The Best of Fall

* Kyle checking in!
We have now entered my favorite time of year outside of the actual race season. You can almost feel the season upon us. Snow sightings are popping up all over the country and the temperatures are continuing to drop. Leaves are changing and falling and maybe most important of all, the NBA season begins tomorrow. The hours of volume are dropping and the amount of intensity is rising.
Half of our team is out in Park City for the final USST camp before the season and the other half went up north to Craftsbury for a mini camp this weekend. We hopped in another NENSA rollerski race, this time a 10k classic in Jericho. I personally have never been to Jericho, so I really enjoyed seeing a new rollerski track! It was really good practice for me racing a flat and fast classic race as that would definitely be my biggest weakness. After the race, we lifted in the very impressive Craftsbury gym and had dinner with the team. On Sunday morning we did an easy OD run up and over Mt. Mansfield. I had never been there so it was really nice to see something new and we were treated to a beautiful blanket of snow on top. I am looking forward to my last few weeks in Stratton before I head back to the Midwest for a few weeks before heading West and getting the season started!

Fall Flying By

*Simi checking in.
The fall is flying by faster than a head-to-head sprint between any two of our SMS Elite athletes. It’s been a whirlwind of a last month, having arrived back in the U.S. from New Zealand in mid-September, spending a couple weeks there, then getting on a plane and flying back out west to get ready for our annual US Ski Team camp in Park City, UT. A week before our Utah camp started, I flew home to Colorado to get one last dose of recovery in, soak in the high mountain fall colors, and finally get some quality time at home with my family and friends after a long and busy summer of travelling, training, and battling the humidity in Vermont. Sophie joined me in Colorado for most of that week, which was fortunate because I’m pretty sure at this point my family is more excited to spend time with her than with me (joking… we’re equally as loved, I think). We convinced our old US Ski Team teammate and Vermont native Liz Stephen, and her boyfriend JB, to join us in Colorado for a few days before I made the drive north to Park City and Soph got on a plane to head back to Vermont. It was great spending time with Liz again, as she is someone in this world that brightens every day and exudes nothing but positive energy wherever she goes and whoever she is with. And JB definitely passed our tests with flying colors, following us on a few long adventures in the mountains and lightening the mood with his never ending string of one-liners and his hilarious personality. Fresh off of a six-hour drive from Park City, Liz and JB joined me, Soph, my step dad Al, and my brother in law James on a great mountain bike ride right above my house in Aspen. The leaves were pretty much peaking with their golden and red colors, the air had a cold bite to it, and the dirt was tacky. Perfect riding conditions and perfect company. 
After an evening spent by the wood stove while it dumped snow in the high country, we decided to adventure up the flanks of Mt. Sopris (Colorado’s biggest peak from base to summit) where we were met with early winter conditions. Although the snow and biting wind eventually turned us around before we could summit, we had an awesome time together and we were all infected by that spirit that only comes with the season’s first real snow storm. 
Capping off a great weekend with Liz and JB, we helped our good friend Ben Koons with some building projects at his house that he designed and is building. Nothing beats a training day where you can run through knee deep snow in the morning and then hang Tyvek twenty feet up on a ladder in the afternoon. One of Ben’s goals is to get mug shots of every single person that stops by to help him with projects during construction, and Soph’s mug shot is too good not to share. Enjoy.
When our Colorado adventures came to a close, I headed north to join the national team in Park City to start our two-week training camp up here. It’s been a wild start to winter up here, with the Wasatch already receiving about 20 inches of snow up high, and the town of Park City getting at least 8 inches in the last few days. We’ve had a to be a bit creative with training because of the weather, but now the Utah sun is shining bright once again and we’re looking at another 10+ days of perfect fall training weather. I’ll finish up camp here next weekend, then head to the desert to ride bikes with a buddy for a couple days, then notch a few more days at home in Aspen before I make my way back to Vermont in late October. If the speed at which the fall has gone by is any indication of how fast racing season is creeping up on us, I’ll be putting on a race bib in no time. So until then, I hope that everyone has a wonderful rest of October, and start praying for a big winter because it’s creeping up on all of us faster than we think!

