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Archive for October, 2011

Reindeer sightings!

29.Oct.2011 by Ida Sargent

Last year in Mounio the warmest wax we used was in the blue range so this year’s packing list lacked many of the warmer waxes and the unseasonably warm weather here has quickly drained our small supply.  The ski shop in town is also not accustomed to stocking a lot of warm waxes at this time of the year and have been sold out all week.  Today Pepa, Clare, Hannah, and I drove to Levi, the nearest alpine ski area, approximately 60km to the south, in search of klister.  We were somewhat unsuccessful in this regard but were able to find Finnish souvenirs, a great coffee shop, and lots of reindeer!

Not long into the drive we saw the first few along the road and immediately pulled over.

Not long into the drive we saw the first few reindeer and immediately pulled over.

We got out of the car and Pepa eagerly chased after the reindeer hoping to get close enough for a good picture.

We got out of the car and Pepa eagerly chased after the reindeer hoping to get close enough for a good picture.

But we were a little too aggressive and scared them away

But we were a little too aggressive and scared them away

If only we had a bit more extra room in our luggage for the trip home...

If only we had a bit more extra room in our luggage for the trip home...

More reindeer on the way home

More reindeer on the way home

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We were those tourists today that stop in the middle of the road and take animal pictures

We were those tourists that stop in the middle of the road and take animal pictures

Pepa really wanted a picture with one of reindeer but my photography skills aren't great.  You can kind of see some behind her.

Pepa really wanted a picture with one of reindeer but my photography skills aren't great. You can kind of see a reindeer butt in the trees behind her.

reindeer7night

Back on Snow in Muonio

28.Oct.2011 by Hannah Dreissigacker

We arrived in Finland on Tuesday at the Rovaniemi airport, where the temperature was +5 Celsius, the sky gray, and the earth brown.  During the drive north to Muonio, our home for the next 3 weeks, the thermometer dropped a few degrees and at one point along the road we saw what looked like a little bit of dirty old crusty snow.  But for the most part it looked a lot like Vermont in November–except more reindeer grazing along the side of the road, and the woods look different–mossier and more like taiga, with  lots of Scots pine and Norway spruce.  There was a light mist hitting the windshield.  When we arrived, we settled into the same little cabins we had last year, complete with their awesome little clothes-drying closet and compact European design.

Luckily for us, the people at Olos seem to have the art of snow-storing pretty well figured out, and theres a nice 3 km loop of skiing on snow that was kept from last year and then spread around the trail. Its a pretty weird feeling to be skiing on this little ribbon of white through the mossy enchanted-looking lapland forest.  Last year there was just enough natural snow even when we first got here, that I never realized how the whole forest floor is covered in moss and little shrubs and things.  Beside that, the loop is the same as last year–good terrain, lots of fast skiers.  The Swedish biathlon team showed up yesterday, as well as the Russian women’s biathlon team, and combined with lots of skiers from Russia, Estonia, and Finland, I feel like I’m constantly getting passed as I ski.  I have to keep reminding myself to ski my own pace and not go too fast.  All the people make the small loop more exciting and interesting–the human landscape is always changing, even if the natural one isn’t.

Along with the snow-storage, there's also lots of snowmaking pipes around the loop--it looks like Craftsbury! So far I think they've only had one night cold enough to make snow.

Along with the snow-storage, there's also lots of snowmaking pipes around the loop--it looks like Craftsbury! So far I think they've only had one night cold enough to make snow.

A 4:30 sunset--there's lots of daylight right now, but it'll get darker fast.

A 4:30 sunset--there's lots of daylight right now, but it'll get darker fast.

Clare skiing on the ribbon of white.

Clare skiing on the ribbon of white.

Wasatch Mountain High

27.Oct.2011 by Susan Dunklee

The end of the Utah camp ended on a high note for me.  First of all, I’m going to Sweden!  The Utah rollerski races, along with the Jericho races back in August, served as qualifiers for the first international races of the year.  I saved my best race for the last qualifier and hit 90% of my targets.  I was named to the team with 5 other US women.  Once we get on snow in Sweden during late November, we’ll be divided into different groups- a World Cup team and an IBU Cup team (IBU Cup is the race circuit just below the World Cup).  Either way, I’ll be racing in various places in Europe until Christmas.

Our last day of training in Utah was another reason I flew back east with a smile. We (US biathlon team) got to hike Mt. Timpanogos- one of my (many) favorite mountains.  Timpanogos’s snow covered peak looms teasingly over Solider Hollow.  The first few times I went to the Heber Valley, I would gaze longingly at it’s ridgelines but I didn’t get the chance to climb it.  It often has too much snow in October.  Last year, we finally had the chance to hike part of it, but we had an easy workout on our training plan, and our coaches only let us go to the first saddle.  I can’t say I successfully summited this year either, but Laura Spector and I made a valiant effort to run further up.  We were within sight of the final ridge climb and then decided to turn around so that our teammates (who turned around at the first saddle again) wouldn’t have to wait for hours in the parking lot.  The elusiveness of that summit is intensifying my desire to get there.  So next year…  Still, it was a spectacular day in the mountains, the type of day that fuels your soul and makes you feel psyched to be alive.

