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To shoot, you'll need to do another round!

To shoot, you'll need to do another round!

To shoot, you'll need to do another round!

This is especially true for the protégés of biathlon and cross-country coach Ingrid Fink-Nöckler, who is originally from Kitzbühel. Along with her husband Hubert, she runs Vorarlberg's first cross-country and biathlon school in the Sulzberg Nordic Sport Park.

This particular Friday is a good day for Sulzberg: three quarters of a metre of snow has fallen in the past twenty-four hours. Just outside the village centre, the snow groomer is busy laying down fresh cross-country ski trails in the fluffy powder snow at the Nordic Sport Park.

Nordic sports are particularly at home on the sunny high plateaus of the northern Bregenzerwald. Heading towards Allgäu, the hills become increasingly gentle. The municipality of Sulzberg has become a Mecca for cross-country skiing and biathlon in recent years. The 2012 opening of the Nordic Sport Park played a key role. All the facilities that cross-country skiers could ever wish for are available here: Twenty kilometres of trails for classic and skating technique, rental skis and boots, a dedicated biathlon facility, Vorarlberg’s first cross-country and biathlon school as well as “Ski-Arc,” featuring archery on cross-country skis.

Ingrid Fink-Nöckler moved to the Bregenzerwald from Kitzbühel in Tyrol at nearly the same time as the Nordic Sport Park first opened. She has lived in Riefensberg with her husband Hubert Fink and their 13-year-old son Tobias since 2012. The husband-and-wife team of cross-country professionals have been running the Sulzberg Cross-Country and Biathlon School with five cross-country ski instructors in the Nordic Sport Park and in Hittisau since 2014. Alongside Ingrid, anyone can learn all there is to know about cross-country skiing, from biathlon to winter archery to ski orienteering, a kind of scavenger hunt on cross-country skis. As a coach, the 54-year-old has plenty of experience and even more enthusiasm. She has been in love with the sport since childhood.

Ingrid started cross-country skiing as a ten-year-old and she has been in love with the sport ever since: “As kids, we played on skis in the woods, built jumps and enjoyed the great freedom of the outdoors.” Soon, Ingrid became a talented competitive athlete, then her teenage years intervened. She married, took care of her family, and worked as an accountant. “There was only one ski lift in our hamlet of Kirchberg. That quickly became too boring for the kids.

So we started cross-country skiing together again.” In time, Ingrid transitioned from “family coach” for her kids to cross-country and biathlon coach Ingrid Fink-Nöckler. Over the years, she has trained and coached almost seventy competitive athletes. From 2008, she became a coach at the Bregenzerwald Ski Club. Then, in 2012, she moved to Riefensberg where, together with her husband Hubert, they began setting up the Vorarlberg junior biathlon: “Biathlon fascinates the children much more than mere cross-country skiing,” says Ingrid with a mischievous grin: “If they want to shoot again, they have to run another round first.”

These days, Ingrid, who is as patient as she is spirited, is a biathlon youth squad coach in addition to being active in the Vorarlberg Ski and Ski Instructors Associations: “Nordic sports have come a long way in recent years. Interest has spread to schools and kindergartens, and many young people have now purchased their own equipment.” Children, adults, professionals and beginners are all welcome to learn from Ingrid, who loves teaching people to cross-country ski: “My goal is for my guests to have ‘the coolest day in the snow on the cross-country trails,’ that’s my claim!”

Ingrid also teaches archery as well. It’s a sport she began as part of a personal relaxation programme. During winter in Sulzberg, guests can try their hand at the “Ski-Arc” course, which features archery on cross-country skis. Ingrid also sets up a summer course for guests in Riefensberg. The Bregenzerwald region suits Ingrid very well, though she admits that there were a few small hiccups with the local dialect at first. A few expressions she was used to using in Tyrol confused her younger students. Once she told the students to quickly do a few laps. She was startled when none of the kids reacted because to them, the word she used only meant to go at walking pace. Ingrid figured out the subtle differences quickly. After all, being quick on her feet is what makes her great in snow.

Author: Babette Karner
Issue: Winter 2021-22 Travel Magazine