Road Tripping without a car: ITALIA

I don’t know why but all last week since getting back from my last competition road trip I have had ants in my pants. Despite being back in Verbier for only a week I was feeling a little bit like this guy:

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Yep, making puns and everything- I think I even have a similar hat at home…….

So, when the opportunity came up to compete in the King of the Dolomites in San Martino di Castrozza with Canadian photographer, Zoya Lynch- I jumped at the chance. Huge mountains, couloirs, pizza, coffee and the chance to shoot with a badass photog. Who needs convincing?

The only issue- I don’t have a car. While it’s not a deal breaker, my plans were quite complicated- this was not going to be a one-country-only adventure and getting a train from Verbier and beyond with two pairs of skis and gear for two weeks did not sound appealing-so I began the car-less roadtrip.

The route: Verbier to San Martino di Castrozza, San Martino to the Dalbello Factory, Dalbello Factory to Innsbruck, Innsbruck to Slovakia and finally after the Jasna FWQ 4* in Jasna- home to Verbier.

VERBIER- SAN MARTINO di CASTROZZA

After some super sleuthing I found out that local Italian ski legend, Giulia Monego was leaving the sunny slopes of Verbier to head back to her home country to compete in the King of the Dolomites, and after a few polite emails I nailed down transport for the first leg of my journey.

We began in Le Chable on Wednesday and drove to Chamonix to spend the night. On Thursday morning after a relaxed morning staring up at Mt Blanc we hit the road and toured through the Aosta Valley to pick up her photographer Damiano. After a light Italian lunch complete with bresola, buffalo mozzarella and espresso we returned to the highway to pass through the flatlands of Milan, before making it to the mountains and the beginning of the Dolomites.

A misty view of mountains after a very flat journey through Milan

A few hours, and quite a few windy roads later, we arrived in San Martino just in time for dinner and the opening of the competition, which was complimented by a screening of Trial and Error by Whiteroom Productions.

KING OF THE DOLOMITES

KOD is a photo contest, which takes place over two days in the mountains surrounding San Martino di Castrozza. A range of ‘PRO’ teams, comprising of one photographer and two athletes are selected to compete and each team at the end of the weekend submits three photos per athlete to be judged.

Along with photographer Zoya Lynch, I spent the weekend shooting with Sigi Rumpfhuber- a ski athlete and mountain guide from Austria.

Zoya teeing-up a shot for Sigi

Zoya teeing-up a shot for Sigi

On Friday morning we woke up to a bluebird sky and quickly jumped on the lift up to Cima Rosetta, one of the more prominent peaks in the local range. On arrival the view was overwhelming. There was so much possibility and so little sunlight to do it all, so after taking in all our options we headed down towards Valle del Cantoni and got to work.

Gondola view

View from the gondola on the way up to Rosetta

Making tracks

Sigi sending his line

While the snow wasn’t the deep powder of the previous year’s KOD, we still found some sweet stuff and nice lines to ski. Following some success in the lower part of the valley, we slowly made our way back up towards the lift system to shoot some final pictures as the sun faded.

Sigi leading the way back towards Cima Corona 

During the day we had made the plan to shoot the sunset on the west faces on our descent back into San Martino but unfortunately due to the adventurous nature of our team- we hadn’t made a concrete plan about location. There were a few incredible spots for photos but based on our timing and for safety, we ended up shooting underneath the top part of the gondola- the sunset was pretty spectacular.

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This first day out shooting was quite special for me and also a big learning curve. While I love to ski in big mountains, I have much less experience shooting photos on bigger and more exposed terrain- if I am out there I usually just focus on skiing it!  While we didn’t get into anything too gnarly during the day- choosing routes and moving around these beautiful mountains taught me a lot and I was so grateful for the opportunity.

I was also stoked to share Zoya’s birthday with her- nothing like a productive day out shooting to celebrate turning 24!

Zoya taking in the sunset on her birthday

Unfortunately, due to the weather and some unforeseen party planning Saturday ended up being quite the unproductive day- with no help from me but thanks to Zoya’s insistence on getting the shot on Friday, she was able to put together a sweet competition portfolio. You can see all the final photos online here. While we didn’t make the podium, Zoya’s shot below of me got a special mention for it’s emotive and aesthetic affect on the viewer.

Photo: Zoya Lynch

Photo: Zoya Lynch

We finished the weekend with a pow day on Sunday and I was lucky enough to be shown around by some not so local but very friendly Italians who were more than willing to share the powder between the trees with me. Yea Vez! Such a sick day! Thanks Silvia, Nico and Paolo- can’t wait until next time.

