It was the strangest feeling. A week ago I was washing my hands in our tiny Swiss hotel bathroom, and the nostalgia came sweeping in. It was 2007, I was in Malles, Italy, and I was on my first real central European ski racing trip. I had qualified for the U23 World Championships that were taking place in a tiny town in the Alps tucked into the nook where Italy, Switzerland, and Austria all meet. As I scrubbed my hands a week ago, I closed my eyes, and I could immediately put my finger on all of the smells, tastes, and experiences from that trip almost 12 years ago. And the catalyst that brought all those emotions rushing back in? The hotel soap… the same type of bar I had used when I was a greenhorn all those years ago.
By my rough calculations, I’ve spent over 1,450 days in the last 12 years racing internationally (about 1,350 of those days have been in Europe). If I had the means to travel to a new country every single day, I would have been able to visit every country in the world at least 7 times. But that’s not how ski racing works. All those days on the road have afforded me many weeks, months, and now years spent in the same 15 countries. But the monotony hasn’t caught up to me, entirely due to the fact that every place we come back to year after year welcomes my teammates and me with familial embraces, home-cooked meals, and clean and familiar rooms. The same families are running their small hotels, the same organizers are putting on the races, and even the same wait staff is bringing us their homemade pasta dishes and crème brûlée. We operate as a big family, and that family extends far beyond just our teammates, coaches, and ski techs. Every individual that we see year after year, every person who helps us out as we motor from one venue to the next, is a critical part of the complex machinery that allows us to do what we do best, day after day after day.
So our family is doing great. We’re nearly half-way through our World Cup season, and even though there have certainly been lows for everyone (it is ski racing after all, and the name of the game is embracing the imperfections), the highs have undoubtedly outshined them. Sophie is coming off two podiums in the last three sprints. Her consistency in her results since getting healthy after an early bout of illness is rivaled only by her consistency in beating me at our nightly game of cribbage. Jessie continues to dominate on the world stage having just finished the tour in 6th place overall (and second in the Tour’s sprint standings). During the grueling 7-race-in-9-days event she had three podiums (not including the fastest time of day in the stage 5 pursuit) and is holding down 5th in the overall World Cup standings. I have been healthy all season (knock-on-wood), and even though I haven’t put together a race that I have been truly proud of yet, I know that if I keep plugging away that day will come. It would be an understatement to say that the three of us SMS T2ers on the World Cup have been amped to tune into the US National Championships taking place at home this last week. We have literally been sitting in our hotel hallways underneath the WiFi routers (Europe is still a little lacking on the fast internet thing) just so we can scream and cheer for our teammates back home as they race their hearts out in Craftsbury, Vermont. With the nationals races concluding today, our team will walk away with four national titles (Ben won both sprint titles, Kyle won the 15km title, and Julia won the skate sprint title), as well as a slew of podiums and top-10s. But we don’t tune into those races because we’re cheering for great results, we tune in because we know just how hard our teammates work day in and day out, and to witness them pouring their hearts into this sport is a special thing. We couldn’t be more proud of them and we miss them dearly every day.
In a couple days we’ll make the drive from Seefeld, Austria (where it just snowed 5 feet in the last 6 days!!!) to Dresden, Germany for a World Cup weekend of city sprinting. We’ll rendezvous with Julia there, race on the banks of the Elbe River, and then continue on to Estonia, Sweden, Finland, and Italy before returning to Austria for the 2019 World Championships. We can’t wait to reunite with Julia in a couple days, as well as pick up some of our SMS T2 teammates on the way as they join us for more World Cup and World Championship racing in Europe. Thanks for following along, happy (ski) trails!
Greetings from Craftsbury! It is currently a beautiful, sunny day. We have been getting spoiled with perfect grooming, a few days of sunshine, lots of snow and hard racing here at U.S. Nationals.
I got back East after spending the holidays in Seefeld with my mom, Sophie and Simi, and Jessie and Wade! It was great to get in some easy skiing, eat a lot of delicious meals cooked by my mom and enjoy the Mountain views from our apartment.
