It feels like winter. But maybe that’s because it is. For the last 10 days we’ve been skiing on the other side of the equator down in New Zealand. This is the sixth time I’ve made the trek to the Snow Farm on the country’s South Island for summer training, and being down here never gets old. The landscape is right out of Lord of the Rings, and offers some of the best terrain for cross-country trails anywhere in the world. Set against the backdrop of the southern Alps, every sunset is Instagram-worthy as you look out on some of the most famous peaks in the world including Mt. Aspiring and Mt. Cook. The food is amazing, our bedroom walls are mere feet away from the ski trails, and we’ve become close friends with many of the staff here over the years. They always welcome us back like family, and our evenings are spent laughing with them over warm lamb chops and sticky cake.
Joining me from the SMS team is Sophie, Jessie, Andy, Erika, and Ben. Together, with a few of the other national team athletes, we’ve had super productive team training. Since September is the time of year we start to ramp up our hard intensity and speed work, we’ve had the chance to get in some hard interval workouts and time trials while we’ve been down here. Those hard efforts have been supplemented by long distance skis out on some of the classics, including Hanging Valley, Kirsty Burn, and The Loop. Although we’ve had plenty of vitamin D intake and time under the scorching southern hemisphere sun, we’ve also seen some of the insanely moody weather that the South Island is known for. Last week, we went to bed on Tuesday night after skiing on warm klister all day in short sleeve shirts. On Thursday, we woke up to -20F wind chill, 1 foot of new snow, and 60 mph winds. It’s pretty amazing how quickly and significantly the weather can change down here.
Fortunately for us, the low pressure didn’t stick around for long. About 36 hours after the storm moved in, the winds and black clouds rolled out as quickly as they had come, and a massive high pressure took its place. It was just in time for the races this weekend. Yesterday’s classic sprint was won by Andy, with teammate Ben taking home 3rd, while Jessie and Sophie skied to strong podium spots in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Today’s 15 km classic mass start was again won by Andy on the guy’s side, with Ben taking 2nd, while Jessie moved up a place taking the win in the women’s 10 km with Sophie holding down the 3rd place spot again. I will race tomorrow’s 10 km individual skate race while the others will take tomorrow to get in some more volume in these great mid-winter conditions. All of us down here are incredibly appreciative of the support from everyone back home, and we know that none of us would be down here right now with all of your encouragement and help. So thanks!