Monday, January 31, 2011

Morning Tour

Imagine taking a 30 km point to point tour on freshly groomed snowmobile trails with lots of snow, blue sky and no one else around (we saw 1 snowmobile).
Here are a couple of pictures from our Mad Tom Notch to Langrove ski.

Tyler checks out our new stadium (hmmmm..actually, it's Griffith Lake).
We ended with lunch at the Caldwell house.

Weston EC's

We had a beautiful day for the Weston Eastern Cups. Temps in the mid to upper 20's, plenty of snow and wide trails made for a perfect double race day.
In the morning there was a sprint preliminary and in the afternoon there were mass start races.
With 4 of our skiers off on USST trips, it was interesting to see who would step up to lead the group. No worries, 5 of the 8 kids we had racing made the podium :)
Many thanks to Amie Smith and all of the CSU race crew for putting on two first class races.
Tyler and Hammish cruised the mass start race playing cat and mouse..then Hammish put the hammer down and nipped Tyler in a great finish.
Scott M came down for a little EC experience and skied well.
Coaches doing their coach thing.

Rachel worked hard and had a good day. She was 3rd in the morning prelim and only 12 seconds out of first in the afternoon.
Issy P looking strong.
Hallie brings it home. She got stuck in the 2nd pack, but hammered the last km to close the gap and finish in the top 10 overall.
The girls lead pack early on. Congratulations to Corey Stock who is coming back from injury and won both races. It is great to have her back on the circuit.
Start picture taken from high atop Mt. Weston.
Charlie kicked into gear and placed 2nd for J1 boys in the mass start race.
Happy boys.
Brooke had a very strong morning race (top J2, 8th overall), but struggled in the mass start.

Bridger had a great day. He won the morning prelim race by 4 seconds and was skiing comfortably in 3rd place in the afternoon race before his tip broke (causing a drag for the last 2 km)...he still ended 6th overall!
Austin, above and below, started well, then struggled but held on for a decent result.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Update from J1 trip

Made it to Ostersund Sweden! Its looking really awesome over here, the skiing is simply outrageous. Everyone around here is so into skiing and it shows even around town. The bus stops have nordic posters plastered all over them and the trail system here at Camp Sodergren is amazing. The trails go right into parts of town and all of the bus routes connect to the trails for local pick ups. The lights flare up on the trails everyday for tons of night skiing. We've walked around town a bit and Ostersund is a really cool city. Tons of shops and local activity. This morning the coaches made us an awesome breakfast of swedish pancakes covered in jams, jellies, fruits, and yogurt. Later today we are hoping to hit a flea market in town!

Awesome skiing under the lights!

The biathlon stadium and the water tower/ restaurant.
Our rooms right on the ski trails
Jack and Paddy's favorite breakfast of blueberry soup, yogurt, banana, and granola!
Lunch on top of the tower with an amazing buffet.

For J1 trip updates, click on the link on the right.

This story was from Cambria and Paddy. Thanks!!!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

More Estonia Musings From Pete Davis


Sixty of them make up a minute.

Over the course of almost four minutes, a single second doesn’t seem like a significant amount of time. At the Junior World Championships, a fraction of a second recalls the saying that a “miss is as good as a mile”. Two of the young guns from the US Team learned that lesson the hard way yesterday, missing the qualifying cut for the round of 30 by less than a second.

Stratton Mountain School Senior, Heather Mooney skied an incredible qualifier, only to miss the cut by a single position. She ended up in 31st place, missing the cut by a mere fraction of a second. SMS PG skier, Skyler Davis suffered a similar fate, missing the hot seat spot by 0.8 seconds. It was agonizing watching his qualifying standing slide from the mid teens, into the twenties and then stall out in the hot seat for about half a dozen racers. Sitting in the final, 30th, qualifying spot “the hot seat” is nerve wracking, especially when a roster of potentially fast Finnish skiers haven’t yet left the start. Eventually, the axe fell and Davis joined his USA teammates on the sidelines to cheer on the only member of the team, male or female, who made it into the quarterfinals: University of Alaska racer, from Washington state, Erik Bjornsen. Bjornsen, skied a great qualifier, placing tenth. Despite skiing a great qualifying round, Erik was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Unlike many of the races in the USA, including the USA National Championships, the “lucky loser” designation is based on time, not lowest bib number. To the uninitiated, for a few hopeful minutes, it looked like Erik might advance into the semis based on a low bib-lucky loser spot, but when faster heats arrived at the finish, the cards weren’t in his favor. Tough break.

