Wining and dining with the Italian ski team & co. at World Cup Finals
When the world’s top skiers travel thousands of miles from home, finding comfort on the road is a challenge.
But this week for the World Cup Finals, a few Aspen restaurant owners are opening up their kitchens to offer athletes a taste of home.
“It’s very simple. They come to town, and for me, I want to be involved. If I can do something for them, I’m happy to do it,” L’Hostaria owner Tiziano Gortan said of hosting the Italian ski teams at his restaurant.
“Otherwise, they stay in their hotel, they have a buffet. It’s different, you know?” Gortan said. “It’s nice to give an opportunity to those athletes to have fun at the restaurant and to relax.”
To relax — and also to celebrate properly.
By Thursday, celebrations were in order for the Italian ski federation.
Starting off the World Cup week Wednesday, Peter Fill won the overall season globe for the downhill race. He also scored second place in the downhill race, while teammate Dominik Paris snagged first. Paris also placed second in the super-G race Thursday.
On the women’s side, Sofia Goggia placed third in the downhill race, and Frederica Brignone earned third in the super-G race.
Capping off the Italians’ successes by Thursday was news that the men and women combined for 40 podium appearances throughout this season. It is a record for the country, which previously had 37 podiums nearly 20 years ago.
“It’s a big deal for us,” said Luka Liore, the giant slalom and slalom coach for the Italian women’s team.
He said the Italian ski team’s “secret” these days is strength in numbers: “Our stronger teams are a combination of the individuals.”
“It’s not just one great guy,” Liore explained. “But we have a few good (athletes). I think this is the secret.”
Gortan, who was born in Italy and has hosted the Italian ski teams in Aspen since befriending alpine sport director Massimo Rinaldi 15 years ago, said he believes the athletes’ ability to disconnect from the sport — if even chatting over a plate of lobster pasta and a glass of wine — can impact in their performance.
“You can always push, push, push,” Gortan said. “But I think you need to try and relax your mind a little bit, too.”
At the table with most of the men’s team Thursday night, the conversations — at least, the ones that were translated to English — ranged from mountains and women to hunting and balsamic vinegar.
When ski racer Razzoli Giuliano isn’t training or competing for Italia, he stays busy concocting high-end balsamic vinegar.
“That is my passion,” he said.
Along with skiing, which has been a part of Giuliano’s life since he was 4 years old.
When asked what the men thought of Aspen, 38-year-old Patrick Thaler — whom Gortan introduced as the oldest member of the team, with “one wife, three kids and no lovers” — said that because of their busy schedules and staying in Snowmass Village, they have not seen much of Aspen.
“I heard it was a really exclusive place, and I can see there’s a lot of money,” Thaler said.
So what does an average day look like for athletes during the World Cup Finals?
According to Thaler, the day typically starts at 5:50 a.m.
The teams depart from the Crestwood Condominiums in Snowmass at 6:50 a.m. and are on the slopes training from 8 to 10 a.m. The racers shuttle back to the hotel, where they relax and then prepare lunch (pasta, of course).
After lunch, the team rests, he said, followed by gym work at 3:30 p.m. Post-training activities include physical therapy and dinner.
The racers are enjoying the first-class dinners in Aspen, but sometimes the Italian way of life creeps in thousands of kilometers away.
“We prefer to cook for ourselves (for lunch),” Thaler said with a smile. “We are Italians. We are spoiled.”
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