Waiting for the snow

Odillo PiottiOdillo Piotti - Gardone di Val Trompia (BS) 01.06.1943  

I am ready.

It is easy when you have trained, no pressure, no worries, no great ambition. Just yourself and a wild, hard mountain, like the people who live there. I pick up my bag and re-check to see if I have got everything: change of clothes, a heavy jumper, a flask with supplements and some dried fruit. Dark chocolate. My ski poles are already in the car boot, and my hiking boots are on my feet. They are the latest generation, luminous green, flexible, with yellow shock absorbers on the soles. I look in the mirror before going out. I look at my reflection, at my greying hair and smile. I stare at myself and I can imagine starting to move.

My car is swallowed by the autumn woods and for a fraction of a second I am in a parallel world with leaves dancing around me. I get out of my car and let myself go through some sinuous movements, it's almost like they are inviting me to dance. As if I could be part of their choreography.

No, I mustn't get distracted. I am here for another reason that has to do with the snow that will come. I start running slowly with poles that help me climb, slow at first then gradually faster. I try to balance my movements to see how my body responds. My breathing is even. The tingling autumn air, rich with its perfumes of moss and earth, fills my lungs. It is nothing like the frozen air of winter that strips your insides. I go faster, I want to see how far I can maintain it.

I have to be ready by the end of January for my 44th race. It is the race that I enjoy the most: the Marcialonga. I have no ambition of winning but I always want to do the best I can. If I hadn't been mistakenly disqualified (then remitted) I would still be in with a chance to win amongst the Senators. I gain minutes every year, pursuing an illusion. Gaining hours is impossible, but I don't give up. I train. I run.

I am going up quickly now, even if it is steeper. I am surprised by my speed; it is not desperation to get to the top just the pleasure of going forward. It's me and my muscles, my blood pumping through my veins and making my heart beat faster. For a moment all the air in the world is not enough anymore. I stop. My legs feel like they are denser but lighter at the same time. I know they will hurt tomorrow. The kind of pain that reminds me that they exist as well. That they have shared umpteen challenges with me, getting ready for the most important one in just a few months on skis.

... I think about the two consecutive steep slopes. At Mazzin short but intense. To deal with it you need to make incisive measured movements, lashing the snow planting your ski poles in the snow and pushing as hard as you can. I think about the descent that comes immediately after. Just thinking about it worries me. You need concentration and courage to let yourself go down, down towards the fields of Pozza and the town centre with typical houses of beautiful traditional architecture. And then the climb of Soraga, here is where the pain begins because no matter how hard you train you are never ready... you have to be patient and push with your ski poles, trying to keep the movement of your arms and legs as coordinated as possible without slipping.

Another few more meters until I reach the top. The view in front of me takes my breath away. A palette of rich colours that goes from an intense red to a luminous orange and also greens and browns of various shades. I am waiting for white. Winter is arriving fast. I will be ready this year as well. Now I can run downhill and dance with the leaves.

Concept, interview and text: Susanna Sieff
Photo: Alice Russolo
Video: Graziano Bosin - Dolomiti TV


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