Pack, travel, unpack – rinse and repeat.
As a North American living and competing in a European-centric sport, life on the road is just that, a fact of life. Living out of a suitcase became the norm a long, long time ago. It’s an interesting way to live that few people can relate to. It has its ups and downs like anything else, but for those of us on the North American ski teams, the crew you travel with quickly becomes family.
The family aspect of life on the road is without a doubt the best and most interesting part of our nomadic lifestyle. You learn the ins and outs of your teammates faster than you can imagine, especially in Europe where separate beds and personal space are tough to come by! Aside from essentially sharing a bed for most of your time in Europe, you get to know teammates, coaches, and support staff on a different level than most of the other people in your life. As with any team, learning to live together, dealing with each other’s unique idiosyncrasies, and working together as a brotherhood (as we like to call it) is all part of the fun and daily challenges that we face.
For me, routine has become the key to dealing with the constant travel and ever-changing environments. Long travel days have their routine: go for a walk or spin, stretch and roll on arrival. Plane travel requires melatonin and a couple naps.
Food on the road can be a challenge, especially in the small mountain towns. “Meat and brown sauce” is the classic go-to meal for almost anywhere in the Alps, and I can tell you we have a serious love-hate relationship with it. This is mainly due to the fact that “extremely well done” seems to be the de-facto way to cook meat, so if you’re a fan of leather, you’re set! That being said, over the years I’ve noticed the food has improved in most places, and the spreads available at World Cup races are some of the best meals I’ve ever had.
I’ve found that bringing some of the comforts of home on the road can add a little normalcy to an otherwise very abnormal lifestyle. It’s pretty well known by this point that I’m a beer snob and I always travel with some awesome brew from back home (USA or Canada) to have on occasion. I also travel with my favourite beer glass (did I mention I was a beer snob?). Food and supplements are another big must have. Greens powder, vitamins, and protein are a staple for me, along with some healthy cereal for breakfast, and hot sauce to liven up the food! Some athletes bring their pillows on trips, which I was in the habit when I was younger but haven’t been doing recently. It varies from person to person but the contents of your suitcases can help make long trips a bit more bearable and homey.
Over the past nine years of being on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, I’ve spent approximately 1,900(!) days on the road. In that time I’ve eaten an uncountable amount of “meat and brown sauce”, driven an unfathomable number of miles through stunning mountainous landscapes, slept in so many single beds it isn’t funny, and flown roughly 500,000 miles between countries and continents! Do the math for a guy like Erik Guay, who’s been on the national team for more than double my stint, and the numbers get into the realm of ludicrousness!
Although the constant travel and long durations away from home can get tedious and start to wear on you, I wouldn’t change the last almost decade of my life for anything!
Dustin Cook, a 10-year member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, is a super-G silver medallist from the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships.