For these winter fanatics, all that matters is the snow (and the ice).
Dan and Elaine Vardamis
This Spring/Summer Dan and Elaine Vardamis completed The Expedition Amundsen, an annual 100-kilometer cross-country skiing race that took place in Norway. At the end of the race, Dan and Elaine placed second in the co-ed division.
How did you go about training for such a physically demanding race?
The race course is a vast, treeless plateau called Hardangervidda.
The race appealed to us because we’re not particularly fast but we can go a long way. We also were drawn to the adventure side of the event – the wild terrain, the potential for multiple overnights in a climate that is as close as you can get to Greenland or Antarctica without going there. In the summer we mountain bike, hike, run and roller ski, but this would not adequately prepare us for the sled weight. So starting in November, we loaded up our sleds with weight and pulled them up and down mountains.
How did the race go? Were there any unexpected challenges?
Placing wise we did quite well, coming in 2nd overall in the co-ed division and becoming the first non-Norwegians to ever podium in the race. Elaine was something like the 6th fastest woman in the entire event. Looking back we probably did as well or better than we could have hoped, but there are always things you’d like to do better. It’s a very complex race, so while our physical shape was quite good, thanks in large part to training all winter at 10,000 feet and above, our inexperience and rookie status caused us to make more mistakes than normal.
You live in Eldora, CO, what are some of your favorite things to do in Boulder County?
In the winter, the Indian Peaks provide alpine touring, telemark and nordic touring options galore. We spend 125-150 days a year skiing in these mountains. The Nordic Center at Eldora is a Boulder County gem, with some beautiful trails and it is a great place to get an amazing workout in just an hour. We’ll often go up there before work.
Rocco Grimaldi was a late-season call-up to the Avalanche from the affiliated San Antonio Rampage. This year, he made it through to the last rounds of cuts of the preseason for the Avalanche. Only time will tell if Grimaldi is called back up to the Avalanche again this year, but one thing is for sure: no matter where he’s playing, hockey is a huge part of his life.
Where is your favorite city that you’ve gotten to visit for a game?
Oh, my goodness, I’ve been so many places, that is such a hard question. I’ve been to 44 states and ten countries. Obviously, Denver’s cool because of the scenery and mountains. I played in Portland, Maine, a couple of years ago and it was a surprisingly cool town on the water.
What is a memorable play that you’ve had throughout your career?
In 2013 we had the World Junior Championship, and Team USA was in the gold medal championship against Sweden, and we were down 1 – nothing and I scored two goals in the second period, and then we won 3 – 1. So it was pretty memorable to do something like that for your country, to win a gold medal for the USA.
Connie Sciolino is many things. A business owner, a wife and mother, and an athlete. From skiing to ice climbing, Scolino is about as active as they come. She’s also the owner of the Alpine Training Center, where she helps others get the strength and endurance necessary to be active all winter long.
If someone hasn’t been active in a while, what is the first thing to do to get back in shape?
The first thing anyone should do is develop an aerobic base. So that means start walking if that’s the level you’re at, or hiking if you can. If you’re farther along than that, go jogging or running. It just gets you moving and going from sitting all the time to wanting to do something. Starting with only thirty minutes, three or four times a week, and then building on that base. That’s the best thing you can do.
The gym is indoors, so how do you go about training for things that are on snow, or on the rocks?
My job is to get people strong and increase their overall conditioning. That’s my goal in the gym. I want to train specific muscle sets and how they move. The best example is the ice climbers: they bring their ice climbing tools, and they hang and move on our “ice climbing” wall. And when they’re out, that’s when they practice the technical aspects.
What is about skiing that you enjoy the most?
I love being out in the mountains. That’s the first thing that drew me in, was being outside. For me, it’s the whole learning process of skiing. Even now I’m still learning, and I think it’s a sport that you can keep working on your entire life.
For Denver-local Trevor Gagstetter, skiing is a part of his life year-round. From Vail to St. Mary’s Glacier and all the way down under in New Zealand, he hasn’t let a month slip by without skiing since September of 1997.
Was it a conscious goal to go skiing every month for 20 years?
Yeah, initially it started out as wanting to ski in the summer months and then realizing that I could ski every month if I wanted to.
It started before the streak started, in ’96. I wanted to go skiing on my birthday, which is in August.
So I had to figure out if you could do that, and I learned you could go up to St. Mary’s [Glacier] and ski year round. So that’s when it occurred to me that I could ski year round.
From there, Gagstetter decided he wanted to try to ski every month for a year. Since then, he’s surpassed his original goal 20 times. But it wasn’t always an easy task. Right at the beginning of his streak, Gagstetter faced challenges thanks to mother nature.
When I was a freshman at CU in the dorms, and I had taken a bunch of my friends up to ski in August. It was sunny, and we had a great time. And fast forward to September 30th, and I set the day to go up, and everybody bails on me because it had been raining all day. So I’m sitting there thinking, “Man, am I really going to go do this?”
And something in me just told me that I had to go up.
So is this streak going to keep going? Is there an end-point or are you going for a 30-year streak?
It’s gonna keep going…
Learning how to ski, doing Professional Ski Instructor Association training has helped me a lot. Learning the proper techniques for traversing snow has been crucial to me keeping myself healthy. If you know how to control your center of gravity and your speed at all times, you’ll never fall, and you’ll never hurt yourself.