Braving the Nordic

Updated 2018.

Despite the cold and an early event time (I had to get up at 6 a.m. to make it on time), spectators were out in full force at Pragelato Plan for the Men’s Team Nordic Combined competition. If you’re not really sure what the Nordic Combined is, you’re not alone. In this event, 4 members from each country take two jumps off the so-called “long hill.” Their jumping scores (which are given according to jump distance and style) determine their start times for the second half of the event, a 4x5k cross country relay race.

Today’s crowd, as one might expect, was primarily Italian; however, as one might not expect, probably half of them were under the age of 10. In other words – best field trip ever.

Besides some Italians, who were clearly there for the novelty, everyone seemed to belong at the Nordic Combined competition. Decked out in the finest ski gear and boots, most had the leathery-looking skin of seasoned skiers.

I gravitated towards the amalgamation of American flags, which turned out to be where the U.S. Nordic Team’s families and friends had set up their cheering section. American fans were scattered throughout the stadium, but these were obviously the ones to stick with. Hailing mostly from Utah and Colorado, they knew all the aspects and stats of the sport and kept me one step ahead of the announcers.

They also alerted me when the event was first postponed due to severe winds at the top of the slope. After all the competitors jumped in the first round, there were two attempts at re-starting the final round, before the judges called the event on account of the weather. All spectators were told to keep their tickets and to pay attention to the Internet to find out when the event will be rescheduled. The event has yet to be rescheduled.

In America, no one would stick around a baseball stadium after the game has been called off due to rain. But this is Italia, and Italia means vino. Instead of rushing for the bus shuttles back to Pinerolo after hearing the bad news, everyone flocked to the heated spectator tents. Groups huddled around tables, watching the televised coverage of the Women’s Slalom and sharing bottles of rosso.

Regardless of the abbreviated athletic action of the day, it was definitely worth the trip up to Pragelato. Perhaps my favorite was the line of event workers charged with smoothing the slope with their skis. Anyone who has ever been to a baseball game at Yankees Stadium will know why I was half expecting them to break out into “Y.M.C.A.”

Although I’m pretty sure Y.M.C.A. was never played, the playlist of songs for in between jumps was rather heavy on American pop and disco hits. Among the crowd favorites were “Love Shack,” “I Will Survive,” “Cotton Eye Joe” and a few Madonna hits. Anything to keep the crowd on their toes and the frostbite away.

Shauna Maher