Unfortunately, the morning I was flying back to the U.S. for Nationals, I woke up with a terrible sore throat. Turns out, I had picked up strep throat over Christmas break. Luckily, I was able to get on antibiotics right when I arrived in Boston to start getting healthy before the racing started. The nice thing about strep and antibiotics is that you start feeling a lot better within a day or two! I stayed at a friend’s house for a couple days to rest up, get healthy, and get over jet lag. Then once I knew I wasn’t contagious, I headed up to Craftsbury to join the rest of the team racing Nationals. It was really nice to see everyone after a couple months apart. Since I didn’t finish my antibiotics until the day of the classic 10km, I decided to sit that race out to feel good for the sprint the following day.
We had a great first day of racing. It was a tricky day with mashed up tracks and new snow, but Pat, Dylan, and Zack and Amy Caldwell were able to make up great skis for everyone! Kyle won decisively in the 15km classic and Julia was on the American podium in the 10km! Not only was it inspiring to see my teammates racing so well here, but we also were able to see every stage of the Tour de Ski and watch Jessie fight day after day to finish 6th overall after the infamous Alpe Cermis climb!
In the classic sprint, I qualified 2nd and Julia qualified 3rd (we were less than a second apart)! Ben had an awesome race and qualified 1st! We had all four SMST2 girls here in the semi’s. I was frustrated to fall in my semi and not make it back up to the front to vie for a spot in the final, but Julia made it through and skied a gutsy race with an epic lunge to get 2nd in the heats! Ben skied great all day and got his first National title!
We had an off day and then the 20km and 30km skate mass starts. I was hoping to race, but ultimately decided to sit out the 20km to continue to get healthy and feel good for the skate sprint – which is tomorrow! But Alayna skied super well and finished 7th overall, and as the 3rd U23 on the day. It is amazing to see how impressive the U23 women’s field is this year. There have been four or five U23 women in the top ten every race this week (especially exciting that three of our SMST2 teammates are among this group – Julia, Alayna, and KO). It is going to be an amazing team that goes to U23 World’s next week! On the guy’s side, Kyle skied another great race and finished 2nd just behind David Norris from APU, and Paddy skied into the top ten as well!
*Sophie checking in.
The Tour de Ski just finished up and while Simi and I only did the first three stages, we had an eventful afternoon of spectating where we got to watch Jessie race the final climb of the Tour and our teammates back home race at nationals. It’s funny being on the other side as the one glued to the TV and computer watching your teammates race. In one way there are a lot less nerves, but I found it’s almost as emotionally exhausting because I feel so invested in every one of my teammates.
Watching Jessie literally ski up an alpine mountain for the final race of seven races in nine days makes me beam with pride because I not only know how hard she’s working to get up that beast, but I know how hard she’s worked every day of the training season to get to where she is now. Watching Kyle take 1st and 2nd in the two distance races at Nationals is so impressive as a number on a results sheet, but also because I know he went through a lot of changes joining our team this year and I know how psyched we are all to have him and how happy we are it’s paying off. Seeing Ben S. put everything together to win the sprint qualifier and take 2nd in the classic sprint at Nationals (and first American) and get up from the finish line with a huge smile makes you smile right back at him. Seeing Paddy put together a really solid skate distance race after a really rough fall of injuries and illness that he fought through and bounced back from makes me have even more respect for my cousin than I already had. Watching Ben O. have an awesome start to his career at UVM and handily qualifying for World Juniors is so cool. Having Kelsey over here for period 1 throwing down some awesome results, but also jumping into and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of being on the World Cup was a lot of fun and so impressive. Seeing Julia finally have an injury and illness free training season and getting the kick ass results she deserves because she’s not only really fit, but also really happy is an amazing thing to see. Having Alayna join our team as someone I didn’t really know, but someone who soon became one of my favorite people in the world, zip around not only the distance courses, but also become a strong, graceful sprinter makes me feel like a proud auntie. Seeing KO, the little girl I grew up with from the next town over who I used to babysit, racing for the same high school and college that I did, and managing to be one of the best skiers in the country and finding her happy and balance while doing it all, makes me pretty happy too.
So I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m really proud of our team for all the butt kicking we’ve been doing lately, but I’m also really proud of them all as people. I truly believe that the success we’ve found is because we have each other to enjoy the easy workouts, push through the hard workouts, text after the good races, and text after the bad races. So when Simi and I were watching them through our TV and computer screens all afternoon, we were cheering for a lot more than a good number on a results sheet because we’ve seen all the hard work they’ve put into skiing, all while people wonderful humans.
