Discovering My Inner Suisse

Zürich Hauptbahnhof, ZH I remember this big blue lady from when I was younger. She hangs from the ceiling in the main train station and always welcomes me back to the city.
I spent this past month training overseas in Switzerland and my time there surpassed all of my expectations. The people, the training, the places and the weather have all made for an experience far beyond what I imagined. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first decided to go to Switzerland. It started as just a dream; every time I would visit Switzerland I always thought how cool it would be to spend some quality time there and begin to understand the people and the places through sport. My name is Heidi Widmer and I have Swiss citizenship, yet I barely know anything about the country. The support from Christian Flury, who is the coach of the U24 Swiss Ski Team in Davos is essentially what got the trip started. My coaches in Canada were comfortable with his approach to skiing and he was more than welcoming and accommodating to this wandering Canuck with a love for Swiss cheese and a dream to train in Switzerland.
My first week overseas (I left Canada on May 24th) was spent briefly in Zuerich to visit my step Grandmother and then to Magglingen to join the team. This is where the Swiss Ski Team and Swiss Olympic headquarters are based. It feels like a sport University with many athletes and faculty all working under Swiss Olympic. The Swiss Team spent the week alternating through different ‘Leistungtests’, or fitness tests, to add to baseline data. I had done these tests on the treadmill before I left Canada and used this week as adaptation to the new team, time zone and scenery. It was really interesting to see the inner workings of Swiss Olympic and how athletes from different sports train in the same facilities. From handball and alpine to cross country skiing and gymnastics.
Magglingen, BE Swiss Ski treadmill
 Getting up to date on the latest new and gossip from der Schweizer 'Blick'
For me, the most exciting thing about training with new teammates and coaches is the team dynamic. Having a team that trains well together is one thing. It’s a great thing to have a good training partner. However, I believe the strength and support of a team is built stronger when you understand your teammates. Playing together, failing together, talking smack, enjoying meals and listening to your teammates is what builds the support long term and makes everyone stronger. The B U24 Swiss Ski Team has that and I am lucky to feel somewhat a part of it. I was expecting there to be a ‘transition period’ for me. A time where I for sure felt like an outcast and no one really knew what to do with me. Why is this Canadian chick training with us? But when the team and coaches were immediately welcoming and supportive of me being there, the transition was seamless.
Davos, GR The curious farm animal faces always kept me entertained 