Silvia, Nico and Paolo- the happiest ski buddies out there!

Silvia, Nico and Paolo- the happiest ski buddies out there!

High-fives for days in the trees Photo: Silvia Moser

SAN MARTINO DI CASTROZZA to DALBELLO

It would be hard to top such a great weekend- but it wasn’t over! After meeting such a great group of people at KOD, I had one more stop to make in Italy- the Dalbello Factory.

I’ve been wearing Dalbello boots for over four years and have recently started working with the International team so it was pretty cool to head down close to Castelfranco Veneto with Fabio Studer to see the boots being made in the flesh and get myself a new pair of sweet freeride touring boots.

Fitting my Lupo T.I s

New boots!

Big thanks to the King of The Dolomites crew for putting on such a sweet event and huge thanks to the Dalbello team for getting me all fitted up- can’t wait to take my boots for a spin!

I’ve just arrived in Innsbruck and looking forward to some shred happy laps with the kiwi residents of the valley!

Travelling on the 10th parallel

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How time flies. I have already been in Europe for two months, have competed in four competitions, visited five countries and eaten my fair share of local delicacies.

If I could use one word to explain this winter so far it would be ‘rookie’. It’s been a bit of a rookie season for sure  and I have been making some hilarious rookie mistakes.

Having an average of 10th place at nearly every contest this winter has been a hard pill to swallow, especially after a string of podiums before and after ACL surgery. But I have decided to eat a big serve of humble pie and just take it in my stride.

In some ways freeride competitions are a bit of a video game, once you have cracked the code, it’s easy to progress to the next level and I guess cracking that code is almost as challenging and good for you as winning is. So for the rest of this winter in Euroland I am going to travel, take in the incredible sights, go on ski adventures, crack codes and pray for snow!

In the meantime, here are some tales of my latest adventure on the road from the Shades of Winter blog:

Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to one of the mountainous hearts of Italy, to present PURE at the European Freeride Festival.

Well known for its incredible mountains, duty-free shopping, low petrol costs and delicious foods it was a hard offer to refuse, especially when we realised that the screening would coincide with another debut event in the region – the first ever Freeride World Qualifier hosted in Livigno.

Leaving Verbier for the event was hard, as the mountains in Valais had just received a huge blessing by the snow gods leaving white gold floating all around- just asking to be skied. We tried to make the most of it before our departure!

Powder skiing

Floating around Bruson before our departure

Freeriding with the Swedes, Evelina and Karin

Freeriding with the Swedes, Evelina and Karin

The drive to Livigno was nonetheless interesting. Following the average tollway drive from Verbier to Zurich, we then turned off to a more mountainous route, which included quite the crazy car train that speed through the mountains for over fifteen minutes and was then followed by an old school, one-way tunnel that delivered us into the narrow streets of Italy. Safely past the windy tunnels we made our way to the European Freeride Festival hub at Plaza Placheda in Livigno. There we found a great range of festival attendees and competitive freeriders ready for the week ahead.

We began our stay by being briefed on the Freeride World Qualifier event that would begin the next day and confirming the plans for the PURE screening. The most exciting part of the evening was learning that the next morning we would be heli-bumped to finish line of the FWQ event face for a face-check.

Heli Staging

We arrived to the heli staging area in style and got ready for our trip into the mountains. However one thing that we hadn’t thought about was the temperature. Livigno is notorious for cold temps in mid-winter, which great for the quality cold smoke snow- but not so helpful for chilly toes. But we’re freeskiers and won’t let a little cold get in the way of a perfectly good helicopter ride. We put out heads together and while waiting for our ride, constructed a range of warm-up games to keep our fingers and toes intact.

Face check at Livigno

Face check at Livigno

After arriving by bird, we spent the next few hours inspecting the face and watching the forerunner’s preview. Unluckily, the conditions weren’t as we had hoped, high winds had left a variable snowpack on the face, which meant both some unstable avalanche and skiing conditions. Despite the organisers best and hard efforts to run the event on a beautiful face, mother nature got in the way and the competition was postponed and later moved to a different face close to the Carosello ski area above Livigno.

Next up was Shades of Winter! The following day we made our way to the Cinelux to help kick off the beginning of the Freeride Film Festival. PURE was the first of eight films to be shown over three evenings. We were especially excited to show the film in Livigno as one of the segments, Nine Queens, was filmed in the parks above the village. Following a brief introduction by our Italian presenter, the film aired to a captive audience.