Fall Update and Coach Appreciation post from New Zealand

*  Kelsey checking in!

I’m sitting here in Stratton, drinking coffee and enjoying an easy morning. We just finished up an easier week of training and next we have a harder two week block. Yesterday, Kyle took the big W in the race up Stratton Mountain, and Alayna and Dave Sinclair both were second! I was so impressed to see them race. The cool thing about fall is that we start transitioning into harder workouts – getting our bodies and minds ready for on snow race season. It does not feel good when you’re starting to get back into race shape. We work on the physical side: getting faster, stronger, getting heart rates up, and trying to start to make that efficient. We also work on the mental side: getting tougher, getting used to the pain cace, making it feel more comfortable to be extremely uncomfortable.

Kyle almost at the top, running into the fog, winning by a lot!
Dave Sinclair, former skier and current teacher at SMS and runner, coming in for second.
Alayna enjoying the pain cave on her way to second.
Speaking of the pain cave… This was Alayna’s watch data after the race !!

Beyond going hard, we’ve had a few days of perfect fall weather. I’ve been trying to get out on my road and mountain bike as much as possible on easy days while I still can.

Went on a nice afternoon ride with Coach Pat last week.
And the leaves are starting to look pretty! (PC: Alayna)
That’s all for the fall update, but I’ve come to realize that I did in fact forget to write my September blog post while we were in our last days of New Zealand camp.
So to make up for that, here is a collection of photos I took of the coaches on the last day in New Zealand. If you follow my Story on Instagram, you may have already seen these pictures but now they can forever live on the Internet through this blog post.
It is hard for me to convey how much I deeply appreciate the support that coaches provide. From the actual work component of coaching to the friendship and support side of it, I know I would not see the same level of success without their work nor would I be as happy of a person as I am. Day in and day out, here in Stratton we usually have Pat and Cork, and Matt when he’s in town, out biking with us while we roller ski, standing in the pouring rain ready to get lactate test strips out during bounding intervals up the mountain, running the 3+ hours over distance workouts with us telling stories and jokes, and always ready to take some video. Beyond that, you can often find Pat fixing roller skis, cutting poles down, and working on getting skis ready for winter.
Skiing is considered an individual sport. But it’s really not. Sure, I could figure out generally what I need to do for training and go out and do it. But that’s only half the battle. Technique is crucial to skiing economy and speed. And coaches are invaluable for their ability to see what you’re doing and then give you simple cues and adjustments to get better. Pep talks, emotional support and having someone to bounce ideas off of is also something that our coaches provide. The right conversation at the right time with a coach is what has gotten me through many highs and lows of training and racing. The power of support, understanding and belief from people you trust can never be underestimated. And don’t even get me started on all the work with skis, wax testing, ski testing, and waxing those skis. When we have good skis and get a great result, sure we were the ones in the race, but it is a full team effort to create each of those greats results. There’s so much power in skiing for the team, and skiing for something bigger than yourself!
So like good parents, you coaches have made it so that we have all the tools to be capable of doing all of this without you but we most certainly would not want to and would not be as good without you. This sentiment (and everything above) goes for good teammates too, but today’s about the coaches :).
This picture is out of focus, but please note Pat’s video camera perch in the upper right.
Cork surveying the speed stations from above.
Matt takes some incredible photos, here he is getting a shot of Julia.
Pepa, from Craftsbury GRP, getting some video.
A little tired at the end of camp? Yeah, us too. Pat on the left and Gus on the right.
How many coaches does it take to get the perfect lunge technique? At least 3 is the answer.
Sometimes coaches even humble us, and show off their own skills. Like Cork’s lunge against Alayna.


That’s all, thanks for reading. And if you’re an athlete, please go thank your awesome coach(es)! Can’t praise them too much though or it will go straight to their heads ;)!

Back into the swing of things

*  Sophie checking in.

