The days start early. Training is always at high altitude. You hydrate and eat constantly. A day on the glacier is always tough both mentally and physically. But the snow conditions are typically excellent, making for high volume and an efficient start to the new season.
A typical day starts with a 6:15 am load. In Zermatt, it’s 45 minutes from valley floor to the Klein Matterhorn peak. We’re on snow at 7:00am. The air temperature is around -7 or -8c on a mid-summer day, but the snow is rock, hard. Groomed corduroy from the softer snow that has frozen overnight.
The session will run around 4 to 5 hours. Uphill transport in Zermatt is by t-bar (very good continuous snow contact, but tiring as you are on your feet all morning).
The routine starts with a good warmup to prepare for the day – both activation and also drills, before a full session of gates – SL or GS. Gate training is usually underway by 8:00. Depending on conditions and how long the snow will remain firm, the next 3 to 4 hours will be focused on running gates.
Training a 60 second course at nearly 4,000 metres literally takes your breath away. So pacing is important. Drinking fluids even more so. The glacier environment is very dry. Constant intake of food – snacks, fruit – are critically important to keep the energy levels up. Midway through every session, breakfast seems like a distant memory.
Zermatt’s layout is excellent, with multiple lanes that can accommodate speed and technical training, with an extensive freeride park alongside the alpine ski racing lanes. The profile of the glacier permits everything from World Cup caliber lanes to gentle slopes for the large groups of much younger athletes.
By mid-day, roughly 11:00, the snow begins to soften and is no longer firm enough to be productive, so courses are taken down and the 45 journey to valley floor is repeated in reverse.
Afternoons are occupied by dryland training sessions which range from lifting to hikes to football (yes, soccer). After dinner, equipment issues are addresses, video reviewed and plans are put in place to do it all again, tomorrow.
Glacier insight: a latte at the ‘Bar del Rifugio” on the Italian side of the Plateau Rosa is 1.50 Euro. The same latte is 5 Swiss Francs in Zermatt. Guess where the coaches make a bee-line to once the courses are set up and athletes are focused on warm-up?