Marco Sullivan: Christmas in Bormio

Sullivan, a member of the US Ski Team, shares some of the Christmas traditions shared between the Americans and Canadians, and why the Italian race course is one of the toughest in the world.
Bode Miller Italy

For the World Cup Downhill tour Christmas time means Bormio, as in Bormio, Italy one of the toughest Downhills on the whole tour.  Each year the training runs begin on the 27th of December so it does not leave us enough time to go home and get a Christmas break.   The Canadian team is always marooned along with us and a few traditions have grown over the years. Christmas Eve starts out with a big hockey game.  We used to pit the Canadians against the US but the scores were always so lopsided, not in our favor, that now we mix and match. Once we are all worn out we head out to dinner at a local restaurant that serves up a great traditional Christmas-eve five course meal.  We stuff ourselves and get ready for the White Elephant gift exchange.  Keep in mind that the participants in the gift exchange are about 15 dudes who have been on the road for 2 months and most of the presents have been purchased at european gas stations or roadside markets.  This year the popular items were an axe and a variety pack of local schnapps.  The camaraderie is good and even though we are missing home it is great to be surrounded by friends.  

This year we had another Christmas surprise of sorts when we woke up on the 26th and saw the race organizers had set the course and there were a few thousand of Italy's finest making hot laps down the race hill.  Because of the low snow conditions and huge crowds Bormio was determined to get as much use of the Stelvio Piste as they could before is was closed for 3 days of racing.  It was actually pretty awesome and classic to see little kids and families ripping down the hill and through the gates of what is considered one of the burlier downhill races in the world.  

Needless to say the track was particularly bumpy this year and as usual a huge test of physical strength.  The course is only 2 minutes long but a more gruelling 2 minutes does not exist in the ski racing world.  I did not fare so well, finishing in 33rd place. I guess I let the Christmas spirit interfere too much with my mindset.  North America did occupy a couple of the top spots with Erik Guay in 4th and Bode Miller 5th so you can't say that we are too far off with our Christmas in Bormio preparation strategy.

Now the White Circus of the World Cup Downhill tour is on  a short hiatus until we race in Wengen, Switzerland during the second week of the new year.  There are some huge snowstorms in Austria at the moment so I am staying over and going to chase the snow for a week before the rest of the crew returns from home.