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October skiing on the Dachstein Glacier

Wed, Oct  22, 2008 - By Rick Halling

The first official World Cup race of the year takes place November 22 in Gaellivare, Sweden.  The first SuperTour event in the US will be the West Yellowstone races of November 28 and 29.  But if there is a true opening day for the Nordic season, it is the first Monday in October.  It is on that day every year that over a thousand Nordic athletes, coaches and trainers descend on Ramsau, Austria to begin their training on the Dachstein Glacier.

Cross country skiing on the Dachstein in October

The Dachstein in October. There is nothing like it!

We caught up with Roman Toferer, director of Atomic’s Nordic race program for a report from Ramsau:

Rick Halling:  Hey Roman, how are things in Ramsau?

Roman Toferer:  Totally crazy.  My team and I are busier than two hound dogs in a hubcap factory.

Rick Halling:  How many Nordic ski people are in Ramsau right now?  That includes the coaches, trainers, nutritionists, masseuses as well as the athletes? 

Roman Toferer:  Oh, is up to 600 skiers on the glacier every morning.  The line for the tram in the morning is almost 100 meters long. Looks like more than 1,000 people from everywhere

Rick Halling:  Everybody getting along okay?

Roman Toferer:  Almost, you know, close in front of season start everybody is getting a bit strange

Rick Halling:  What’s the buzz?  Every year there seems to be something everybody is talking about.  What’s the gossip this year?

Roman Toferer:  Big news everybody talk about is Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Norway’s number one racer.  He switch to Atomic.  Now Tord is part of the Thin Red Line.

Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Norway’s number one racer

Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Norway’s number one racer
(Photo by Andrew Canniff)

Rick Halling:  That is pretty exciting. The cool thing about Tord is the way he wears mirrored Aviator sunglasses in races instead of new high tech shades like everybody else.  He looks a little bit like the guard from the movie COOL HAND LUKE.  Is it also true that he eats Moose jerky in between heats at sprint races?  He seems like more of an American Redneck than a Norwegian athlete.

Cool Hand LukeRoman Toferer:  That is the rumor, but I do not believe it.  I think it would be hard to race with stomach full of Moose Jerky. 

Rick Halling:  What are the days like for you and Basch during the camp?

Roman Toferer:  We go up to the glacier in the morning and work with the National teams.  We test for flex and grinds.  We make sure the boots are fitting.  Then we drive back to the factory and get things ready for the teams.  It is only a very short drive from glacier to the Atomic factory.  Every afternoon coaches and athletes come to the factory and get skis and boots. 

Rick Halling:  What do the coaches do for testing?  How do they pick skis for the athletes? 

Roman Toferer:  The skis in our race room are same skis that you see at stores.  They have the same white piece of tape with flex numbers on them, just like the Atomics in stores in USA.  The coaches and athletes know which numbers work and what they need.  They just pick skis by the tape.  Sometimes they put skis base to base and see how they feel.

Atomic cross country ski selection

Rick Halling:  We feel more comfortable in the US if we make things a little more complex.  Making ski selection that simple would make most Americans a little nervous.

Roman Toferer:  Ja, we call that “Paralysis through Analysis.”  Nothing good comes from getting so crazy about ski flex.

Rick Halling:  The US Ski Team used to go to Ramsau in the fall.  Now the major on snow camp is at the end of summer in New Zealand.  Do you think the US should return to the Dachstein?

Roman Toferer:  Think of a Christmas dinner where there is a big table for the grown ups and a little table for the children.  Sometimes, a few grown ups end up eating at that little table for children.  That is what the camp in New Zealand is like, it is the little table for children.  Ramsau is like the big table for adults.  I think the US Ski Team needs to come back to the big table.