Following the screening, we were asked on stage for a quick Q&A with the presenter. He was especially interested in the ‘scariest’ and best parts of filming for PURE. We both agreed that the best part was filming in Japan, the beautifully soft and deep snow meant that we were able to challenge ourselves in ways that in other conditions, we may not have dared. This was especially true for Evelina’s double backflip attempt.

The evening was nearly at an end, but not before a few questions from the audience. This was by far our favourite part of the screening as one of the parents of a family of young boys and girls thanked us, and the whole Shades of Winter team for producing the film. He said that PURE, alongside other films that promote female freeskiers was incredibly important to help inspire and encourage the next generation- including his daughter who is a keen freeskier.

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EFF

Evelina, Arianna and I

Verbier

Despite a slow start to the season, we’ve had some fun times in Verbier! Forecast is looking good for this week, looking forward to some more powder turns and less rocks!

Powder laps around Gentianes. Photo: Anna Duner

Powder laps around Gentianes.
Photo: Anna Duner

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Hiking lines during Volkl team week in Verbier. Photo: Dan Milner

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Merry Band of Bitches- the best ski crew a girl could have!

Moody morning looking over at Bec de Rosses.

Moody morning looking over at Bec de Rosses.

Trains, mind games and patience.

Trains in Switzerland. Given the countries reputation, you’d think that they would run on time, no? Well that was the assumption that I made on Thursday morning and by golly I was right. The suspicion that left me twitching with anxiety as I downloaded from Verbier to the Le Chable train station was not paranoia. However, despite my very real inkling, I still decided to roll the dice.

While watching the train sit in the station ready for imminent departure from my perch in the gondola, I made a plan- I would make a run for it, thrown my gear on the train and if the train wasn’t already moving I would buy a ticket from the machine three metres away, so I could jump back on in the nick of time. Superb plan, right? No right minded society would let a train depart without some kind of warning, so I would be safe!…..How wrong I was. I got my ticket and full of content and relief I began to walk back towards the train compartment that held my skis, boots, laptop and all personal belongings that would be needed over the weekend.

Have you ever experienced time slow down in front of your eyes? As I walked back to the train doors and reached for the open button time almost stopped. After the first push, the train jerked, following the second it depression, the train jolted forward and began to leave the station with all my ski gear on board. Despite desperate cries, and dramatically running after the departing train, it didn’t stop, it just continued on its way- on time.

If I wrapped up this tale here, it would end with me bamboozled at the train station office, the driver, after lecturing me in french about the punctuality Swiss train service, racing me out to his car so that he could speed me down to the next station just in time to meet the train and reunite me with my ski gear. But adventures didn’t end there.

I was on my way to the first four start Freeride World Qualifer event of the season in Austria and after waiting all morning for the confirmation call from the competition organisers I was hot-tailing it to Martigny to be picked up by Anne May Slinning and Larry Gauthier and driven to Hochfugen.

Sweet lady crew, Karin, Evelina, me and Caroline

Sweet lady crew, Karin, Evelina, me and Caroline

I would be lying if I said that I haven’t been anxious about the upcoming competition. Being a four star event it is hard not put the pressure on. At four stars you can gain important qualifying points. However, if I think back to a few years ago, I used to get nervous before competitions but never like this. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to rationalise the nerves but it really hasn’t helped and it wasn’t until yesterday that I decided to quit the mind games, to stop psyching myself out and just accept that I am nervous.

Bib draw followed by an extremely Austrian feast!

Bib draw followed by an extremely Austrian feast!

If you really think about it, it would be crazy not to be nervous before dropping into a big mountain event. You spend over three days (and that is just travel, packing and face check time) patiently preparing for a competition run, which is over in less than a minute. Generally you only have a short amount of time to really get to know the venue in person and the rest is spent pouring over photos. You drop in blind, the only image of the slope you have is one that you created in your mind, so you need to be ready for anything; like a powder landing that is actually ice.

Recently someone said to me that competing in big mountain events is a ‘process’ and one that you should enjoy. I think this is a good way to look at them as unlike other winter sports events, we only get one shot and it is hard to not get hung up on one ski line shredded badly. But if you look at the whole season as a process of improving yourself, having fun and making the most of opportunities, one below average comp run can be quickly analysed and then filed away, to make way for more positive memories.