Late September and early October is my favorite time of year. The weather starts getting cooler, the leaves are changing, and the excitement of winter starts building. After our big camp in  New Zealand, we all focused on recovery for a week before jumping back into some normal training. The jet lag coming back from New Zealand is real and it becomes even rougher after a big three week training camp, so we tried our best to stay healthy, get on the right time zone, and ease our way back onto east coast time.

Back to rollerskiing in Vermont.
Welcoming fall!

After a week of feeling rather zombie like, most of the team was back and we started up with organized training again. It was fun to have the crew back together and the roads we ski on and runs we do felt fresh after spending so long down in New Zealand. The team splits a little for the rest of the fall with some people spending some time out west at Park City camp and making a trip home before the long season, while others will pretty much stay in Vermont until the season begins. I will be taking a quick trip out to Colorado for the week, but will otherwise be in Vermont until heading over to Europe in mid November.

Bounding intervals up Stratton.
Kels and Jess at an overlook on our beautiful OD run.

I’m looking forward to some warm home cooked food, lots of time by the fireplace, and some hard training to get us ready for the season!

Jessie and I visiting an event for Prospect Mountain.


Happy Fall!

* Paddy checking in.
Now that the full crew is back from New Zealand we are diving straight into Fall training mode. During the summer months our training is generally focused on building base fitness and logging lots of hours. Now that the summer is behind us and Winter is Coming we are transitioning into more high intensity intervals and speeds. I love this time of year. All the training from the spring and summer starts to pay off. Every interval session makes you a bit faster, pushes you farther into the pain cave, and brings you a day closer to the season.
With that its time to head out for some hard bounding intervals in the rain!

Back into VT training!

It’s good to be back! I’ll be honest, beating back the jet lag and time change wasn’t easy, but now that the team is recovered from our epic New Zealand training camp it’ll be nice to have a few weeks with everyone here to get some good solid training in at home! These next few weeks will be a good chance to focus on getting back into intensity training and shorter, harder intervals after some great volume in NZ. We got a chance to do some FIS racing there which was awesome, but also reminded us that it’s time to start shaping our fitness into more race-ready pacing as we get closer to November!

Getting some intervals done on a slightly soggy day! (image from Reese Brown/SIA Images)

But while we were in our recovery week, I went on a really fun and relaxing camping trip with my boyfriend, Wade, to Bourne Pond! It was funny hiking in and camping in a place that’s only a few miles from home as the crow flies, but it was a beautiful part of the Green Mountains that we hadn’t yet seen!

These signs are adorable.

It was really nice to hike in nice and slow and take the time to really enjoy the trail! Usually, we’re running all the trails we go on, which is super awesome, but sometimes it’s fun to slow it down a little and notice more.

Wade and I enjoying the slow hike in.

We REALLY slowed down life with the hammock by the pond! After a lot of travel it felt pretty good to unwind! And now that I’m rested, I’m super excited to be back in training with the team!

Some pretty cool clouds in the lake!