The depth of the field here in Oteppa is staggeringly deep. Less than 14 seconds separated 1st from 30th in the qualifying round. In the men’s qualifier, Russia and Norway claimed the first 8 spots. Finland, Sweden and Germany peppered racers throughout the top 30 with surprisingly fast results from France, Austria and host nation Estonia. The Czech Republic, Japan and Kazackstan (insert BORAT joke here…) all had single skiers whom made the cut to the quarterfinals.

After two brilliantly sunny days, the first day of sprints featured ominously dark skies, very high humidity, warmer temperatures but a biting wind. The chill from the high humidity and wind cut right to the bone. Waxing was a challenge.

When the smoke cleared, there were no surprises on the podium for men or women’s events.

Germany, Norway, Norway for the women.

Russia, Norway, Russia for the men.

(The top six in the final heat for the men ended up:

Russia, Norway, Russia, Norway, Russia, Norway. Hmmm…anyone see a pattern here?)


The entire event is broadcast LIVE on Estonian TV, nationwide. It’s pretty cool to watch the events everywhere you go during the day.

All racers are listed by nationality and club. The sole exception is Russia. No club affiliations are associated with the athletes. They are RUSSIAN!!

Slovenia has the best racing suits (especially if you’re racing in Vermont during deer season). Their distinctive, fluorescent yellow, neon suits make a real fashion statement!

Many of the powerhouse teams may be found skiing at odd hours on the public trails found throughout Oteppa. It’s not uncommon to run into packs of Norgwegian, Swiss, Swedish or German skiers out on the public trails at the end of the day.

XXXL JUMBO-JUMBO-tron screen in the stadium is impressive. The film crews have been doing an amazing job capturing the action and replaying photo finishes in slow motion on a huge viewing screen the size of Rhode Island. The announcing at the events is great with two emcees calling the shots.

One of the duet patters away in Estonia… (I think?) while the other splits time between the native tongue and English.

Standard for all Sprint starts is an eerie, Valkerie-ish kind of chant complete with Big-Ben ticking clock sound effect in the background. As soon as the start pistol is fired, piped in massive crowd-cheering sound effects blast forth from the speakers. Rowdy fan participation is heartily encouraged!

No “B” finals. No low-bib lucky losers. It’s all about time.

Speaking of which… they run the events with incredible precision. No delays, instant results, confirmed with video and all events are precisely on schedule.

Although we haven’t encountered any while skiing around the countryside, Wild Boar may be found on virtually every restaurant’s menu. Pork tare tare anyone?

The ‘second highest … er, place?’ (hill, mountain or small Alp would be a stretch…) in the Oteppa region is topped off with a massive, wooden viewing tower. Trust in Estonian architecture and carpentry skill is a must for those willing to ascend the tower. Once you arrive on the top deck, you are afforded a view of miles and miles of trees, right out to the Estonian horizon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sprint Race and Otepää Stadium