After the first three stages of the Tour de Ski, we came to Seefeld for a little training block before the next World Cup sprint weekend in Dresden, Germany. The Tour was really exciting with Jessie getting a 3rd in the Toblach skate sprint, getting to share the podium with Jessie in a photo finish for 2nd and 3rd in the Val Mustair skate sprint, Simi throwing down two awesome qualifiers and having a bit of bad luck with a fall but skiing so well, and Jessie getting 3rd in the skate pursuit with the fastest time of day and finishing 6th overall! I’m extra excited for Dresden because Julia will be joining us there as soon as Nationals finish up. So be sure to tune in to the Nationals skate sprint on Tuesday and then the World Cup sprint weekend in Dresden next weekend!
Throughout college I was able to make my way home about three times a year; in the Spring after finals were over, right before going back to school in the Fall, and around the Holidays in December. I love seeing my family and friends in Minnesota and wish I had the opportunity to visit more often, but it’s hard to find the time during school and plane tickets get expensive…
This year I was lucky enough to spend almost three weeks at home over the Holidays. After injuring my back in the last Supertour race in Silverstar, B.C., I jumped into a recovery routine and tried to get it to heal as efficiently as possible. After a few days and a trip to the chiropractor I thought I was good to go and started easing my way back into my normal training. Unfortunately, I pushed my luck, and this only made my back seize up again. I realized that if I didn’t want my back to cause me problems during US Nationals then I needed to take a step back and really rest up. It might seem easy to focus on resting, but with pretty important races coming up in January it was hard not to worry about missing out on key workouts. This really tested my patience, but after about a week and a half I was finally ready to get things going again.
Once I was able to accomplish what needed to be done I found myself more relaxed and ready to enjoy the Holiday season at home. I got to see old friends from high school, teammates from the ski community, and had some quality time with my siblings.
My family and I drove up to our cabin in Hayward, WI to find some skiing on the Birkie trails. Although there wasn’t a ton of natural snow, the Birkie Foundation was able to put together a fun little loop of man-made snow for everyone to enjoy. Also, our cabin isn’t far away from the upper peninsula of Michigan, so we made a day trip to ski on some incredible trails at ABR in Ironwood, MI. My family grew up skiing and it is something we have always done together. Having the opportunity to spend this quality time with everyone really makes me happiest!
While I was home I also followed up on a few promises I had made at my Gear West fundraiser. I had the chance to stop by the Mound Westonka and Wayzata High School ski practices to work with some speedy looking juniors in my community. I also hosted a clinic with the Minnesota Youth Ski League (I learned how to ski through MYSL) and had the opportunity to ski, play games, and encourage the next generation of skiers to continue doing what they love!
It’s always sad to say goodbye to home but the time came for me to pack my bags again and head back East. Now I am fired up to be racing at US Nationals in Craftsbury, VT – another place I like to call home. Craftsbury is not far from Burlington and over my four years at UVM I loved every chance I had to ski and race here. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center has done a tremendous job at saving snow and somehow surviving two rain storms in the past few weeks. The conditions are incredible here and it should be a fun week of racing!
*Julia checking in from the Craftsbury Eastern Cup
Our second SuperTour weekend was combined with a NorAm (Canadian circuit) in SilverStar, Canada (aka skiing paradise) making for some fast and competitive ski racing! Alayna and I immediately went for a sunset ski as soon as we arrived and as always, it was a truly magical sunset ski, SilverStar never disappoints 🙂
After a few days of training and exploring, we got ready to race and kicked off the weekend with ripping fast skis and strong results in the skate sprint. Andy (SMS alum) took the win and Ben placed 3rdon the day. I won the women’s race, but Alayna unfortunately got her pole stepped on and hurt her back, taking her out for the weekend (she is healing up fast now).
With our momentum rolling, Kyle brought home the win the next day in the 15km classic race, skiing a fast and furious race on a challenging course. I placed 3rdin the 10km classic race for women. With a solid block of racing in Period 1, we all split our separate ways to head home for some rest and recovery.
It has been a bit of a whirlwind since SilverStar, as I have been trying to fit in all sorts of things I wanted to do, but I do love staying busy! I made a short stop in Keystone, Colorado to see my boyfriend and relax. I swapped out the skinny skis for downhill skis for a day, but I still managed to fit in a gorgeous cross-country ski in Keystone as well! I made my way east right after that in order to make it back in time for the Craftsbury sprint test weekend, which tested the new sprint course for U.S. Nationals held here in 2 weeks. It was really fun to be back in the east, which has killer snow and skiing, and get to try out the course before nationals.
