100km North of the Arctic Circle

Jessie updates us on the SMST2’ers that recently traveled to Sweden to start the World Cup season!

Well, we found the snow…and now it won’t stop! It’s been snowing steadily the last day and a half which makes me feel like prematurely busting out the Christmas Carols and finishing every ski with hot chocolate, or at least tea. I’m so happy about being back in winter! I admit, I had some mixed feelings when leaving home because leaving a place is always hard for me…I get really attached. But now that I’m here I’m getting so excited for race season to begin and to see all my World Cup friends again! The US team is training in Gällivare, Sweden, which is located 100 kilometers North of the Arctic Circle, home of the Hellner ski stadium and most importantly, home of Peter Johansson, our good friend and wax technician who retired last year.

So happy to be back on snow! (photo by Cork)
So happy to be back on snow! (photo by Cork)

Simply put, there is no easy way to get here, especially from the States. My travel day was as smooth as possible, and it still took 30 hours door to door! I flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to Helsinki, from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (the official airport of Santa Claus! WHOOO!) and from there we drove the 3 hours to Gällivare. On the long drive, we saw a few reindeer. And by that, I mean we almost hit a few reindeer, only our driver was alert and not nearly as sleepy and shaky as I felt when I tried to take a photo of them, so they all lived! I’ll include the photo but you can’t really tell it’s a reindeer – you can’t see the antlers in the picture.

Yep. That's where we're at.
Yep. That’s where we’re at. Rovaniemi, right on the Arctic Circle.
Proof that it's Santa's official home.
Proof that it’s Santa’s official home.
My pretty bad photo of one of the reindeer we saw between Rovaniemi and Gällivare.
My pretty bad photo of one of the reindeer we saw between Rovaniemi and Gällivare.

Culture shock doesn’t usually hit me that hard anymore, probably because I’m so used to traveling all over and trying to learn about the places I’m visiting. But I forgot how funny things can be, such as when we were ordering “fast food” from a gas station restaurant. A few of us ordered kabobs, which looked like a pita bread with meat on it from the photo. It turned out to be a lettuce pizza, and it was not fast at all. We laughed a lot. The #1 rule of traveling and really enjoying it is to never expect things to be exactly the same, and to not worry about it – it’s going to be different and that doesn’t mean it will be better or worse, just different and that’s all. Enjoy it!

Sophie getting after her kebab aka lettuce pizza.
Sophie getting after her kebab aka lettuce pizza.

You’re probably wondering about the skiing over here! It’s amazing. The stadium has 3.8km of groomed tracks and they wind up and down the side of an alpine mountain, so you’re almost always climbing, or twisting round corners and downhills. The trees are totally frosted over and look like they’re from a Dr. Seuss book, which I think is pretty awesome.

The "night skiing" at 3:00pm!
The “night skiing” at 3:00pm!
Going over video technique review in my new Craft race suit.
Going over video technique review in my new Craft race suit.

I’d forgotten just how FUN skiing is when you’re on snow! The downhills are such a blast. On roller skis I’ve learned to be fairly cautious. I mean, I still get going up to 45 mph, but only when I know there are no turns at the bottom of the hill. But on skis? We’re racing each other down the tracks, cutting corners and taking riskier lines because when it’s just powder on the side of the trail, nobody’s worried about falling. When I was little, I’d always tell my parents to WATCH ME CAREFULLY because I was going to go SUPER-SPEED! Then I’d get into this outrageous little tuck with my poles sticking up in the air, totally un-aerodynamic, and go about half a mile per hour on the smallest of hills. It’s all relative, people. I thought I was going crazy fast. With that in mind, I’m probably not going all that fast down the course, but man it sure feels like a whole different world than summer training on roller skis!

All the snowfall in the last 24 hours has made a few trees fall down on the course, so the other day I was tucking down the hill when suddenly I turned the corner and there was a fallen tree covering the entire trail! The only option was to duck through a gap between branches. I thought it was so much fun that I went back and did it again.

Tom, Cork, Caitlin, Pete and Tim in the stadium. 
Pretty happy about the snow situation here! Getting a drink break with Sophie and Liz.
Pretty happy about the snow situation here! Getting a drink break with Sophie and Liz.

In between training we’ve been foam rolling, stretching, getting together for meals at the hotel and relaxing. I’ve been hammer-seshing away at my online Sociology class that I’ve been taking the last few months. It goes through December through the University of Utah (with credits transferred to Westminster College, which has a partnership program with the US Ski Team). It’s a really interesting class, especially with all the travel I’m doing. The homework is also a great way to not think about skiing at all for a few hours so I don’t overthink the races!

Pink hat party! Me, Soph and Caitlin
Pink hat party! Me, Soph and Caitlin

A big shoutout goes out to not only our hardworking wax techs and coaches, but our PT and Massage staff that takes time from their regular jobs to travel with us and take care of us during the race season! Pete Dickenson is with the US Team for the first few weekends and he’s been doing an awesome job keeping us together. Thanks Pete!

This weekend, we will race in a couple FIS races here in Gällivare, as tune-up races before the World Cup opener. Saturday is a classic sprint race, and Sunday is a 10/15km skate individual start. I’m planning on doing both, and I’m excited to get back into race-mode!

Last but certainly not least, I know it’s football fantasy league time of year. But if you’re reading this blog, chances are, you might be interested in a more snow-oriented type of league. Last year for the World Championships, Noah created a fantasy league and it was super fun, wildly popular and no, you won’t get rich like the football ads, but you CAN win some skis and other sweet prizes…and it’s free to sign up! How does it work? Pick your team of 8 guys and 8 girls from the World Cup, then pick your starters for each weekend’s races. “The objective of the league is to accrue the most points scored in the World Cup by selecting the best team of athletes for each weekend & Tour. The better your athletes perform, the more points your fantasy team receives.” Official wording stolen from Hoff.com…he’s better at describing the rules than I am. You know what? Click on the link below and check it out so you can see ALL the rules! Then make your team.




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