Today we had the sprint race for juniors in Otepää. It wasn't an amazing day for Americans, but it wasn't too bad. Heather was the fastest girl, ending up 31st and only a few tenths of a second out of the heats. Then Amy was 40th, I was 57th, and Kinsey was 58th. For the guys Erik Bjornsen made the heats, qualifying in 10th or 11th and then getting 4th in his quarterfinal. But a guy in front of him got disqualified so he ended up 3rd in his heat but was unable to get lucky loser. Sky was the next American, finishing 35th, only a little bit out of the heats, followed by Tyler Kornfield in 38th and George Cartwright in 49th. We got to stick around and watch all the heats which was awesome! This is by far the coolest place I've ever skied, the stadium is absolutely amazing. Here are some pictures:
They have the big bubble things at the start and finish which makes you feel really fast!
And a huge screen so you can see the entire sprint race. The building on the left is the wax cabins which are wicked nice and have things to bring in clean air so it doesn't kill the lungs of the waxers.
There are three of these tunnels in the stadium which is the secret to its success. You walk through the tunnels to get to the start and finish and wax cabins, but you also ski over them when you lap through the stadium.
Here are the flags, America fourth from the left!!
There were quite a few people in the stands, it will probably be pretty packed the next few days because it'll be the weekend.
Here is most of the stadium. You start under the big bubbles on the left that say start and go out and take a left up the hill and then go up a hill and down behind the start where the close red markers are. Then you go over one of the tunnel bumps and through the stadium and start up that same hill but stay to the right and loop around the biathlon course. Then, there's about 200 meters of double poling at the end to get around the biathlon course and then into the lanes. The group of people in front of my camera are the Russian waxers, it was pretty funny to watch them during the heats. There was one Russian boy who used skate skis during all his heats and ended up fifth.
Here is one of the male heats starting with the screen on the left showing the start.
Boys lapping through. It was awesome to watch the heats today, there were a bunch of really fast skiers out there and it was a great learning experience.
Also, yesterday was a really nice day, it was really cold but the sun was out and it was a blue sky for the first time since we've been here. So I took a walk to Elva in the afternoon and took some pictures of the Estonian landscape. From Izzy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pete Davis Reports From Estonia

Caryn and I flew overnight from JFK to Helsinki, Finland yesterday. After an hour or so in Finland, we caught the Estonian Air, 1/2 hour flight from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia. Both Tallinn and Helsinki are right on the Gulf of Finland. You could see all these straight lines running through the ice that covers the gulf and if you looked really closely, you could see huge transport ships cutting their way through the ice on their way to deliver their goods. The Tallinn airport is a bit bigger than the one in Burlington, Vermont. After some dicey discussions about insurance with the Eurocar agent, it was off to Oteppa, about a three hour drive to the south.

Estonia is about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined, with app. a million people inhabiting the country. It's pretty sparsely populated with miles and miles of flat fields. Few buildings dot the landscape until you arrive in a village or town. Old ruins of stone barns are a common sight, bringing to mind scenes from the film series, BAND OF BROTHERS. Estonia has been the setting for some gnarly encounters with its neighbors over the centuries. Germany, Sweden and Russia have all laid the place to ruin in years past.

The food in Estonia is... interesting. You can get skunked when ordering something that looks like a nice roll, only to discover a hidden wad of SPAM lurking inside, but on the flip side, there are some pretty decent culinary surprises to be had.

Last night, we (Caryn, Tamra Mooney, her mom and I) all went out to a late night dinner after the Opening Ceremonies at the Stadium. Caryn and I were pretty jet lagged from a full day of travel, but we walked over to a local pub and I ordered a 'chicken with plum' dish. What a nice surprise! It was awesome. They actually wrap a chicken breast around an honest to goodness plum and bake it. It was great. Caryn ordered fish with 'no sauce' which is a guarantee in the USA to get fish slathered in as much sauce as they can find in the kitchen. Here, despite somewhat limited English and our absolute zero command of Estonian, she scored a really nice piece of fish with... sauce!

What's a real mind blower is the cost of food. It is SO cheap. Fully expecting a tab for what would cost $75 at the Shaw's in Manchester, or double that in Switzerland or Norway, the bill came to a paltry $50.00. Staples are incredibly inexpensive. If you shop around some of the more expensive items (ie. Zucchinis are expensive) you can get out of the market relatively unscathed.

Another "WHAT?" moment came when checking out Norwegian design 100% wool sweaters... $40.00. There is a lady in an EZ-UP tent selling woolen goods at incredibly nice prices. Who knew?

The skiing in the stadium is insane for skiers and spectators alike. I feel like we're watching "Monster Truck" skiing. Imagine a stadium built with sprint ski racing in mind. Voila! That's what we're talking about. Rolls, mini-hills, hairpins, straight-aways... it's all there, complete with Stadium seating. You can watch the entire race, sitting up in the stadium seats, gnawing on SPAM filled rolls and waving a USA flag. No dark side of the moon moments when skiers go out of view. Stunning.

