The snowboarder who is also a mountain biker
By Dave Spielmann
Without taking a closer look, one could assume that alpine snowboarding and mountain biking don't have much in common. Nevin Galmarini sees it differently, and he should know. After all, as Olympic champion in snowboarding, he is the absolute expert on the snow. But he definitely doesn't have to hide on the mountain bike either.
When you ride down a demanding trail at a reasonable pace on a bike, it is the same aspects as in snowboarding that are essential, says Nevin. Body and brain are focused and concentrated on what's in front of you – 100% attention – the speed and the joy, to name just a few of the parallels!
We wanted to know more and accompanied Nevin on one of his favourite tours in his homeland, the Lower Engadine. He wanted to show us something special – at sunrise. So we set off from Scuol at the crack of dawn. This time with a bike shuttle, so we didn't have to set off at 2 a.m. in the village. Nevertheless, there were still some tough metres of altitude waiting for us. At his home mountain in Scuol, he showed us his favourite trails around Piz Clünas past Alp Laret to his front door in Ardez.
Such bike tours are no problem for Nevin, however, and are part of his summer training. But it is much more than just training. The intense experience of nature and the opportunity to simply break away from everyday life are what make mountain biking so particularly fascinating for Nevin. We quickly understand what Nevin meant. Such spectacular nature experiences, like the breathtaking sunrise over the Lower Engadine today, make you forget everyday life for an intense moment. We can well imagine that Nevin draws strength from exactly such situations in winter to find his concentration and master the many challenges.
Relaxed and at leisure, we enjoy the view. Nevin tells us how important the whole region was and still is for him and his development as a top athlete. When he was 13 years old, his family moved to the Lower Engadine because of the children's snowboarding. Before that, the family primarily knew the lakes of the Upper Engadine, where the die-hard windsurfers often frolicked during their holidays. When they arrived in Scuol, Nevin and his brother attended the sports class at the High Alpine Institute in Ftan. They learned Romansh, found the best training conditions and thus laid the foundation for today's sporting success.
Without this move, I would not have become an Olympic champion!
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As soon as it goes downhill, you can tell Nevin is now in his element. The speed, the adaptation to the terrain, the balance on the bike, the immediate reaction – that's just like the top athlete Nevin is. Of course, it helps that he is fit, really fit. His brother also helps him achieve this fitness. As a fitness trainer, he is responsible for the entire training programme in the summer and provides the perfect conditions for Nevin to get the maximum out of himself. Of course, it helps immensely that his brother is also his best friend. He knows exactly what his needs and limits are.
He always looks forward to the summer, says Nevin. Everything changes in summer and he is automatically drawn out into nature. The feeling of independence, of being his own boss, is important to Nevin and something he always looks forward to. Because in winter, his life is predominantly determined by others, the calendar is full from September to April. In addition, the basis for the winter is laid in the summer – this in an ideal combination of training and leisure activities with family and friends.
In the meantime, we passed the beautiful Lai da Minschun on our tour. Up to the lake, the trail was demanding and stony. Now it feels like we are somewhere in the vastness of Scotland. The natural trail leads us over the hilly landscape towards the valley. We all enjoy this dream day in the middle of the impressive Lower Engadine mountain landscape. But slowly hunger sets in, because a few hours have passed since the quick breakfast and we have already done something. Nevin promises us a surprise and heads determinedly for Alp Laret, which we can see in the distance.
In the alpine hut we are really surprised. We share a homemade Kaiserschmarrn and yoghurt straight from the kettle, with fresh fruit. To go with it, the young Älpler family serves fresh coffee and homemade syrup. The perfect break – we have time to enjoy the sun and find out what has motivated Nevin to keep going and deliver top performances all these years.
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It is important to Nevin that he can fully realise his potential. The great conditions in the area of technical and physical training as well as his environment are the optimal basis to achieve the optimum. Nevin wants to develop constantly and of course always get the best out of himself and the situation. He is very ambitious and is only satisfied with his performance when he has invested in every detail and given full commitment. Nevin is a «full throttle guy» and subordinates a lot to success. Nevertheless, it is important to him that he does not define himself only by success. His family and friends are very important to him. If he had to choose between his environment or the Olympic victory, then the choice would clearly fall on the family.
Nevin gives us interesting insights into the life of a top athlete on this sunny terrace. You can feel that he puts a lot of emphasis on accentuating the positive and listening to his own feelings. Freshly fortified, our tour continues down into the valley, towards Ftan.
On the way back we now meet more and more hikers. Nevin is of course recognised and patiently poses for selfies with his fans. This time for a little «chat» has to be. The much discussed problems between bikers and hikers are not noticeable. It just takes a little respect and tolerance from all involved, although of course it helps to be on the road with an Olympic champion....
The last metres down into the valley we are on Nevin's home trails. Again proof of the diversity of the Lower Engadine, the soft forest floor with many curves. We now want to make a detour to Ardez, where Nevin grew up. Arriving in the village centre, we treat ourselves to the almost obligatory gelato after the tour. We have experienced one highlight after the other, the snowboarder AND the mountain biker Nevin.
Finally, the classic question comes up: where do he keep his medals? Nevin answers with a mischievous smile: «Oh, they're in a box in the cellar. If I don't see them all the time, I stay hungrier!»
Pictures Filip Zuan / Text Dave Spielmann