March 09, 2012 – There is certainly an art to traveling and traveling well. There are tricks to traveling in a big group such as the US Ski Team, and there are tricks to traveling by yourself. Both have their advantages as well as their challenges. With the USST, the coaches are there for support and almost always, they take care of every logistical detail. If you wish, you can simply act as a herd animal following others around you. This doesn’t mean it’s easy and that doesn’t mean it’s not tiring.
Take this past weekend for example. It was a test in spontaneity, last minute decisions, and faith that everything would work out! Less than a week ago I flew from the States into Helsinki, Finland to compete at the World Cups in Lahti, Finland. If I skied well, I would be invited to continue onto Norway and if I skied REALLY well, there was a small chance that I would keep racing through World Cup finals in Sweden.
Well, I simply didn’t ski well in Finland. Blame it on the travel, the 50km Birkie a week prior, or just simply “not going fast enough” the options of racing in Norway and Sweden were gone. Going into this period, I knew it was an option and had come up with plan A, B & C in theory (in theory only)!
A plan quickly and spontaneously came together: share a shuttle to the airport with the French team, fly from Helsinki to Stockholm and then to Zurich. In Zurich I managed to meet up with my German Cousin Felix, whom I’ve met once before in 1995. I crashed on his couch for the night and he helped me navigate the bus and train station early the next morning on his way to work. (Thanks Felix!)
When considering the hardship and expense of traveling while competing as an American in Europe, it is certainly easy to envy the Europeans. They have so many options, so many races to choose from and home is never that far away. If they are racing poorly, it is always an option to attend a “B level race” and then return to the World Cup when they are feeling up to it.
Everything is “close” for them and they’ve grown up navigating the autobahn of Germany and the ski trails of Val di Fiemme. Heck, they’ve probably even sampled the waffles of Holmenkollen since they were 13! Being a ski racer in Europe could mean the equivalent of chosing between a World Cup in Anchorage, a World Loppet in Fairbanks, and a high level OPA cup race in Soldotna; all within the span of one weekend! The Washington equivalent would be a World Cup at Snoqualmie/Kongsberger, a World Loppet in Leavenworth, or an OPA in Spokane.
With their knowledge, contacts, and know-how, it’s simply that easy. This past weekend while the World Cup was in Lahti, a couple of the top World Cup skiers opted to race the Swedish Vasaloppet instead. Vibeke Skofterud, one of the top Norwegians won the race to the tune of $50,000 and a brand new Volvo for setting a new course record! This is not to say that winning is easy but it certainly pays off over here if you can manage it!
That’s it for the 2011-2012 racing season!