Big, huge cauldron of flames was lit last night, complete with requisite barrage of fireworks. Very cool watching Alaskan skier, Tyler Kornfield, as flag bearer, lead Team USA into the stadium. The roster for the US Team was a bit light, but given the 1/2 hour to 40 minute drive that the athletes would have to endure + sub zero temperatures, it was a prudent idea for the kids to get their rest and focus on staying healthy, rather than standing around listening to a lip-synching Estonian 'Rahque und Rollz' band.

"Lena" and her band were funnier than watching Ashley Simpson on Saturday Night Live. The Estonians didn't even attempt to hide the fact that they were up on stage, completely faking it. The guitar player was wearing mittens and strumming away while the music coming over the speakers was lead guitar. Hmmm... The drummer was completely out of synch with the sound coming through the PA. Really? On the second cut, when the sound literally e-braked as if someone picked the needle up off the record, the jig was up, but the band gamefully pulled song number 3 out of their lip synching bag and gave it one more try. By then, 90% of all the athletes had peaced out and were back in their vans scurrying off into the night.

Some USA flag waving idiot (that would be me...) held down the fort, so to speak, for rowdy Team USA fans. Given that Caryn, Tamra, her mom and I are pretty much the entire cheering section for the USA, we have our work cut out for us. That doesn't mean that we're invisible. The SECOND I pulled my flag (complete with chrome pole...) out of the rental car, the impact was immediate. All kinds of people started giving me thumbs up with phenomenally accented "Go USA!" words of encouragement. It was really cool. When I got into the stadium and started waving it, the press went nuts (they were pretty bored...) and started taking tons of photos of the jackass waving old glory. Glad I was wearing my SMS jacket!

On the way back to the car, Lena crooning away to the fast-disappearing crowd, a snooty member of the Norwegian team mockingly asked, "What country is THAAAT flag from?" He was a bit taken back when I said "Britain, but we kicked their ass out and made up our own country. We're from across the pond." It was fun shutting up a holier-than-thou Norgie.

Neighboring, beat-on-the-Estonians-"bully-countries": Russians, Norwegians, Swedes, all are booked in hotels right around the corner from the venue. Team USA? Not so much. But... being out in the boonies has its benefits. No distractions, very nice roads for running and the food in the compound (gulag?) where they are staying is excellent. All in all, a very nice set up for the team, in sort of Eastern European meets Soviet Era architecture sort of way. Frank Loyd Wright it ain't, but the borscht can't be beat!

Did I mention that in general, the command of a local Oteppan's English is outrageously better than my Estonian? That being said, this ain't Western Europe Dorothy! You don't have to travel too far to run into a situation where NO English is spoken, whatsoever. Zero. Add my complete lack of Estonian and you've got some pretty funny pantomimes going on. Lots of little drawings and hand waving. It's just like DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS. If you say it SLOWLY and LOUDLY, they don't understand you much, much better. That being the case, we still have managed to find the US team's hotel, our hotel (completely in the dark... and boy does it get dark over here!) shop, drive, eat and sleep.

The sun comes up at around 8:15 ish (notice the 'ish'). Kind of gloamy. A distinct ground fog covers the area until around 10:00 AM, when there is full light (on sunny days... both days that we've been here so far!) and then the sun is tail lights by 4:30 ish. It's 5:00 PM now and almost completely dark, a la Vermont, on December 21st.

Speaking of VERMONT...
I'm looking forward to bringing back some VERMONT brand cigarettes for everyone. Yup! Won't VT Attorney General, Jeffery Amestoy be excited to learn that our little state is being marketed as a cigarette brand in Estonia. Menthol, filtered, filterless... they've got 'em all.... and at KILLER prices!!

Other Estonian Observations:
Haven't seen a single plane in the sky since we left Tallin, the National Capital, where we flew in from Helsinki, Finland ( 1/2 hour... by the clock... flight over the Gulf of Finland). Guess that there's not a lot of air traffic between Latvia to the south or Russia to the east (frighteningly close to the east...)

Pretty wild sunset last night. As we were driving south from Tallinn, the sun started setting around 3:00 PM and to the east, the wispy clouds in the sky over Russia turned a deep pink, reddish color. As the evening approached, the same clouds went to a distinctly purple color. All the while, I couldn't help but think. Wow! If snow fell out of those clouds the flakes would be landing in Russia. Would they be purple?