NZ Update

I’m sure updates from New Zealand have been hard to ignore, and you might even be a little sick of hearing about them by now, but I’ll try to give you a quick update on some behind the scenes events of New Zealand. It’s hard not to talk about how lucky we were this year with sunny weather and endless amounts of trails, but you can only ski so many hours a day, so what else did we do while we were down under?
Alayna at “THE tree” in Wanaka (photo from Kelsey)
1. Wanaka – there is this lovely little town called Wanaka that is about a 35 minute drive from the Snow Farm, and we spent a couple days in town recovering during the middle of camp and a couple off afternoons wandering around town. If Wanaka weren’t all the way across the world, I would move there in a heartbeat. It’s set on a beautiful Lake with beautiful running trails that stretchalong the perimeter, there are delicious coffee shops littered throughout the town, a big grocery store with every kind of Tim Tam you could imagine, and manageable sized population.
Beachy sunsets (photo from Julia)
2. Sunset/sunrise walks – I never really feel trapped at the Snowfarm, but we do spend most of our time either on the ski trails or contained in the same building, so getting outside for a stroll when the sun is rising or setting is a lovely way to explore what else the Snowfarm has to offer. The sunrises and sunsets up at the Snowfarm are unbelievable with the mountain settings and the beautiful colors.
Kelsey, Alayna and KO enjoying the beautiful mountain sunset! (photo by Julia)
3. Naps – We put in a lot of hours of skiing at the Snowfarm, so whether you’re a napper or not, it was important to put your feet up for a few hours in between sessions and try to recover. Sometimes you can even multitask with a nap and a movie at the same time!
Simi multitasking
4. Food – The food at the snowfarm was amazing and we were lucky to have three hot meals prepared for us each day. A lot of training results in a lot of eating, so we were very grateful for all the tasty treats that were made up for us every day.
5. Goofing off – We were down in New Zealand to train, but it’s always important to keep it fun. Whether it’s a team movie night, a ping pong game, a game of bananagrams, or a mid-ski photo opportunity, we took the time to appreciate the people we were surrounded by. I am feeling incredibly lucky to be on a team with such awesome people who keep each other smiling day in and day out. By the end of camp, there’s something pretty special about cracking a joke and watching the tired giggles unfold!
Tired goofy girls group
We’re all making our way back to the states and looking forward to that beautiful fall weather we hope is just around the corner!

The College Conflict: Part 1

* Alayna checking in.

For the first time in 17 years I will not be going back to school this fall. Saying that out loud is more daunting than I had anticipated. For the most part, the classmates that I graduated with can say that they are “going to grad school,” “starting a new job,” or “taking a year off to travel,” but I still don’t know where I lie. I am not taking any classes this year, I am not working anywhere consistently, and I am doing more than just traveling to explore, I’m traveling to race!

Copy of College Conflict_ Part 1 (1)
First day of school! (circa 2004).

I am wrapping up a three-week training camp in New Zealand with the SMS, Craftsbury, and US Ski Team. When I walked through customs I had to write down my reason for visiting New Zealand: Was I a student? Was I visiting a family or friend? Was I working? What was my job? In the rush of the moment and due to habit, I wrote that I was still a student and continued on my way. I later had a few reflections; I still haven’t reached the point yet where I can say I have a job. I don’t have a salary and there are no company benefits. Yet, I work 24/7 toward my job — my job is ski racing. But why is this so hard for me to admit to myself? Is it because, for my entire life, I’ve been a student? What if I hadn’t taken this route? How do others make this decision?

Racing throughout high school, I was given a number of perspectives about picking skiing versus school. My friends were all preparing to go to college and I always assumed I would go to college, too. My parents and older sister went to school, why wouldn’t I go as well? But then I thought about skiing. I never had the most outstanding results in high school (never qualified to race internationally), but I was good enough to qualify for regional and national level camps like REG, NEG and NTG. I traveled to these camps and trained with other high-level athletes, getting more and more motivated by each skier or coach that I met. Then the thought came to me… what if I didn’t go to college? I could focus on training, make those vital steps toward international racing, and continue along the “pipeline” that so many Olympians had followed. Maybe I would make bigger jumps and improve my skiing exponentially? I was entering the unknown and I was unsure how to pick the right choice for me. Looking back on this four years later, I realize that I was far from alone in this predicament.

National Training Group, Summer 2013, Park City, Utah.

I have since had the opportunity to talk to a wide variety of skiers and competitors and have learned so much that I wish I knew in high school. It’s OK to be confused. It’s OK to make your own path. Every athlete is in a different situation, comes from diverse athletic and academic backgrounds, and has various goals that they hope to achieve post-high school.

“I’ve always believed that the most important thing to remember when discussing the decision to go to school or not (or when to go to school) is that is it a completely individual decision and the right decision for one person might not be the right decision for the next.” — Sophie Caldwell

Personally, I finally decided that taking a gap year might be too big of a jump for me. I wasn’t ready to focus on skiing and I had a lot of goals for myself academically. I decided to attend the University of Vermont and upon reflection, can admit that this was one of the best decisions of my life. Similarly, SMS teammate, Kelsey Phinney, went from high school in Boulder, Colorado, directly to Middlebury College.