I made a quick trip back down to Boston to give a ski clinic and presentation with my home ski clubs growing up; it is always fun to see the next generation of skier and run into old friends. Before I knew it, I was driving back up to Crafstbury for the Eastern Cup this weekend. Ben, Katharine and I are racing here before we head home for family time over Christmas. We are all getting psyched for U.S. Nationals just around the corner and wish you all happy holidays!
*Katharine checking in
Almost five weeks ago, on the first ski of the winter season I broke my hand. Since then I have gone through 4 iterations of hand supporting devices, all of which were exceedingly comfortable and smelled of roses 100% of the time.
Takeaways from the Experience:
- Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH is an absolute destination for rad cast prints.
- You don’t actually need to grip your pole to ski so long as you have plenty of duct tape! (As evidenced by two weeks of skiing and even two days of racing in the Camo Crusher in Silver Star, BC)
- Broken bones heal really fast and strong, even though it may feel like it’s taking an eternity.
- Setbacks, especially in the leadup to the race season are stressful but four weeks of wearing a hard cast seemed to fly by and now my hand is crack-free and smells worlds better and in the end my training was hardly even hindered.
Since getting home from Silver Star I have been enjoying some of the best skiing that the East Coast has seen in December in my memory.
Having a fully healed hand and some great skiing is making for a pretty great winter break.
*Kelsey checking in after her first time racing Period 1 World cups!
Last season, I raced one World Cup, my first one, in March and was 36th – about a second out from qualifying for the heats. I had wanted to qualify but I had also had a really good first race at that level. It showed me that it was possible to be a World Cup skier as I have dreamed of being for many years but never knew if I had what it took.
This season, I’ve raced five times in the last five weeks. Every single one of those races was a World Cup. Three sprints and two 10km individual skate races. It’s not even Christmas and I already have five times more experience racing with the best of the best than ever before! Pretty awesome!
My main goals going into Period 1 World cups were to stay healthy, learn as much as I could, improve my skiing, be a good teammate, see what life on the road is really like and enjoy the process. My big skiing goal is to qualify for and hold my own in World Cup heats this season, ideally I wanted to do this during Period 1 and then more as the season goes on…
I stayed healthy. I have learnt so much from my own experiences, from my teammates wise words and from skiing with them everyday, and from the coaches and wax techs over here. My skiing has definitely improved. I think and I hope I’ve been a good teammate. And I’ve certainly enjoyed the process of living on the road and racing around the world weekend to weekend. It is a lifestyle I now know I can adjust to and enjoy! So with all of this, Period 1 was a success. Even though I tried to keep my expectations low because starting the season on the World Cup is not an easy feat, I knew that if everything came together – I could qualify and so I also felt the twinge of failure when I didn’t make the heats in the three sprints I raced in during period 1.
Because I really love to ski in heats. And while being within a few seconds out from qualifying in every sprint I’ve done is encouraging and getting into the top 30 does not feel out of reach, for someone who loves to ski heats – it is incredibly disappointing to cross the line of the qualifier and be “just out” weekend after weekend. It wasn’t until Davos that I really let myself feel that disappointment. I was so proud of all five of the other women for qualifying, especially with Sophie qualifying 1st after a couple weeks dealing with being sick on the road, but I was overwhelmingly sad to not be racing again that day with them. Beyond this, Pat had flown over to do wax support for myself and two Craftsbury skiers (Caitlin Patterson and Adam Martin) for Davos and our skis were awesome! When you know your coach and wax tech has given you great skis, you really want to ski extra well for them too. Pat was a good shoulder to cry on though and he helped me keep it all in perspective… He even told me it was a good sign that I was feeling so bummed because it meant I was really engaged in what I was doing.
As long as it’s constructive, it’s good to let yourself feel that kind of disappointment. It hurts at the time, but it is the fire that drives forward progress, and leads to better results in the future. It takes good days and bad days in the winter to get you to train your hardest and smartest in the summer and fall. And what I keep reminding myself of is this: the season has barely begun, there are many races to come and there is time to keep working on technique and race pace and being smart during races. Because when you’re trying to break into the points on the World Cup, every little step from start to finish makes a difference, so you can’t just race hard – you have to race smart.
