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,