“The reason I chose Middlebury College was simple: I went to visit and I was ready to unpack and stay for good. I loved the people, the area, the ski team, and the classes I sat in on.” — Kelsey Phinney

Carnival Love.

Kelsey and I both fell in love with our schools from the start and knew we were where we belonged. We took these college experiences as learning opportunities; maybe we wouldn’t have been ready to jump right into the professional circuit but we both determined this was the right path for us.

“I loved the experiences I had on the Carnival circuit. Both good and bad times taught me a lot about life and skiing, and I felt like the balance of school and sport made me better at both,” Kelsey reflects.

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 3.11.51 PM
Learning how to care about everyone’s race, not just your own.

Similarly, Sophie Caldwell had her mind made up without the need to hesitate over a gap year or jumping into full-time skiing.

“I chose to go to college right out of high school, and it was something I had always known I wanted to do. I knew there was a good chance I wanted to ski professionally at some point in my life, but when I was 18, I wasn’t ready to 100% commit to skiing,” Sophie, a Dartmouth graduate, explains.

With academic goals in mind and the confidence to pursue skiing in the long run, sometimes there’s no need to question it. Going directly to college might challenge you more than you think and it might make you question what you’re doing. The balance of school and skiing is great, but it’s TOUGH! At least you worked through those challenges and figured out where you want to be though.

“I definitely had my ups and downs throughout college and at times I considered not pursuing skiing after college, but by the time I entered my senior spring, I knew I wanted to give skiing professionally a shot and knew it was because it was what I wanted to do, not what I had to do,” Sophie notes.

Over the course of four years, we were able to say goodbye to our homes, grow into adults and develop as skiers, allowing a much smoother transition into the professional racing circuit post-college. This decision to go right to college made sense for Kelsey, Sophie and me — it was simple; but I recognize that this choice isn’t as straightforward for everyone.


“I loved my time at Burke and wasn’t quite ready to leave. I also didn’t know where I wanted to go to college as part of me wanted to go out west while part of me wanted to stay closer to home.”  — Ida Sargent

The conflict of picking a school, a place we are willing to spend at least four years of our lives at, can be intimidating to anyone. Taking a year off to think and explore what motivates you once the structure of school is taken out of the picture can be extremely vital to one’s skiing longevity. Other times, this year off can be done to test out what skiing professionally is actually like.

“I wanted to test out whether I could do only professional skiing.” — Katharine Ogden

A feat that might sound easy to accomplish — ski, eat, sleep, repeat — can’t be THAT hard! But what happens when you suddenly put all of your time and energy into one goal?

“Ironically, my gap year did not turn out even close to how I had planned or imagined!” reflects Julia Kern.

After facing an early summer surgery for compartment syndrome and then an untimely back injury in the fall, Julia notes that her gap year was extremely tough with plenty of lows and setbacks.

Julia Kern with swollen legs after surgery, requiring A LOT of physical therapy during the summer.

Ida Sargent offers, “My PG year was a bit of a disappointment as I wasn’t as happy as I was expecting and I also didn’t feel like I made as big of a jump with my results as I had hoped.”

“I think in hindsight it was a good philosophy but I think I approached it wrong. I didn’t do a good job securing other things to do besides training and was thus pretty bored, which led to me putting a lot of stress on skiing and racing,” says Katharine Ogden.

Maybe taking a gap year isn’t as easy as it sounds? Coming face-to-face with this type of ski-focused intensity as an 18 year old can be challenging.

“It showed me how much I really wanted to go to college,” offers Katharine.

It can also be validating, as it can prove to oneself where they really belong at that point in their life.

“It made me realize that I wasn’t ready to ski full time and I still needed balance in my life,” reflects Ida.

What might be the most beneficial aspect of taking a gap year are the lessons you learn throughout. How to deal with the pressure, free time, potential obstacles, and how to respond when you’re suddenly put in an unfamiliar situation.

“My gap year turned out to be far from ideal from a training/fitness standpoint, but I became very in tune with my body, learned how my body responds to training, became mentally tougher, and learned that I love the skiing lifestyle (even if it is tough sometimes) and that I want to ski at the highest level possible,” says Julia.

