The last half of December, 2011 I traveled to Italy and Austria, working in some of the most intriguing areas of the ski world. I had planned on watching Travis in his second full World Cup year and had signed on for the women’s team near the end of the trip. This did not occur as planned.
As sometimes happens, the men’s team was without a doctor for the Val Gardena World Cup. Since I was there anyway to watch Travis, I was asked to be the team doctor there and at two additional venues before my scheduled time with the women in Lienz, Austria.
First stop was Val Gardena, Italy, in the heart of the Dolomites. This Val is comprised of four small villages surrounded by the Sella Ronde, which is a towering collection of high craggy peaks and Alps. The views were breathtaking from any vantage point and I had plenty of time to take it in. The weather was clear, cold and too windy to race much. There was a lot of wind-hold time during which I spent 4-5 days discussing everything from music to medicine with the German Doctor – Herman Mayer, and the Austrian doctor- Christian Fink. It was enlightening to hear different approaches to the injuries we all see, while standing on a cold side hill. I left the dolomites wishing I could spend a minimum of 6 weeks there in both the winter and summer.
Next stop was Alta Badia, Italy for the men’s SL and GS. This time I was the doctor for only two days, but I always seem to find (actually, the coaches determine my location) the coldest, steepest side hills to stand on. Trying to ski down with the 50# pack on an icy slope-now with ruts- after standing for many hours is nerve racking. To make matter worse, I left my favorite Kuhl shirt in the hotel. They were so nice to track it down and send to the US one month later- freshly laundered.
Then came two days off in Cortina. By the way, the drive from Val Gardena to Alta Badia to Cortina is a must. During the summer, this would be THE bike ride! Castles of Dolomite rock are everywhere you look. In Cortina we walked the beautiful city after four hours of skiing on very cold, groomed slopes. Warming up with a cappuccino in a 3 table refugio-café on the back side of the slopes, we ran into a 17 year old local who invited us to come for dinner with his family and most notably his brother, Christian Ghedina. Christian retired a few years back and was probably, after Alberto Tomba, the second most notable Italian ski racer.
Third duty stop was Flachua, Austria for the men’s and women’s nacht slalom. This was a very festive event as all the locals came out to party after work and enjoy the races. We saw Travis’ girlfriend, Marie-Michelle Gagnon of Canada, take 5th place and celebrated with them over Kaiserschmaren (this is cut up thin pancake like stuff with fruit and powdered sugar or jam). The women’s ski tech, Mateo, had some suturing for me to do on his hand—which happened in the hotel room, in-between races, with my wife, Jan, holding a hanging ceiling light, while Mateo held his cigarette lighter for more light. I was rewarded after the Christmas break with a large bottle of Grunello wine from his home valley in Italy.
Christmas in Europe was very special for us. We spent four days with Travis and Marie-Michelle in Marie Alm, Austria. This is a very small one street village and is connected by a 70 km interconnected lift serviced ski circuit. We had fresh snow daily as we tested the extent of circuit. When we reached the end we realized that we would have to take the ski bus back to our doorstep- it was just a little too far to ski all the way back.
The fourth and last duty stop was Lienz, Austria for the women’s GS and SL. It was American, Sarah Schlepper’s last race and her second run was completed with her baby in arms and wearing a dress. Other highlights were Michaela Schiffrin’s first podium and Resi Stiegler’s first top result after a long and frustrating return from injuries.
Then it was time to come home to catch up on work and family. This coming year as a ski team doctor will be unusual and interesting. As some of you know, I was asked by the German’s head coach and medical staff to attend to their team in Beaver Creek this year. So look for me there in the Bogner Deutsch National Team uniform. In March I’ll be back working for the USST in Lenzerheide, Switzerland for the World Cup Finals.
Now its time to enjoy another exciting winter!
on the way to ski via the cemetery in Maria Alm,Austria
Pre doctors meeting
Lindsay Vonn getting focused
Val Gardena - men's speed venue
Travis Ganong 12th Kitzbuehl Down Hill