The lower slopes ablaze with color

The lower slopes ablaze with color

Ah, the life of a mountain goat. They live in the best places on Earth.

Ah, the life of a mountain goat. They live in the best places on Earth.

Snow fields at higher elevations

Snow fields at higher elevations

YEEESSS!!!!

YEEESSS!!!!

Another reason we had to turn around early is that we had been invited by the US Speedskating team to have dinner with a bunch of the long track athletes and then watch a World Cup (short track) in Salt Lake.  Our coaches have been talking together a lot lately, so perhaps in the future, we’ll have some training collaboration between our sports.  The World Cup was fascinating to watch.  I hadn’t realized how short the short track loop actually is and how nearly impossible it is to pass your competitors.  No wonder there are a lot of crashes.

The biathlete cheering contingent

The biathlete cheering contingent

The art of cornering

The art of cornering

I flew back to Vermont early the next morning and got to see my Craftsbury GRP teammates for a few hours before they departed for a month of skiing in Finland.  The team house at Elinor’s is very quiet: Emily Dreissigacker (who is training for sculling races) and I are the only ones here right now.  I love the seasonal rhythms of life at Craftsbury.  With the colder weather and shorter days we are shifting into winter mode.  In between training sessions, I’m working on winterizing the house: pulling out all the screens, installing insulating plastic over the windows, cleaning up the flower beds and skirting the old foundation.   It doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day to get everything done.

As the race season approaches, I would like to invite the Facebook savvy blog readers to “like” my athlete fan page “Susan Dunklee” on Facebook.  (This is something that US Biathlon recommended that we create, and it is separate from my personal private Facebook page.)  It’s relatively new and I already have 23 fans- hurray!  Basically it is an easy and centralized way for me to keep in touch with all of you and you can post stuff to the wall too.  This page will be the most comprehensive and updated resource for tracking my race season and travels.  I’ll try to post pictures, blog entries, links to results, and other various things.  I’m not sure how much the Craftsbury fan crowd uses Facebook, but if this is something you think the Green Team should do too, please let us know.

Altitude and Sunshine

19.Oct.2011 by Susan Dunklee

It’s October, which means I’m training in Utah’s Heber Valley for our biathlon team’s annual fall altitude camp.  Every day so far has been warm, sunny and beautiful on the valley floor.  The surrounding Wasatch mountains are capped with fresh snow; a promising reminder of the skiing soon to come.  Solider Hollow, the venue where we are training and the site of the 2002 Olympic games, sits at 5,500 feet.  The thinner air at this altitude makes it slightly more challenging to train and race.

The US Biathlon Association board members were in town last weekend for a meeting and banquet, as were the US Biathlon Foundation members.  We gave them some shooting instruction and then enjoyed a variety of activities together such as horseback riding, golf, and fly fishing.  At the banquet, I had the honor of sitting next to Bitsy Kelley who runs a west coast weekly radio show about everything outdoors.  We chatted about hunting, gardening, farming, and shared ideas for living self-sufficiently.

I went horseback riding with the board in the town of Sundance, home of Robert Redford. The scenery was beautiful with the aspens, oaks, and maples at the height of foliage season- almost as colorful as the Green Mountains back home. photo credit: Laura Spector

I went horseback riding with the board in the town of Sundance, home of Robert Redford. The scenery was beautiful with the aspens, oaks, and maples at the height of foliage season- almost as colorful as the Green Mountains back home. photo credit: Laura Spector

The first week of training was great.  We’ve shared the range with Maine Winter Sports Center, Twin Biathletes (the Barnes), the Junior National Team, and a contingent from Canmore.  A couple of times, we even saw our xc friends from the US Ski Team, Central XC and Sun Valley sprinting around the Soldier Hollow trails.  Although all these groups are on different training schedules, it is inspiring to train around them.  At the end of this week, we’ll also have the chance to meet some of the US speed skaters.  They invited us to watch their World Cup competition in Salt Lake.

Group training on the range. photo credit: Pat Coffey

Group training on the range. photo credit: Pat Coffey

Today was our first of two sprint races out here.  Racing at altitude tends to be very painful, the lack of oxygen makes it harder to recover.  My goal was to start at a relaxed pace and keep getting faster as the race went on.   I also applied a similar strategy on every uphill: ski at a controlled pace until the last few meters, when I would accelerate and carry more speed over the top.   It paid off- I had the fastest ski time of the American contingent (not by much), but I missed 3 out of 10 targets, while several of my teammates shot clean or only missed 1 or 2.

Standing shooting. Notice the new custom stock that I got a few months ago. photo credit: Jonne Kahkonen

Standing shooting. Notice the new custom stock that I got a few months ago. photo credit: Jonne Kahkonen

To read more about our Utah training camp and see more pictures, check out this Fasterskier article written by Chelsea