Ostwand Face- our competition face

Ostwand Face- our competition face

The competition was supposed to go off yesterday but due to some pesky clouds, snow and flat light it has been postponed until tomorrow. Coincidentally, tomorrow is also Australia Day and I am choosing to take it as a nice little sign. It’s not everyday that you get to fly across the world and compete in a niche, extreme sports event that involves incredibly scenery, cool people and terrain that will never exist in Australia. So keep your eyes tuned for some results and sweet media content coming from the event tomorrow!

Preparation

There are so many different ways to train for an upcoming winter and everyone does it differently. However, over the last few years there are a few things that I have learnt.

Firstly, quality over quantity. I had a crap time coming back from ACL surgery twenty months ago. Despite my hard work , I still am battling to make some of my muscles in my operated leg work. It doesn’t necessarily affect my skiing but I still don’t feel back to my old self. During the rehab process I realised that the quality of my training had fallen behind- leaving my poor little muscles with them. Over the the past southern hemisphere winter and spring I was luckily enough to work with some great physios and trainers and finally, my left leg is remembering how it used to be- functional.

Training at Kaya Health Club in Melbourne and getting those hamstrings firing

Training at Kaya Health Club in Melbourne and getting those hamstrings firing

Secondly, preparation starts long before the snow begins to fall. For me having a relaxed outlook is key – if I’m stressed going into winter it’s a whole lot harder to relax and get into ski, and then competition mode. There are a few things that really help me chill- trying to surf, trying to rock climb and yoga. The latter is the only thing that I can bring with me overseas but man it makes a difference.

Playing at the Burnley Bouldering Wall down the street from my house

Climbing at the Burnley Bouldering Wall down the street from my house

Preparation takes times, for the most part it is gruelling, boring and doesn’t really give back…….but then you click into your skis for the first time and you realise why you just spent over three months kicking your own ass.

Now, since arriving in the northern hemisphere and despite my best efforts my preparation has taken a turn for the humorous. I wish I could be a bit more diligent but sometimes I think the best way to go into a competition season is with a huge smile on your face and not stressing whether you have done enough post shred workouts.

Avalanche course ski tour- we made it one third up the route and managed to forget 1 x pair of skins and break a pair of bindings- winning

Avalanche course ski tour- we made it one third up the route and managed to forget 1 x pair of skins and break a pair of bindings- winning

Christmas hike + 20kg of toddler weight.

Christmas hike + 20kg of toddler weight.

 

 

Working hard while getting my boots perfected at Surefoot, Verbier

Working hard while getting my boots perfected at Surefoot, Verbier- mmm cosy

Ski touring in the direction of coffee with a couple of kooks

Ski touring in the direction of coffee with a couple of kooks

I’m going to finish this post with a recently collected video of my new favourite way to warm up in the morning- horizontal hip rolls:

Living the dream

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Sunrise over the mountains outside my window

Sitting in my apartment, watching the sun rise over the mountains makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world. Why wouldn’t I? I have just moved to the European Alps, have a beautiful home and a whole winter ahead of me that involves skiing, exploring and hopefully achieving the goals that are currently fuelling my constant motivation. I am living the dream.

But I don’t think that it is just my current situation that makes me feel lucky. In fact, I think that a lot of the contentment that I am feeling comes from what has already past. There is a saying that I hear quite often- “If you can dream it! Do it!” It’s cliche and for some people potentially a stupid saying but for me personally it has become a way of living.

Dreaming and believing is what has led me to incredible places- if you can’t imagine or visualise a scenario or an outcome- how will you turn the dream into the reality?

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”      – Jonas Salk, Virologist 

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/reality.html#2weFqDA2OpAJgP6w.99

 

Mt Bogong

After a fun winter in New Zealand, I arrived home on a Thursday night in Melbourne, ready to put my head down work and prepare for the northern winter. I was looking forward to a mellow weekend of getting my clothes unpacked, my room organised and filling out my tax return. Yep, I’m pretty boring sometimes- well that is until friends post open invitations for a weekend skiing in the high country, that’s when boring weekends morph into adventures.

All packed

Packed an ready to go to Bogong

At the time I hadn’t skied in Australia since July 2012, which doesn’t sound too bad but considering that I skied here consistently from the age of two to twenty four, I had some catching up to do.

