ski past each other.  I imagine meeting your European doppelganger would be somewhat jarring.

Skiing laps on a 3.8k loop with dozens of other skiers has also given me time to come up with a few conclusions about Europe, which I will now share with you:

Finns love Finnish-made equipment.  I’m talking stuff that has never been seen in the US outside of Minnesota.  Rex poles (notable because they are Robin Hood green), Peltonen skis, and the little-known Karhu racing ski (complete with a neon orange base and an awesome name: Volcans.  I can only imagine they meant to call them Volcanos?  Or maybe Vulcans?) are all represented in force here.  I’ve got half a mind to try to trade for the Karhu drink belt I saw this morning.

Russians train really hard, all the time. There are tons of Russians here right now.  Pepa said there were clubs from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, in addition to the national team, whose van says “Russian National Ski Team” in German on it (thumbs up for usage of the word “mannschaft,” always a crowd pleaser).  The women in particular seem to be skiing wicked hard all the time.  There’s a great clip of Matt being rolled up by a tiny Russian girl just hammering her brains out.  Ask him about it.  One girl I saw was wearing full warm-ups that she had sweat all the way through.  She did not smell great.  But, they are fast, so maybe there’s something to their methodology.

Eastern European coaches hate skiing. Not the sport, but the actual physical act of skiing.  So far I’ve seen national team coaches from Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and I think Latvia (in addition to numerous club coaches from Russia).  None of these men ski.  They stand around, often together, in big jackets, watching.  Always watching.  Sometimes they’ll whip out a video camera (the Estonian guy especially likes his camera).  Often they’ll shout something at a passing athlete.  But seldom do they move and even more seldom do they ski.  Groups of them will congregate at trail intersections to chat, smoke cigarettes, and drink from thermoses.  I like to think that it is a hold over from the days when the Soviets used to post up guys in the woods to keep athletes from defecting.  Poor guys probably don’t know what to do with themselves anymore.  Since they are so often in the same places, I’ve taken to nodding to them as I pass, hoping for a nod back.  Most give it to me, but the Belorussians have been resisting.  I’ll break them, though.

Pepa is the most popular person on the trails. This should not surprise you.  She’s a babe and the only female coach out there (I think the Swedish biathlon team has a few female staff members, but I can’t figure out exactly what they do).  All the coaches like to chat with Pepa.  It’s been especially great for Chelsea, because she’s scored a few choice interviews through Pepa’s connections.  All I know is Pepa better watch out or she’s going to find herself beating off suitors like Odysseus’s wife Penelope.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Gotta get back to my tiny cabin to eat some duo spread (think cake frosting mixed with Nutella) and put my feet up.

Note: I’m just making a joke about the post-communist coaches.  I’m sure those guys actually know a lot about skiing and are doing a good job.  The difference between the way they conduct themselves on the trails and the ways American coaches act just begs the comparison.  No offense meant to Eastern Europeans.

Snowy Trails and Snowgym

29.Oct.2010 by Chelsea Little


Our first few days in Muonio have been pretty interesting. The skiing is great so far – it snowed a bunch in the last 24 hours and today there were many more trails open, which gave us all the opportunity to go on some adventures. I got sick of skiing around the short, well-groomed loop with a hundred other people, so I struck out up the hill and ended up skiing along the top of the ridge below some windmills. I had a beautiful view of the countryside, which is comprised entirely of wooded hills and a few lakes. No mountains, just hills. Even at noon, the sun hangs in the corner of the sky, casting everything in a pinkish yellowish glow. I was psyched to be up on the hill with no other skiers around, enjoying the view, even if it meant skiing in some ungroomed powder.



Yesterday Pepa had us do a strength workout. Since we didn’t have access to a gym (that will come later), we did what we now call “Snow-gym.” The first thing we had to do was a bunch of jumps up the hill in the snow. Kind of an adventure. I think all of us fell down at least once. The owners of the cabin complex were watching us out their kitchen window wondering what on earth the crazy Americans were up to now.


After that it was pretty much the usual – push-ups with someone pushing down on our shoulders, dips, supermans with Pepa pushing down on our ankles, one-legged squats on a picnic table with a backpack full of chains to weigh us down. We finished by doing plank with Pepa putting all of her weight on us and seeing how long we could last before we collapsed.


So: wrap up: Finland is great and we’re enjoying it! Hooray for skiing in October and beautiful trails! Yay!

Pepa made a snowman while we were doing strength!

Pepa made a snowman while we were doing strength!

Made it to Muonio

28.Oct.2010 by Lauren Jacobs

Greetings from Finland!

After a long couple days of travel we are now settled in our home for the next three weeks: Muonio, Finland. The flights over were pretty uneventful, except that our plane to Paris was remarkably empty so we were all able to stretch out and sleep a bit during the flight. As our final flight descended into Rovaniemi we caught glimpses of a dusting of snow below and an excellent view of a brilliant pink sunset. That may have been our last flight of the journey to Finland but it was not the end of our travels, as we still had a 3 hour drive to Muonio.

The view from our cabin.

The view from our cabin.

The drive from Rovaniemi to Muonio really deserves its own paragraph. Try to picture this: eight skiers plus one Pepa and all of the accompanying ski bags and luggage attempting to squeeze into a nine-seater van. We wanted to strap the ski bags to the top of the van but it only opened on one side (and there was no rack) so there was no way to string the straps through the doors. Instead we piled the ski bags down the center aisle of the van and the duffel bags on top and around – basically wherever they could fit. Chelsea and Hannah had to assume their seats in the back before the van was totally packed because we had to stuff the bags around them. (They definitely drew the short end of the stick on that one.) Three of the seats were facing backwards and the ski bags ran right up to the middle seat in that row. I was sitting there which meant that I had to either straddle the ski bags or stand on the seat while leaning over to avoid hitting the ceiling of the van. For the next three hours I alternated between these two positions, which understandably probably drove Pat and Ollie nuts, but it was the only way I could figure out to prevent my legs from going numb. All in all it was a pretty interesting drive. However uncomfortable we may have been it was exciting to be driving north and seeing snow. And it felt so good to finally get to our cabins beside the river in Muonio!

Our first time on snow was during a skate ski on Wednesday morning. There is some natural snow but what we are skiing on right now is mostly snow saved from last year (mounded into a big pile and preserved under sawdust) and man-made snow. The skiing is great! About 4 km of trails are open at the moment but they hope to double that by this weekend. A big biathlon range with 41 points is located right in the middle of it all and I’m looking forward to getting some shooting in. Though I have to admit that seeing the entire Swedish National Biathlon Team training this morning was really intimidating. This morning we had the pleasant surprise of waking up to a few inches of new snow for our classic ski. Technique has been the big focus so far, making sure we start off the season with good, efficient skiing. This is the time to make changes and today Pepa was out with her video camera, watching carefully as always. The trails are packed with athletes from all over: Sweden, Norway, Russia, Belarus, Switzerland, Estonia, and Ukraine. It’s awesome to see so many great skiers in one place, although I think if I tried to ski behind one of the Russian women going “easy” I would be somewhere north of my threshold pace. They. Are. Fast.

Chelsea during the sewing party, putting our new patches on our new gear.

Chelsea during the sewing party, putting our new patches on our new gear.

Hans, Chelsea and I had a chance to explore the town during our afternoon run yesterday. We successfully located the library and the thrift store, so we’re hoping to go back and visit them again soon!

Grocery shopping: an important part of any training camp.

Grocery shopping: an important part of any training camp.