Melanie Schwartz



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2012 Blog

Copper NorAms - December 16, 2012

I just wrapped up a very busy week of racing. I went to Copper Mountain and competed in six races over five days. Time is flying by very quickly. I still feel like I just joined the US team and I need more training before I am ready to race. But time flies and the first races of the season have already come and gone.

It was the by far the biggest NorAm I've ever attended. There were over 100 athletes! It was awesome to participate in such a big event. In addition to the usual suspects from Canada and the US, there were groups from Australia, Japan, Britain and more. Everything ran surprisingly smoothly despite the large field. Aside from frigid temperatures on the first day, the weather and snow conditions did a good job of cooperating.

I finished all my races cleanly, which is certainly an improvement over last year when I didn't have a clean slalom race all season. However, I didn't get the results I was hoping to achieve. You can check my results page for details on my races and results. I actually received my best ever slalom result. But I am hungry for more and eager to improve. I know I can do better.

There are only two weeks until the next set of races. I will be racing at Winter Park at the beginning of January. It will be a smaller race dominated by American athletes. After a couple days of rest, I am ready to train hard to prepare for the Winter Park Open.

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Riggers - December 5, 2012

Photo of my new Superlite Outrigger I recently received a big cardboard box. I was very excited to open the box and find brand new Superlite outriggers. The last time I had brand new riggers was over ten years ago. So it was a welcome relief to open this wonderful package from Enabling Technologies.

I've been struggling to keep my old pair of outriggers functioning for a long time. I was averaging broken bits and pieces twice per year. I was constantly scrounging for extra parts and spare riggers. I can see that Enabling Technologies has improved their outriggers since I got mine. In fact, when I looked closely I noticed that my old ski tip said ďEnabling Technologies patent pendingĒ and the new ones say ďCopyright Enabling TechnologiesĒ which proves that times have changed. I am grateful to have the latest and greatest equipment.

This is the first time I've had competition riggers. My old riggers, and all the spare parts I managed to find were always for recreational riggers. This means that I have competition springs which are helpful in the start of a race. I can finally put my riggers into race mode without losing speed by hitting them on the snow. My new outriggers are also beefier and less prone to breaking and getting clogged with snow. I am thrilled with them.

I received three new outriggers which means that I always have a spare. It is nice to know that I won't be in trouble if I break something. I have been in that position way to many times. It is very unsettling to break equipment the day before a race and not have any replacement parts. And yes, I have been in that position before. I have always gotten lucky and managed to find the parts I need, but now I don't have to depend on other people to have spare parts for sale. It is great to have the insurance policy of a spare rigger because I never know when I will need it.

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Americanized - November 22, 2012

It is official, I am living in the US. I moved into my winter home in Aspen. It is a little bit surreal because a couple short years ago I'd never imagined that I'd live in the states. But now I have a Colorado address and I can't wait for training to begin. Today is opening day but there are only a couple runs open so I have not skied yet.

Today is also American thanksgiving. I am grateful to my family and friends. I'm thankful for all the opportunities I've been given and everyone who supports me so that I can take full advantage of those opportunities. And I am thankful to have two thanksgivings this year so I have more time to appreciate all the amazing changes in my life this past year and all the doors that have been opened with my American passport.

My new home is employee housing and it reminds me of a university residence. It is a two-bedroom unit that I share with a roommate. We share a bathroom and a kitchen. I arrived here by airplane which means that I couldn't bring as much stuff as I would've liked. However, in just a few days it is starting to feel like home thanks to a couple shopping trips, my roommate, and generous friends. Not only is our kitchen fully stocked, but I've also done some decorating.

I am finally set up in my new home and I am ready for winter. It is still fall weather here and there isn't enough snow yet. Luckily they are working hard to get some man-made snow on the ground. Can't wait!

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Knitting - November 13, 2012

Photo of Danelle, Tyler and I wearing our knitted hats I am learning how to knit. We are currently at a training camp in Vail and my roommate, who is known for making amazing toques, is teaching me how to knit. As I was mastering pearling, it occurred to me that knitting is a lot like skiing.

In both knitting and skiing, the mistakes stick out like sore thumbs. It is easy to notice what has gone wrong and it is also easy to ignore everything that has gone right. I expect perfection and I am always disappointed when it isn't achieved. Getting better involves making fewer and fewer mistakes until they become a rarity instead of the norm. Unfortunately, mistakes are inevitable and will never be eliminated. Luckily, we can learn how to recover from mistake to minimize their impact. Whether it is redoing a stitch or getting back on a high line, we can prevent a mistake from completely ruining the toque or the race.

Practice and repetition are also important parts of improving. It takes time to perform a skill without focusing intently on the task at hand. And even more time for the skill to feel natural so that no thinking is required. For example, my roommate can knit while reading because she does not need to think about knitting. On the other hand, I seem to make a lot of mistakes when I am trying to have a conversation while knitting.