The Estonian flag actually makes sense. Turquoise, Black and White horizontal stripes, stacked on top of each other. It's literally the scene you see everywhere around here in winter. Blue sky, Black forest in the distance and white snow fields.

By comparison, Kansas is really mountainous. This is the flattest place I've ever seen. The northern part of the country is so flat it boggles the mind. The second highest hill in the Oteppa region is 211 meters above sea level. Not sure how big the largest one is, but I wouldn't worry about popping your ears or suffering an aneurysm brought on by high altitude.

The only hills we've seen are near Oteppa, sight of one of the only alpine ski areas in the country. We visited it this morning. It boasted a t-bar and approximately 150-200' vertical feet of skiing. The locals were lazing over their umpteenth morning stein of beer and reported that the 'resort' wasn't opening until 11:00ish, so we beat feet to pick up US Team Skiers and drop them off at Nordic trails in Oteppa. They wanted to get their practice ski in on trails adjacent to the actual venue where they will be racing. The logic in doing so was because the trails were being used for today's events and weren't open for training until 4:30, aka, "dark-o'clock". Nah, thanks but no thanks. We'll ski in daylight thank-you.

Roads were designed with a laser. Straight all the way to the horizon. Two lanes with windblown snow in frozen, rutted tracks. Add 120 kpm semi tractor trailer truck coming the other direction and you're white knuckling the steering wheel.

Pay or no-pay? Unlike Norway, where all the Nordic trails are free-access, here you can pay to ski on trails maintained by a resort, or ski for free. We chose option "B" today and enjoyed some really nice skiing around the lake upon which Oteppa is located. The trails were very flat (no surprise there...) but stunningly beautiful, winding through forest and meadow, with gorgeous views of the lake.

TEAM USA fared OK today, better yesterday with Jessie Diggins 7th place finish. Noah Hoffman placed 9th for the guys today and Sadie Bjornsen managed to place around 20th place, Caitlin Patterson a few places behind. Big show tomorrow with Skyler, Tyler, Eric and Cartwright in the sprint. Send FAST VIBES over here for the race tomorrow!

Best, Pete

Finland to Estonia

Here is Heather in Finland with her laundry stuffed up her coat to bring back to the hotel!
We rode on a huge ferry boat with restaurants and dance floors to go to Estonia, it was awesome!
A little island for passport control right outside Helsinki.
Jessie and Heather are up on top of the boat searching for the Estonian coast!
We were lining up to drive into the massive ferry.
This is some Finnish bread that was at every meal when we were in Vierumaki.
There were little islands with a few buildings scattered around the ocean on the Finnish coast.
This is the Helsinki skyline.
Tallinn, Estonia in the distance.
This is Africa, Heather got him in a chocolate egg and a little sheet of paper on the inside said that his name is Africa. Amy Glenn helped us translate the Russian.
Noah, Jenny, Heather, and Africa sitting in a coffee shop in Elva, Estonia. Our hotel is about 3km from Elva and about 25km from Otepää.It's been really fun to spend time with ex-SMS coach Amy Caldwell.
Heather and Kinsey posing with Africa in Elva. We bought some groceries (mostly chocolate!) and then walked around the town for a little bit.
Heather and Izzy in Elva.
Becca, Sadie, and Reese having a good time.
This is dining room in our Estonian hotel, the Waide Motell.
Happy campers at dinner time.
We took ice baths in a makeshift tub the other day, it felt very nice afterwards!
We have a lot of birthdays this week, Ida's was a couple of days ago, Scott's is tomorrow, and Caitlin's is the 30th.

Everything is going well here, yesterday was the individual skate race for juniors. Congratulations to Jessie, who killed it with her 7th place! Noah also went really fast today and finished 9th in the 15k individual start for U23s. Yesterday Izzy ended up 70th and Ash ended up 80th. Tomorrow Izzy, Heather, and Sky are all racing in the classic sprint. It should be very fun! Sorry we don't have any pictures of the venue yet, we'll try to take some tomorrow, the stadium is awesome!