Some things you just can’t learn in a classroom.

Julia Kern (on table) still smiling!
Julia Kern taking the time to think about something other than skiing during her gap year. (Photo: Julia Kern).
How to pass the time away, when you have so much of it. (Photo: Julia Kern)


After taking a gap year to figure out what skiing was like full-time; Ida, Katharine, and Julia attended Dartmouth College (via various routes):

Ida states, “I started by going to school full time and I raced for Dartmouth for three years and then made the National team so I took my senior winter off to race for the USST and then I went back for a spring term my fifth year.”

“One year in [as a traditional student], I am very happy at Dartmouth and racing the collegiate circuit last year reignited my love for the sport,” adds Katharine.

While Julia contributes, “I chose Dartmouth because I wasn’t sure what skiing and school balance I wanted to have, but I did know that I wanted to be able to take terms off to race internationally.”

Regardless of which Dartmouth plan they followed, all three skiers seem to have enjoyed the choices they made. Whether taking a gap year is or isn’t part of your plan, the most important takeaway is that you should TAKE SOMETHING AWAY! Learn something new about yourself, about skiing, or about classes you want to study.

So what about other options for pursuing a ski career? Jessie Diggins and Andy Newell both chose to skip college and go straight into skiing. Stay tuned for my next post when I’ll include input from both of them as well as what U.S. Ski Team coach Matt Whitcomb has to say on this topic.

A Taste of Winter

*Julia checking in

After a summer spent adventuring in green mountains, I decided it was time to change things up and find some white, snowy mountains! Although training has been really good at Dartmouth, it was time to mix things up and get a taste of winter before heading back for fall term. As soon as my last class ended, I hopped on a plane to join the rest of our team down under at the Snow Farm in New Zealand. I figured there is no better study break during finals than hopping on some skis and skiing on incredible snow after a long, hot summer.

One last summer adventure before heading down under (Mount Marcy in Lake Placid, NY).
Christie Burn Skate-4
All smiles here (PC: Matt Whitcomb)!

It has been so fun being back together with the team, training hard and having lots of fun. The first part of camp has been mostly just distance training with a few speed sessions and interval workouts, and I can say that we have been extremely spoiled by the weather. Everyday the grooming has been amazing, the sun has been shining, and everyone has had smiles wiped across their face (how can you not in this magical place).

The WHOLE team back together! 🙂
Skiing + friends = 🙂
It doesn’t get much better than this.
KO making the first tracks on freshly groomed trails.

Our first race of the camp was the annual Merino Muster where Simi and Jessie placed 1st and Kyle and Alayna 3rd in the 42km, and KO and Ben placed 1st and Julia placed 2nd in the 21km Snow Rake! The Merino Muster is always a fun event and the conditions were absolutely perfect. We are looking forward to a few more days of training before the New Zealand Winter Games races begin.

Men’s 42km Merino Muster Podium.
Women’s 42km Merino Muster Podium.

Stay tuned for more photos and results! Thanks for following 🙂

Hello from New Zealand!

Winter in August is something special. After months of dry-land training in Stratton it is quite a shock to the system to jump right into mid-winter conditions here on the Snow Farm. New Zealand has had an excellent winter and as such all of the trails here are open and in perfect condition. 

A happy crew heading out to Mount Pisa
One of the special things about this camp is that it brings together several club teams from around the US. It’s going to be a fun three weeks coordinating sessions with Craftbury’s Green Team and Sun Valley’s Gold Team and learning from the other skiers and coaches out on the trails. 
Perfect skiing!
Most of the team is staying at the Snow Farm for just over three weeks. The primary focus of the training camp is to put in lots of quality hours on snow to dial in technique goals and get a big dose of volume based training. Towards the end of our time here we will transition to more intensity sessions and jump into races at New Zealand Winter Games. The Winter Games is a three day race series with two distance races and one sprint. Stayed tuned for updates from the rest of camp and the upcoming races!