Once you think you've almost mastered a skill or technique, there is another one waiting to be learned. In knitting, that means incorporating multiple colours of yarn. In skiing it means bringing techniques from free-skiing into the course, or onto tougher terrain.

I am looking forward to the challenges of the mastering the techniques I'm currently working on and learning new skills. Since today is a day off from skiing, bring on the two colour knitting!

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Austrian Adventure- October 30, 2012

I recently returned from a training camp in Hintertux, Austria. It was an incredible experience. I've been to other mountains for pre-season and glacier skiing. But nothing compares to Hintertux. It is glacier skiing to the max.

Every morning we lined up with thousands of skiers and snowboarders all vying to get on the gondola first. After riding three different gondolas, we arrived at the glacier where we spent the days training hard and riding T-bars. It is by far the largest glacier I've skied and there were an impressive number of teams from all around the world as well as locals getting their first ski of the season.

We got a ton of skiing and training with an emphasis on slalom. The weather and snow conditions were amazing until the last couple days when we had to cancel Super G training because there was a storm brewing and no visibility. It is tough to ski a course when you can't see the next gate because you are in the middle of a cloud. Despite our limited Super G training, I learned how I can change my skiing to go faster. It was a pretty cool discovery and I can't wait for a chance to perfect the new technique. We will be going to a training camp in Vail soon, so I will be able to focus on it there.

It was an amazing camp and I couldn't ask for anything more. In addition to great training opportunities, the Dengg family treated us very well at the Alpinehof hotel. Blue skies, warm weather, and hikes completed the adventure.

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Chile - September 26, 2012

Photo of US team in Valle Nevado I recently returned from Valle Nevado, Chile where I attended the first training camp with my new team. After spending two weeks with this crazy bunch of Americans, I am proud to call them my teammates. There is a bit of a learning curve in trying to figure out how the team functions. And the learning continues as I try to figure out how the season is going to play out. But it really isnít all that different than the Canadian team. Although the people and the atmpsphere are completely different, the essentials and daily activities are the same. In fact, there were numerous teams from around the world in Valle Nevado, and all the teams follow the same basic schedule.

Luckily my first camp with the American team was at a place where Iíve been before. I already knew how things work at Valle Nevado before we arrived which made the adjustment easier. The next camp will be a further adjustment. It is somewhere Iíve never been, but the Americans go there every year and know it well.
Photo of Melanie skiing GS in Valle Nevado
The Americans are a very positive and helpful bunch. I am looking forward to spending the season with them. The only snag is that I apparently need to learn all 32 NFL teams. I was quizzed at mealtimes. If only they asked me for the NHL teams instead. Football isnít my sport. Luckily the Americans were patient with my lack of NFL knowledge.

I never felt like I needed a break from the Americans, but if I did, there were other teams there too. It was nice to train with the Chilean athlete and the Austrian team. I also enjoyed spending time with my former Canadian teammates and a small contingent of the Australian team.

Before this trip, I felt a bit lost and confused where my skiing is concerned. The best part of the camp is that I now have a good grasp of where my skiing is at and where it needs to be. I finally understand something that had been eluding me for years and I am confident that my skiing is going to get better and better as the season progresses. Life is good as an American.

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Major Announcement - August 21, 2012

US Paralympics logo I have a very big announcement. I am officially a member of the US Paralympics Ski Team. Here is the announcement. I am very excited to work with the Americans. I know most of the staff and athletes because I've raced and trained with them for years. But being on their team will be a new and exciting experience. I am looking forward to starting over with a clean slate. I believe that working with a new set of coaches will be beneficial for my skiing. It is always useful to get different perspectives.

After working with the same coach for four years, I need another opinion to launch me to a higher level of skiing. Although I have immense respect for my Canadian coach and trust him completely, he admittedly says that he's already taught me everything he knows. Yet, I have plenty to learn about skiing. It is like anything else; the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. So, I have high expectations that the American coaches will find a way to help me improve my skiing and achieve my goals. Iím open to trying new drills and techniques and thinking about things in a different way. I believe that my skiing can greatly improve with the appropriate guidance.

I have been working hard at the gym all summer to ensure that this season is my best season yet. I am incredibly excited to be on the American team and take advantage of this new opportunity. Iím now in the final stretch before my first training camp as an American athlete. We are heading to Chile in September. It will be great to train and race with the team that won the 2012 Nationís Cup.

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2012 Season Wrap-Up - March 28, 2012

I havenít been very good about regular blogging lately. Sorry for leaving everyone in the dark about what is going on with me. This year I was working full time through ski season. Between working Monday to Friday and spending my weekends in Collingwood I've been very busy. Any spare time was spent at the gym, tuning skis or taking care of basics (sleeping, eating, groceries, laundry etc.). I literally didnít have time for anything else. From New Years Day until I returned home from Panorama (March 18th) I had exactly one day off. Only one day when I didnít have to be out the door by 8am. It was the day before I left for Panorama and I had an entire day to pack. It was wonderful.