Our motley, yet awesome crew, comprised of a few Mt Bogong diehards, Alex Lockie and Watkin Mclennan, as well as some new blood, including myself, Nick Parkinson and Claire Bradbury, departed from Melbourne at the late start of 8pm. It was around a four hour drive out of Melbourne north to the the trailhead and despite our Pepsi Max fuelled, late night driving, we didn’t arrive until around 1pm.

This was the part that I had been dreading the most, a one to two hour uphill hike in the dark with a heavy pack, skis, boots and all the trimmings for two nights in the great outdoors (including quite the gourmet spread and wine to match).

Funnily enough, the hike was one of the coolest parts of the weekend. Despite my bright headlamp, the stars shone bright above the top of the mountain ash trees. It was quiet except for our footsteps and despite one or two daydreams about the Blair Witch Project, the whole experience was quite mediative. Snow gums and clumps of snow began to appear, along with the flat dry grass that is synonymous to the Victorian high country- we were close. The weatherboard hut sparkled ahead in the beams of our head torches, it would be an understatement to say that I was excited for bed. After making a decent ruckus (and waking up most of the other campers, major camp faux-pas), we settled down for bed, three in tents and two in Michell Hut.

Michell Hut

Packing up for a day on the hill at Michell Hut

Locked, loaded and ready to hike to the snowline

View from the hut

The next morning started slowly as we were expecting that it would take some time for the snow to soften. Despite a killer winter in Australia, the warm spring had melted a lot of the accumulated snow, which meant we had to carry our skis and boots for about thirty minutes before ski touring.

After breakfast and a few coffees, we slowly started up the track to the snow line and after an hour we had made it to the peak, before lunch no less. We spent the afternoon taking a few laps, following Alex and Watkin to their favourite spots and dining by the river at lunch time.

Claire and Watkin walking up the ridge

Alex and Watkin talking mountain smack

An epic campsite

Scoring some epic corn

Alex cutting firewood

Alex cutting firewood before a cheese and wine sunset viewing.

We followed a sweet day of spring skiing, with a delicious dinner, brought home by the divine chicken curry made by backcountry chef Watkin- no dehydrated food on his watch (woohoo).

Sunday passed quickly, after a sleep in and a make shift quesadilla breakfast in the fire place, we were packed and hiking down.

While walking up in the dark was one of the highlights of the trip, walking down was the opposite. I have always been of the belief that if it is down, I would prefer to ski it. Unfortunately, the snow line is not that low, so if I want to keep on skiing in Australia, I’m going to have to learn to pack it in and invest in some new hiking boots.

Thanks for such a sweet weekend guys!

Here is some clips from skiing on Bogong care of my iON Air Pro 3:

NG Weekend Radio

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I was both nervous and excited to be interviewed on the National Geographic Weekend Radio Show that aired yesterday. Our whole team are so bursting at the seams to share the amazing adventure that our expedition Shifting Ice and Changing Tides was. Keep your eyes peeled, there is more to come!

In the meantime, have a listen to the interview with KT Miller and myself:

NG Weekend Radio

Full Story

 

Ridgelines

Shredding the backside of Gottleib's

Shredding the backside of Gottleib’s
Photo: Neil Kerr, NZ Skier

Despite some tough days waiting for the snow this winter, there was some golden moments; light creamy pow, bluebird skies and untouched stashes of wind-buffed pow.

Many of the best days skiing I have had this winter were spent out the back of Treble Cone on my ski touring set-up, exploring ridge lines with friends. Those days inspired this little edit that I filmed on my iON Air Pro 3.

Shades of Winter: Pure

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of filming with Shades of Winter in Japan. It was an awesome opportunity to not only work with a rad bunch of ladies and the Shades of Winter crew, (which included filmers Mario Feil and Mathias Bergmann, photog Aaron Jamieson and guide J-S Hereux) but also a chance to be apart of something bigger.

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As a kid we used to watch ski movies in the mornings before we went out to race or mogul training. My favourite for a long time was ‘Not another ski movie’, which was quickly replaced by ‘Claim’ when it came out. My favourites weren’t based on the best tricks or locations, it was usually for the ethos of the movie as a whole. I loved that ‘Claim’ made fun of the serious side of skiing, while still inspiring viewers to get outside and challenge themselves.

With an aim to capture the ‘Pure’ moments that we all experience while skiing, I hope that segments of this film will get skiers, especially girls stoked on skiing and the endless possibilities that it can offer you.

The full feature will premier at IF3 Montreal on September 20th and then later in October in Europe. For more info check out this link.

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