I’m happy to currently be enjoying my first off day (in Seefeld, Austria) without travel since the season started. As Jess said in her blog post, my mom and I are spending Christmas over here together along with Sophie, Simi, Jessie, Wade and Matt! Then while they head over to kick butt at the Tour de Ski, I’ll join our domestic contingent for some awesome racing at U.S. Nationals in Craftsbury! I’m excited to see how my racing stacks up against a field I’m a little more familiar with – hopefully Julia and I can have some good battles in the sprints to make each other faster for future World Cup racing opportunities!
*Julia checking in!
Everyone from New England knows that the weather in last few weeks leading up to the racing season is as unpredictable as it gets. One day you might be wearing a tank top and shorts, and the next you are bundled in your mid-winter ski outfit. This year the weather gods decided us New Englanders had gotten soft so they wanted to ensure us New Englanders are tough come the race season.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t see the sun for 3 weeks straight. On top of that, many of those cloudy days included freezing, cold rain. Oddly enough, with one rainy day after the next, it started to be just another normal day in the east and each rainy day felt less dreary than the last. Maybe part of my reaction was due to the fact that I was at Dartmouth this fall, and regardless the weather, training was my study break so it is something I always looked forward to; it was always the best part of my day.
I think the peak drearyNew England weather came for the NENSA Trapps rollerski race. We showed up and it was 32 degrees and pouring rain, with 50 mph wind gusts, and the rain was turning into sleet. In the coaches meting, the coaches and organizers decided to go ahead and hold the race, and it was one of the most brutal rollerskis I have ever done weather wise, but I finished feeling a little tougher and stronger for the race season two short weeks away. Most importantly, I finished with a huge smile across my face, which might sound crazy but to me, some of the most satisfying and motivating workouts are the ones where you just have to have some grit, dig deep, and see the tough conditions as a way to make you that much stronger.
After a bit of toughness training, the weather rewarded us with some incredible early season snow, making for some of the best skiing conditions in the country, if not in the world. During finals, I was extra determined to be productive so that I could take skiing study breaks!
I decided the changes in weather weren’t crazy enough for me, so I headed out to San Diego to join my family for thanksgiving! The weather was 60-70 degrees and sunny everyday…you could say I soaked up all the sunshine I could get! Although it may be unusual to go on a beach vacation right before the season, it is exactly what I wanted to do before the racing season. Each person has their own way to prep for the race season and for me, that meant quality family time, sunshine and vitamin D, unwinding from finals, and having some fun (by going surfing and playing beach volleyball) and to relax before heading into the race season! The last two weeks before the season is usually stressful for most athletes, because you start to wonder, “have I done enough?”, “am I ready” , “I have worked so hard all year and now it is time to see how fast I am”. Hanging out with my family and surfing and playing beach volleyball was the perfect way to clear my head and relax before heading back to winter conditions in West Yellowstone.
I am now out in West Yellowstone, MT with our U.S. half of the SMS T2 Team for the first weekend of Super Tour races. After the toughness training this fall in the New England, we are ready to go! You can follow along with the live video coverage at https://usskiandsnowboard.org/events/supertour-1and live results at http://www.skirunbikemt.com/supertour.html.
*Sophie checking in.
We are officially over two weeks into our European adventure and have completed one World Cup weekend and are on the eve of our second! Each year we start our winter in northern Finland, which is generally one of the first places to get snow, but Europe is having a bit of a slow start to winter this year. We arrived in Rovaneimi, Finland to a manmade loop of snow, but mild temperatures that were quickly melting out the loop. We got a few days of good training in and a warm up race before heading to Kuusamo, Finland where the first World Cups were held. Kuusamo also didn’t have any natural snow, but the manmade 3-4 kms they made were relatively clean, so the races were able to be held.
The first World Cup weekend was a solid start for the U.S. Team, but we’re looking forward to building on our results the longer we’re on snow and the more cobwebs we blow out! I’ve struggled in Kuusamo in the past, so I was psyched to have a solid sprint day, just narrowly missing moving onto the semi finals.
The schedule for the weekend is a mini tour in Lillehammer, Norway. There is a skate sprint tomorrow, followed by a skate distance race Saturday, and a classic distance race Sunday. We are psyched that the some of the SMS juniors are in Sjusjoen for their fall camp and will be here to cheer us on this weekend. I have been nursing a cold this week, so I’m not sure I will be racing this weekend, but either way, it will be an exciting weekend to watch. Thanks for following!