Dai con Forza e Coraggio- Go with Strength & Courage!

I love winter! Maybe it’s because I have the great fortune to live in a ski town that allows me so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and all it’s fabulous winter sports; alpine skiing, nordic skiing, sledding and snow shoeing. The powder here is heaven when we get an opportunity to carve some turns in that sweet, dry, fluffy stuff…. aaahhh, divine poetry! So why would I ever stray to another country to ski? Only for the charm, culture and ambiance my friends. Winter, Italian style, is a must do, as only the Italians can do winter so passionately.

Last month we visited the Italian Dolomites to participate in a 70 km classic nordic ski race: la gran fondo, the big daddy, the Marcialonga. My husband, Bill, is obsessed with this race and he has skied this Italian race many times, eight to be exact. This winter he finally convinced me to participate in this epic distance race through the Val di Fiemme and Val di Fasse.  Darn! I was so looking forward to spectating again, sporting a glass of vin brulee (hot spiced wine) at the finish line.

Being one of 7000 skiers is daunting, but the views of the Dolomite’s classic rocky spires (sasso) lit with the morning rays of sunshine as we skied down the river valley was awe inspiring. To be a part of the skiers in the Marcialonga is to be to be moving in synch with thousands of your fellow racers from many countries, only speaking the language of poling and striding in a dance through the mountains together. I felt a great weight of gratitude; to be in the beautiful Italian Dolomites, to be in love, to have a husband that believes in me so enormously and to have the fitness to be able to ski 70k ……Grazie Dio!

Yes, I finished, a slow but respectable 6 hours and 55 minutes later, certainly no land speed record. Still 43.4 miles affords a few bragging rights, non? Bill set a personal record in just under 4 hours… way to rock and roll husband! For me, it was more of an event than an actual race. I was inspired by all the people, gnarly 70-80 year old mountain goat men, two women singing Italian folks songs as they skied along and how about that blind skier that finished before me, my husband poked. “Yeah, yeah, I am sure he must have been Norwegian,” I gaffed.

An event, like no other I have ever experienced, millions of Euro are spent on this race yearly. No expense is spared; awesome food, music, huge screen video featuring televised helicopter coverage of the lead racers, an opening ceremony with fire dancers, folk dancers and area dignitaries. Every small town provides aid stations, music and enthusiastic volunteers cheering “Bravi!”  Post race there was an excellent pasta meal, free beer, a festival in the piazza of Cavalese with open cauldrons of hot vin brulee and a closing fire works display to commemorate the final skier finishing. Epic enthusiasm!

A few days before the race, as I started to stress about the impending race, I heard a man encourage his wife as she timidly skied down a small hill, “ Dai con forza e coraggio,” – “Go with strength and courage!.”  I remembered that phase and used it as my mantra for the 2011 Marcialonga. I will be back next year. I pledge a little less off the couch race training and perhaps I won’t be passed by so many 80 year old mountain goats and blind skiers. Dai con forza e coraggio amici!

I know it’s not Tuscany, but if you so much as ever have the desire to visit that area of the Italian Dolomites (near Bolzano), I would be happy to give you some advice on where to stay, ski, what to do and how to get around. Contact me: betsy@customtuscany.com

My Marcialonga Experience:

(Yes, that’s my crazy laughter at the end of the video!)

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02/26/2011 03:47 am | Share | 7 Comments


  1. Mark DelVecchio

    The heart of a lion!


  2. Leslie Howa

    Fantastic!!!! The two best brave hearts of the world to come across the finish line with such grace, class, and guts!!!


  3. Great blog! Maybe some day Todd and I can join you! xo-suz


  4. Sign us up!!! Hopefully some day.


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