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SkiPost E-tale

by Marcus Nash
From Endurance Enterprises

November 6, 2000

Travels with Marcus Nash: Dachstein Glacier

When it comes to summer skiing the Dachstein Glacier is the place to go. During the past two summers the U.S. Ski Team has spent several weeks training on the glacier. After considering all the alternatives, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Alaska, and the ski tunnel in Finland, the National Team has chosen Dachstein as the best training facility. While I feel that New Zealand offers the best possible snow conditions there is always that possibility that there will be no snow at all. This makes booking a plane ticket difficult and expensive. Eagle Glacier, in Alaska, offers great skiing but access to the glacier, due to poor weather conditions and problems with the lodge can be extremely tedious when planning a training camp. I found skiing on the snowfields of Norway to be utterly demoralizing and unpleasant due to the horrible snow and weather conditions. I cannot comment on Australia or the ski tunnel in Finland having never been to either place.

So what makes the Austrian glacier a superior training location? It is the combination of great skiing combined with superb dryland training. Not to mention the fact that snow is guaranteed to be there. Planning a trip to Dachstein is made much easier due to the fact that it is a glacier so snow is always accessible. While the skiing conditions may vary depending on the time of year, Dachstein is usually fairly consistent skiing. Even without the glacier, the town of Ramsau is an ideal training spot with a newly improved rollerski track and plenty of running and hiking trails. You can also visit the Ramsau beach for an afternoon game of volleyball and a swim. The glacier is reached via a somewhat frightening cable car ride to an altitude of 2750 meters. The cable car runs in any weather condition so you are assured to ski when you want. The high elevation helps to provide fresh snow during the summer months. It snowed several times while I was training there in July this year. While not the most exciting skiing in the World, the glacier provides perfect terrain for easy skiing and technique work. There are both five and ten kilometer loops on separate parts of the glacier but each is similar in design, having many switchbacks. The grade of the track is perfect for high altitude skiing, not so steep as to cause you to either walk or build up too much lactate while trying to ski. A few words of warning before you pack your bags and hop on that jet across the Atlantic Ocean. The Dachstein Glacier demands respect. One must be well trained and in good shape if they are going to benefit from a training camp there. Many skiers have ruined or setback their racing season from training to hard on the glacier or spending too much time training there without adequate conditioning.

The stress to your body can be more detrimental than any benefits received from summer skiing. First is the long trans-Atlantic flight combined with some serious jet lag. Once your body has recovered from this, which usually takes two to four days, you can begin to ski. The next shock comes to your system when you start to ski at over eight thousand feet of elevation. Some of your muscles will have been dormant for a few months and will scream for oxygen after a few minutes of skiing. While good training, rollerskiing is different from skiing. Some small muscle groups will be used for snow skiing that are neglected during rollerski sessions. Skiing at high elevation (or at altitude as we usually say incorrectly) could be discussed at length. Without going in to too much detail I will say that Dachstein is high and you must keep a close watch on your body. We use a small lactate analyzer to make sure that we are training at the correct pace and not creating too much lactate in our muscles. For those of you without this luxury, keeping a close look at your heart-rate while training is the next best thing to assure a proper training pace.

I have found summer skiing to be a significant benefit to my improvement as a world-class skier. I would recommend skiing on the Dachstein Glacier to those athletes who are serious about racing and training. I would also recommend it to anyone who loves to ski and wants to enjoy the thrill of skiing in such a spectacular location. You have the opportunity to see some of the best skiers in the world training around you while gazing out at some breathtaking scenery. So keep up the training, wax those skis and hit the trails.

Train smart and have fun,
Marcus Nash

Marcus Nash is a member of the US Cross Country Team, and a Fischer Athlete Force Member. Marcus's articles are distributed by Endurance Enterprises. To receive your own copy of the Marcus Nash e-tales, subscribe by sending an e-mail to heatherh@endurance-enterprises.com.

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