A third place finish at a Swiss World Cup ski mountaineering race on January 30 has lifted Revelstoke racer Mel Bernier’s spirits as she heads into the biggest challenge of her European campaign.
I spoke with Bernier via Skype from her French base in Manigod, a resort town off the road between Chamonix and Annecy, in the Haute-Savoie section of the Rhône-Alpes.
Outside the snow keeps pounding down, bringing tons of fresh snow. “My car was buried. I couldn’t event see it from the road,” Bernier tells me.
The fresh dump is a big relief since it was bare and warm when she arrived in early January.
“When I showed up here it was grass. There was no snow below 1,400 metres,” she said, adding it hurt her training routine as she slogged out laps in slush.
The new snow and some training tweaks led to her first big success of the season, landing her on the podium in third at a Jan. 30 Swiss World Cup race at Torgon skialpi in Switzerland, just a few hours away by car.
“We were super lucky. We were racing in fresh powder and it was bluebird,” Bernier said.
Bernier challenged for second place, coming about 20 seconds short, and about two minutes behind the winner.
“I was battling the whole time,” Bernier said. “I feel way more confident after yesterday.”
By her own accord, the first races in Bernier’s 2015 European campaign didn’t go well. She felt jet lagged heading into her first International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF) World Cup race at Puy Saint Vincent, France on Jan. 10–12.
“It was a pretty rough start,” she said. She finished 18th in the individual, 8th in sprint and 18th in vertical.
The next weekend she raced at a French World Cup event and finished 6th in a sprint race after suffering from equipment failure.
Next up was a World Cup race at Font Blanca, Andorra, on Jan. 24–25. Bernier finished 9th in individual and 18th in vertical.
Her first podium is a result of tweaks in her training schedule, which called for the addition of the Torgon skiapli race to get her ready for the ISMF World Championships at Verbier-Val De Bagnes, Switzerland, Feb. 5–12. (http://www.verbier2015.ch)
The event is the biggest stop on her calendar this season; the pinnacle ISMF event runs every other year.
Bernier plans to build on her success: “I have to say after yesterday, now I am feeling like I found my smile while racing.”
With old friends arriving daily for the big race, she’s feeling more relaxed and prepared.
Bernier races in individual events on February 6th, 7th and 9th and will also do a relay event on Feb. 12th.
Check back to the Revelstoke Mountaineer for more coverage of the event.