The sheen of ice promised the potential of a reasonable day of training.
It could have been a small reward after the tedious ascent up to the Plateau Rosa, high above Zermatt. Winds had doubled the usual 45 minute ride. We were an hour late in reaching the snow.
One run gave us the answer. Even at an altitude of 3,900 metres, rain and clouds had weakened the icy grip necessary for good summer training.
One good run.
But we didn’t come here to give up when it gets tough. That one good run was followed by 6 more, pushing to bring around the 35 metre radius GS ski in mush. Every run was a rough ride. The lengthy course offered no respite. After two hours, we switched to slalom, plowing through ever softening conditions.
It was a real slog. But it was still a good day.
The rain brought relief from the extreme heat wave that had set records across the Alps. The air was finally clear. Pounding away on a tough course, while the ugliest feeling imaginable, delivered conditioning and focus.
And the real reward came this morning: granite-hard snow. Nearly unlimited visibility to one of the most beautiful alpine vistas in the world. On snow at 7:00 and the snow finally softened at 11:30. Following warm-up, two quality runs of GS, six runs of SuperG and to wrap up the session, four lengthy slalom runs.
The tough days make good ones that much sweeter.
In ski racing, it’s rare to have those epic days. Cold, wind, fog, rain, snow – we live in the elements which make our sport so challenging but also special. A constantly changing environment, which is why ugly training days are so important. We learn. We push ourselves. We dig deep and submerge the urge to pack up and go home.