I skied a measly 3 days a week from late December to mid-March. I had a grand total of 42 days on snow this year which is less than half of my ski days in previous years. My employer provides two weeks vacation per year and I spent them on races. One week in Waterville Valley and one week in Panorama. It is only March and Iíve already used all my vacation time for 2012. I will have to get a bit more creative next time I want to go to a race or training camp. And hope that my employer is willing to be flexible.

Although I am sad to see ski season disappear, I am also excited to have some spare time. I canít wait to spend time with friends and family. Soon I will crave the call of the mountains. But for now, I am enjoying the summer weather and relaxation. Goodbye 2012 Season.

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Panorama World Cup Finals - March 18, 2012

Photo of Vanessa, Will and Melanie at Panorama I just got home from World Cup Finals in Panorama, BC. I've spent some time training at Panorama and I feel comfortable there (even thought I'd only ever used one chairlift). None of the competitors from other countries had ever been to Panorama before which gave the Canadians a slight advantage.

The first day was Super-Combined training day. We started off with Super -G free skiing on the race run. After a season without training Super-G (I live in Ontario where Super-G pratically doesn't exist) I was pleased with my progress. I started the morning a little unsure about the ski. I did a lot of runs and by the end of the morning I felt quite comfortable on my long ski. Despite a tiring morning, I quickly changed into my Slalom gear and headed out for some gate training.

The second day was supposed to be Super-G race day. Unfortunately, we awoke to a powder day. I got first tracks in the pow on my Super-G ski which was lots of fun. Then we sat inside waiting to see if they would try to run the race, or cancel it. By 11am It was cancelled and I went out for some powder skiing.

The following day we were able to run the Super-G races. The first race was really tough. The snow was soft and the track was bumpy after the previous day's snowfall. It was also my first time in Super-G gates for the season and I didn't ski as well as I would have liked. Luckily, both the track and my skiing were much better in the second Super-G race.

The fourth day was the Super-Combined race and it was my best day of the week. My Super-G was even better than the previous day. I think I am capable of skiing better Super-G. But I did the best I could, given that I hadnít trained SG all season. Which was further complicated because I was getting conflicting messages from different coaches which caused a little bit of confusion. In the afternoon I skied a solid slalom run and earned my best ever Super-Combined result.

The final day was the slalom race. Like Waterville Valley, I was tired by this point in the week and I fell in the first run. I was dissappointed, but managed to finish and lay down a decent second run. The week wrapped up with a banquet to say goodbye to ski season and everyone on the circuit.

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Provincials - February 29, 2012

The Ontario Parasport Winter Games were held in Huntsville Feb 24-26 2012. There were a number of sporting events, including Para-Alpine. I was really excited to see a number of young female athletes attend. Ontario races typically have very few women. This year, we actually had more women than men! Since there were some younger athletes, a novice category was created for those athletes that arenít old enough for IPC licenses (ie 8-13). Most of the newer athletes are coming out of the able-bodied system and have been training with their local ski clubs. These athletes tend to be talented because they have been skiing for as long as they can remember.

There was a girl who has been training and racing with a J team who was great competition for me. I won the Slalom race and she won the GS. It was the first time Iíve ever lost an Ontario race and Iím thrilled because it means that it is getting more competitive.

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Waterville Vallley - January 22, 2012

I attended US Nationals in New Hampshire. It was the first time I've competed in a legal race in driving distance from home. It was a ten hour drive after work so I was grateful that my teammate Andy did most of the driving. We neared our destination late at night, knowing that we needed to be on snow early the next morning. Andy bragged about the proximity of our hotel to the ski resort. Unfortunately he did not realize that his GPS was quoting the birds-eye distance instead of the driving distance. Since we had to drive around the mountains, and not through them, it added an extra half hour in each direction to our daily driving.

I arrived in Waterville Valley with only a handful of days on snow since it was too warm to make snow in Ontario and the hills had trouble opening. I also arrived with only a couple runs through gates. Compared to my competitors who had approximately 50 days of pre-season training, I was completely unprepared. Luckily, I had 3 days of training in Waterville Valley before the first race day. Despite my meagre preparation, I managed to earn two silver medals in the GS races.

Two slalom races were scheduled for our last day. It was my sixth day on snow in a row and I was tired. I was happy with my first slalom run and I was only a tenth of a second out of first place. I was pumped for my second run because I knew I had a good chance of winning the race. Unfortunately, I fell in my second run. It was disappointing, but I knew there was another slalom race. By this time, I was very tired. It had been a long day and a long week. I made a mistake and did not finish the second race. Despite some disappointment, it was a great week.

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