After a week of roller ski and running training in Magglingen, it was off to the Stelvio. Boom. Heidi’s mind is blown again. The Stelvio is located right on the Swiss-Italian border at just over 2700m and dished up midwinter snow conditions and fantastic tracks in June. Our team trained under the sun for pretty much every workout and was treated to the Italian cooking and hospitality. The servers had Italian steeze, bowties and everything. Not bad for a hotel in the middle of a mountain pass. But actually, why is there even a road up here??! Because it’s Europe and when they see a pass, they build a gnarly road with 48 hairpin turns and a wicked grade. And then again down the other side.
Passo dello Stelvio, ITA 48 hairpin turns and 1817m of climbing, this is by far the craziest road I have ever seen. Originally built in 1820 by the Austrian Empire!?
Team meeting in the lobby of Albergo Folgoria
4km loop of trail. Our hotel is the building on the left in the background. Only a 20sec walk from hotel to skiing!
 Fabian, myself, Ueli and Linard post ski on the last day at the Stelvio
I guess this expression felt right at the time. Yeah blue skies!
Flüela Pass, GR The late snowfall in May and then sudden warm weather was triggering everything.
Davos, GR Tatjana helping the local bike club out with a 1km biking time trial. It was great to see so many kids out!
Training on the Stelvio provided a solid dose of Vitamin D (specifically on my nose) as well as some quality hours of training and technique in great conditions. We were able to ski in the morning and afternoon to really maximize the time on snow as well as a couple of rollerski sessions. I really enjoyed working with different coaches and hearing different technique advise. Growing up as a ski racer in Canada, I always felt like the Europeans were doing some secret advanced training that we weren’t catching onto. What do they do that’s made them so much faster than me? Why is it that I get pummeled just as hard in the European races as when I try to surf the waves of Central America? There is no secret door, no key to find or language to decode. Working with the coaches and hearing their feedback on my technique and training is reassuring that I’m working in the right direction.  Their approach is not so different from that in Canada. Turns out this sport is just super hard and requires a lot of patience, grit and the work ethic of a dung beetle. Not saying my training and technique is perfect, but I believe I am on the right track and just need time to get to where I’m going!
St. Antönien, GR Gorgeous valley and mountain range. It just took a lot of climbing on roller skis to get there! My mind is blown!
Tatz and I putting in the climbing work to get to the top of the pass. Favourite rollerski workout of the trip!
I guess you could consider my next two weeks in Davos as the Part III of my Switzerland experience. Magglingen being the first and the Stelvio being Part II. It is going to be really hard to sound genuine here without risking the tacky edge, but I feel so incredibly lucky to have stayed with Tatjana Stiffler and her parents (and dog Aisha). They took me into their family without hesitation. Prior to coming to Davos, I don’t even know if I had spoken to Tatjana. We were competitors on the ski trails and friends on Facebook. That was pretty much the extent of it. She offered me my own bedroom in her apartment suite that is part of her parents’ house in a message over Facebook and once I met her in Switzerland and got to know her, it was an easy decision to spend the next month together. We get along that well! The next couple of weeks I spent training with both the A and B Swiss National Teams in and around Davos.
Davos, GR Summer time cruisin'
Zürich, ZH My dad came to visit Switzerland and I overlapped a couple of days with him. He grew up in Zürich, so it was really neat discovering the city with a oldschool local.
Huereli, GB Exploring the alpine above Davos. Heeeya! Shout out to the Canadian Ninjas.
One of the highlights of the trip was the bike tour of Albula and Fluela Pass. 115 km, two mountain passes, 2400m vertical and 5.5hrs later was the absolute most fun I’ve had on a road bike. If you ever have the chance to road bike in Europe, I highly recommend it! I’ve been on many gorgeous Canadian mountain pass tours, but being able to grit your way up a massive pass, rip down the other side, then through the country side, wind through narrow villages and do it all over again was an incredible experience. I understand why the guys in the Tour de France put themselves through such a grueling event now. I had people cheering me on in different towns and cafes and that made it all the more fun. I let myself believe I was winning the Tour de Suisse…
Post ride! I was wiped but so stoked to have just completed that ride.
So satisfying to load your data after a ride and see the completed loop. Nerd alert!
Tatz takin' 5 after the ride
The Davos Track Club put on an awesome relay event. Teams of 3, alternating every 400m lap of the winding wood chip track for one hour to see which team can complete the most laps in an hour. Our team (local Davos star runner Arthur, Zoe Roy and I) finished second behind an amazingly fast family of 4. We each completed 15 laps, that's like running 18km in an hour! Not bad!
Myself, Bettina Gruber and fellow Canuck Zoe Roy posing for a Ninja shoutout. Hiiyea! This intensity was an awesome challenge and definitely the most fun.
The news of the flooding back in Canada brought a huge dose of reality to the 'high flying' feeling I had in Switzerland. I came back to Canmore to the remains of the flooding events that occurred when I was away. It was so surreal and devastating to watch the force of nature take over when all I could do was scroll through Facebook with my jaw dropped. My heart goes out to those that were affected by the flood and the response network afterwards is what makes me proud to say I’m from the Bow Valley. Incredible human spirit.
Fam Stiffler and I out for dinner on the last night. Tatjana and her parents made all the difference to my Swiss experience. I feel so lucky to have been 'adopted' into their family, even if it was only for a couple of weeks.
 I am back training in Canada and am happy that some of the nice Swiss weather has followed me home to dry up the rain here in Canada. Due to the water damage, our next camp that was scheduled at the Haig Glacier has been cancelled so we will be improvising in a ‘local camp’. Same training venues, but with a training camp mentality. 
 I feel so grateful for the people, places and experiences of Switzerland. I want to thank Buff Canada again for supporting my trip, the Swiss Ski Team for hosting me for the month, the Stiffler Family for being so generous and outstanding in every class and of course my family - for supporting my journey! It is great to be home and training in the Rocky Mountains, but I am definitely carrying thoughts of Switzerland with me.  

Thanks for checking in!Tschüß!
Christian Flury, wife Barbara and sons Maurin and Jon Arvid outside their place in Davos. Such a solid and awesome family unit.