For the past three years, I have been spending the Christmas holiday in France with my boyfriend and his family.Since the Tour de Ski starts so closely after the holidays, it doesn't make sense to fly back to the US, and then turn around right away and fly back to Europe. So, in order to stay healthy and best prepared for racing, I have made it a tradition to join my French family instead.
|Christmas Fireworks with the Maubets|
|Enjoying some high mountain adventures on a search for snow.|
The first couple years were always hard for me, simply because the French holiday traditions are not quite the same. And when something feels different, it becomes really easy to feel lonely and homesick. But, I have realized that I have started to adjust. I just rock out to my own Christmas tunes when I go training, and have learned to really enjoy the French Food, and the Pére Noël's (Santa Clause's) different traditions. The French still decorate un sapin de noël avec des garlands et des boules. (A Christmas tree with lights and bulbs) The French also still give lots of cadeaux and love. I used to say that being away for Christmas was the hardest part of what I do… which I still agree with, but I have realized I have it pretty darn good! While I may be away from home, I am not away from family. I get to spend a few weeks away from the "focus" of ski racing, and recharge my soul with some boyfriend and family time. Jo's family and friends around Hauteville and Meribel have taken me in as if I am their own. I am incredibly lucky in fact, because I am surrounded by family overseas. While I miss the perfect skiing in the Methow Valley, and being with my parents and sister, I will be back there after ski racing!
|Jo and I on Christmas Eve.|
|Jo's father making the US Ski Team badge look good!|
|My new skis, ready for chasing Jo in Valdez.|
|Jo, Diane and the goat on our tropical Christmas hike.|
This Christmas break, things felt like a little bit of a traverse. First, we finished out final races in Toblach, Italy… so it was a bit of a long traverse back to France with Marine and Erik (9.5 hours including our minor GPS detour issues). Following that, it was a constant "traverse" to find some snow around Meribel. Unfortunately Europe hasn't really received any snow this year. We have spent all of our time chasing man-made snow around in order to get our training and racing in. So, things continued this way for the Christmas Break. So, I enjoyed some good promenades in the forest hiking and running (taking a break from chasing the snow). Snow was thin, so I took as few 1 kilometer double pole laps as possible.
|A little refuge in the mountains during my ski in Champagny.|
|Doing some of my training on the alpine slopes. Skiing down with Jo and the kids, and skiing back up afterwards.... creative training.|
|Having some fun hiking in the mountains.|
|perfect hiking conditions.|
|Jo and his amazing Christmas clients.|
|The new biathlon involving alpine skiing and shooting.|
After five days in the "ski instructors palace" in Meribel, I headed on the train, and took a traverse towards Villard de Lans, home of my brother's girlfriend and her family. So, lucky for me, I got to celebrate a second Christmas with them, and enjoy some skiing in Autrans. Autrans is a little town, only twenty minutes from Marine's home, and it has some of the most fun skiing around central Europe. It also happens to have maybe some of the most kilometers at this time to ski on.. maybe 15k? It is impressive, all 15 kilometers are packed with people. It is more people in one place then I have ever seen at a nordic ski area. One thing is for sure, skiing is pretty popular in the Vercors! (The region around Villard de Lans)
|A dream ski chasing Marine.|
|Smiles and sunshine all around!|
|Autrans traffic controller.|
From here, we will take our final traverse back to "ski racing" tomorrow and the start of the famous Tour de Ski. The Tour will be starting in Lenzerheide, Swizerland… about a 6.5 hour traverse from here. I am feeling pretty excited and ready to do this Tour de Ski battle. 8 races in 10 days, in 3 different countries. Fun times to come!
Thanks to all my wonderful French family for making this holiday enjoyable despite it being a brown Christmas. And thanks to all my family back home for blowing many kisses overseas! Now, please send your snow too!!
Tour de Ski…. here we come!