Former biathlete, current coach….all round nordic enthusiast!

An elite athlete competing in the sport of biathlon: nordic ski racing combined with marksmanship

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snowy and Snowless Adventures in Europe. First installation: Slovenia!

Last night I got back from a whirlwind trip to Europe for two weekends of racing. Our initial plans to race an Alpin Cup in Pokljuka, Slovenia and Austrian National Championships in Rosenau, Austria went out the window due to the crazy winter weather they are having in central Europe this year, but we made the best of it and got some good races in else wear. I took a lot of pictures so I'm going to share them and narrate our trip through them! Click on any picture to view it larger.

First though I need to thank everyone who helped make this trip possible for me. I had a really great time over there and the races we did get in were an invaluable addition to my race season.


We flew into Munich (E), drove southeast through Austria to Bled and Poklujka, Slovenia ©, where we stayed for a week, before driving on to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic (D) for our final time abroad. From Nove Mesto we completed the loop back to Munich for our flights back to the US of A. 

There isn't much snow in central Europe right now unless you get up into the mountains. This picture was taken on the Autobahn (no, I wasn't driving) when we first came into view of some more significant snow. In Munich, where we landed, the grass was almost green looking! 

Raleigh was pretty wiped from the travel...

The Europeans use a lot of tunnels on the Autobahn…this one was 7,864 meters long. Casey and Kelsey were trying to hold their breath through the first tunnels we came to but this one, which literally took us under a huge mountain, was just too long. 

On the other side of the almost-8-kilometer-long tunnel we hit winter for real! Headed for the border between Austria and Slovenia in this shot….

Finally off the Autobahn and into Bled, Slovenia, our home for the first few nights. They got a huge snowstorm followed by freezing rain right before our arrival so there were a lot of trees down and hanging over the roads. 

The view down over Lake Bled from our hotel room on the hill. Not too shabby! Unfortunately this was the only time we got to see the view. The lake, being completely unfrozen with such warm weather, draws the fog into the valley and completely obscures everything. 

Upon arriving in Bled we immediately found out that our first planned races in Pokljuka had already been canceled due to too much snowfall. The venue is located up a mountain road and was having trouble with downed trees and power outages (making shooting with electronic targets pretty problematic). After some searching we discovered there were no other race options else wear so we decided to stay and time trial with the local biathlon teams. 

I went for an exploratory jog along the lake's edge. There were trees down and hanging over the trail. 

Lots of damage from so much snow (they got over a meter of heavy, wet snow) and ice. 

There's an island in the middle of the lake with a castle on it. 

Really quite gorgeous. 

The path I took along the lake. The hill on the left side of the lake has another castle on it, not sure if you can really make it out in this picture. 

Lorries waiting for spring along the shore...

Another bigger lorry all snowed in...

Another view in the other direction...

This little boathouse was really ornate and quite pretty with all the fresh snow. 

The same boathouse again. 

The locals feed the water fowl along the shore…this guy was pretty interested in Seth and I until he discovered that we had no snacks to offer.

Pretty trees hanging out over the water.

We found this guy in town along one of the walkways…cute!

From Bled we drove up to a mountain plateau for training and discovered even more snow up there. To put this photo into a little better perspective, Ethan is over 6 feet tall….

Just a little snow on the ground up there...

Our first day in Pokljuka was sunny and clear.  

Great weather for shooting and exploring new (and VERY SNOWY trails).

The guy in the distance spent the entire day snow-blowing this passage between fences….

Betsy (Casey's mom and Seth's assistant for the trip) was all smiles in front of the Pokljuka Biathlon Hotel (where we eventually moved). 

The wax cabins had just a little snow surrounding them. We had to climb the snowbank to the left to get up to the ski trail…

After spending two nights down in Bled we moved up to Pokljuka and stayed in the hotel right on the range. No sooner did we get there then it started to snow again and it didn't really stop until after we left. We did two time trials on the weekend, one with the Slovenian junior teams, some Russians and some Australians, and one on our own. The second one, by ourselves, was under HEAVY falling snow. I think we all ended up really wet from the fresh flakes. 

Zeroing in heavy falling snow...

Betsy, in her raincoat, was soaked before we even got started with our time trial. 

Twenty minutes worth of snowfall right there...

The gang picking up after the time trial...

Watching the Olympics in Europe is really sweet. There were 2 or 3 channels showing JUST Olympic coverage and they showed all of the nordic races in their entirety WITHOUT commercials! Here's Susan in the pursuit. 

On the day of our second time trial is snowed a lot! All of that snow behind the shovel fell during the day and then it kept snowing through the following night! 

Seth and I did some post-holing to explore these buried buildings just off the road by our hotel. He's standing on his feet in this picture and he's still probably about 4-5 FEET off the ground. The next picture is taken under the overhang on the building he's next to...

A lot of snow here. Now he's on the ground. 

This was a shelter over a picnic table...

We built a snowman above the biathlon range...

Our snowman as seen from our hotel room the next morning.

Kelsey, a junior from Washington who joined our group for the trip, posing after a shooting workout. 

A sign along the trail. Slovenian words have a lot of consecutive consonants, making deciphering words almost impossible. 

A trail off the back of the race trails…really gorgeous with all the fresh snow and the clouds lifting off a little bit. 

Heading back up toward the venue and race trails.

This view was from the porch outside our hotel room looking down on the hotel carport out back. I'm guessing they really trust the strength of that roof!

When we was time to leave Pokljuka we had a serious digging job to get our two rental vehicles out. All the snow on top of the van fell in two days! 

Casey standing in the tunnel that is the stairway to the parking lot…Casey is about 6 feet tall. 

How you remove snow when you live in Pokljuka. 

Driving back down from the mountain valley where the Pokljuka venue sits. 

The snowbanks were taller than our van! 

Check back soon for pictures and a summary from the second half of our trip. 

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