A little over a week ago Clare, Mike and I met up with a group from MWSC and headed to Europe to get in some real, European biathlon racing. We would fly into Munich, then drive to Bled, Slovenia where we would stay through the first weekend to compete in an Alpen cup race in nearby Pokljuka. From there we’d head to Rosenau Austria where we’d race in the Austrian national championships. Or so we thought… when we got to our hotel in Bled we found out that sometime during our travel the races in Slovenia had been canceled… due to excessive snow. What?! that’s crazy! – we thought as we piled into the hotel elevator with all our stuff. Then the power flickered, the elevator settled a bit, and we noticed the following sign on the wall:
Maybe the race organizers made the right call. Turns out that a huge storm had come through just days before, dumping ice and snow on Bled and higher up at the venue, almost 2 meters of heavy, wet snow! Good news was we were in a four-star hotel with good food.
The next day as we drove up to the venue it was clear that just a day earlier the road up there was impassable due to downed trees (I was having flashbacks to ice storm cleanup in Craftsbury) and the snow banks kept getting higher and higher. Up at the venue they were still digging out, and would be for the duration of our stay. We got another meter or so of snow during our time there, and every morning they would plow snow off the shooting range just so we could see the targets. They’re hosting a biathlon world cup here in march, and boy do they have the work cut out for them. We opted to move up to a sport hotel located right at the venue, and stay there for a few days to train. The other guests at the hotel included some Slovenian, Russian, and Australian junior biathletes, so we were able to get in a couple good time trials with them.
The next surprise came a day or two before our planed departure for Austria: Rosenau had gotten the warm end of the storm, and had no snow whatsoever. The backup site for Austrian nationals was Obertilliach, but they had gotten the cold end with the full 2-3 meters of snow and would be digging out for awhile. Once again our races were canceled. Luckily we got wind of a Czech Cup with two races in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where they had no natural snow but a 2.5km man-made loop. So we packed up, dug out the cars, and hit the road. A couple hours later we were driving though green grassy hills.
So, here we are in Czech training and getting ready for a mass start biathlon race on Saturday, followed by an Individual format on Sunday, neither of which have been canceled yet! Hooray for man-made snow!