Evaluation Day with Kelly Farina and Austrian Arena.

The 3 hour rollercoaster ride through the Alps now complete, our group finds itself waiting in the hotel lobby, occasionally summoned by the desk clerk via a call of ‘alora’. The rooms are not quite ready – Kelly’s desire for an early start to the day meets the national institution of ‘Italian Time’. In ‘Italian Time’, things get done when they get done and no amount of pushing, prodding, or pestering will make it occur any faster. As we arrived on a Sunday, we were treated ‘Italian Savings Time’, where things get done at half the pace they would have under  ‘Italian Time’.

An hour later, we have our own proper rooms (greatly appreciated over the shared mini single wide that was my home for the previous two weeks in Doussard), sort our kit quickly and race down to the parking lot to meet Kelly, our retrieve driver Luigi, and head to the hill.

Kelly announces that today was an evaluation day, to get a sense where each of us are at and what the instructional flow for the week will be like. I get a feeling he both wants to see how his returning students have put to practice what he taught them last year and to see what the self-taught, such as myself, need correcting.

The conditions are typical for Bassano when a weather system invades the northern Alps – some degree of north Foehn effect up high and stable with an inversion just above launch. In addition a valley wind was beginning to set up from the west, and would grow as the day progressed, though nothing like what one would see in Annecy.

We load up the van, make a quick stop at the bailout LZ, and beeline up to launch. Kelly wants the crew off early to avoid the ‘witching hour’, when conditions can get particularly strong at the inversion. Last off, I head out and start sniffing out lift, climbing up to and eventually through the inversion. Half an hour later the radio squawks, “Mark, I am on your left, follow me to the flats.”.

So began my first steps of XC (Cross Country) flying in Bassano, heading out over Borso. We search out and work blue thermals sourced/triggered by church towers, factories, and tree lined hills.

Quintessential flatland flying.

Then the return leg – 20 kph head wind. We claw our way back, though the inefficiency in my thermal technique begins to show and I bomb out for a random farmers field that had been recently hayed, though not yet bailed.

A half hour pack up and hike out to find some shade beside a children’s school, a quick text to Luigi with my GPS coordinates, and I am back at the hotel just in time for lunch to end.


A quick debrief from Kelly indicates we will focus this week on my thermal carve (being able to turn in a thermal without swing through) and map (finding the core in the most efficient way possible while maintaining the carve) and we are back in the bus for an evening boat back and forth along the hill before venturing into the flats.

Another out landing.

Another retrieve.

The restaurant is slow in serving dinner so I will be fed tonight.

‘Italian Time’ is a wonderful thing.

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