Tag Archive | "interview"

Interview With Ben Popp – The American Birkie’s New Executive Director

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July 05, 2013 (Hayward, Wisconsin) – Ben Popp is from Wisconsin’s Northwoods where the Cable-to-Hayward American Birkebeiner is run each February. Since June 1, he now finds himself as the new Executive Director (ED) of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) which owns the Birkie and other events. SkiTrax caught up with Popp to learn more about him, his plans for North America’s largest Nordic ski event, and how he plans to address the various challenges he faces.

Firstly, a slightly belated congrats on becoming the new ED of the ABSF. Rumor has it you are the youngest ED ever there…so how old are you?
Ben Popp: I just celebrated my 39th birthday yesterday. Thanks for the congrats; my twin boys Luke and Grant, 7, are very excited about moving to northern Wisconsin. I grew up in northern Wisconsin and enjoy challenges and the active lifestyle that can be found there.

And tell us more about yourself…
BP: I served five years as Executive Director of the SISU Nordic Ski Foundation, near Minneapolis-Saint Paul (Twin Cities), a similar ski group promoting an active outdoor lifestyle. SISU offers a wide range programs, hosting some 14 races annually, including eight ski races. Much of this is built around the Nordic Centre at Battle Creek, MN. As for the Birkie, I started doing it when I was 18 years old. I’ve done it maybe 17 times to date. My mom and dad ski it – the Birkie is part of our winter traditions. I enjoy mountain biking, road biking… I once pedalled the 3,000 mile Race across America from San Diego to Maryland nonstop. Currently I’m building my own house so I guess you could call me a “hands-on” kind of guy.

There are some obvious challenges ahead as Telemark Lodge, over whose land the the Birkie crosses, has closed again. In previous years, the resort has played a key role in providing other facilities and infrastructure for the Birkie. What are your plans regarding the Telemark Lodge can the event still do well without it?
BP: Marty Hall wrote a good article about this on SkiTrax.com – but no, we will not be looking to purchase Telemark Lodge! For sure, it is a huge part of the Birkie’s legacy and history, and it will be an integral part of its future. Birkie founder, Tony Wise, started a cool plan – skiing from Cable to Hayward. Unfortunately, it is likely Telemark will be closed this winter so we are negotiating easements to use the property. And if the iconic lodge is closed, the Birkie will use more tents.

We’ve talked to private partners who are supportive of private events and during the transition, they’re in. In a best case scenario Telemark Lodge could be open as soon as September, but even if it is not, we can operate things although conditions would not be ideal for our staff. We do have contingency plans…

Mortgage owners, banks, and previous owners all know the importance of Telemark Lodge to the Birkie. The same trails are used in other seasons and the Chequamegon Fat Tire (Mountain Bike) Festival sees 2,500 racers. The Birkie Trail Run Trail (including a marathon and half marathon) also takes place in September; we are hoping for 1,500 runners. We own the Birkie Trail Run, however, Chequamegon is a separate event that takes place on our trails.

We understand that during Birkie weekend, all resorts and motels are booked a year in advance in the communities within 30-50 miles of the Cable/Hayward area. Telemark’s closing will reduce an already tight supply of beds…could the Birkie attract more skiers if there were more local hotel rooms available?
BP: Yes, accommodation is a limiting factor. But trail width is even more of a limiting factor. We’re planning to put people onto gym floors and find places where they can crash for night. We are reaching out to other nearby communities in Wisconsin. From, there is the possibility to charter buses from larger population centres like the Twin Cities. Creative things like this are needed.

The Birkie sees some 10,000 Nordic participants each year, do you hope to expand the event?
BP: Yes, we intend to grow Birkie brand. The Birkie is a gateway to get more people skiing, hiking, biking… trail widening is important, as is security in light of Boston. We need to secure trail heads. To grow the race, we don’t want to sacrifice quality. Just to maintain things we need 2,000 volunteers which is approximately the total population of the nearby town of Hayward. We need strategies to maintain and grow the number of volunteers.

We don’t have an exact number of estimated participants down the road yet. But we want to see a classic trail all way to Hayward. This could easily add up to 3,000 skiers.

We offer other activities such as snowshoe events and sprints. The Birkie recently hosted a “retro knickerbiner” event with a few hundred participants. We have skijoring and family tours and a “fat tire” snow bike event. We had to cap the fat tire race at 300 participants.

Much of our website traffic is from beyond a three-hour driving distance. I guess that one-third of that traffic is from Illinois. And the Birkie already draws in skiers from 19 countries and 38 states. But our distance from the nearest major airport (Twin Cities) is a limiting factor…

How do manage wacky winter weather conditions and unpredictable snow cover?
BP: “Good trails are made in the summer” according to our trail manager. Trails have to be in good shape going into winter. We already spend $250,000 a year on trail maintenance and will be spending more. We’re looking at snow making; it’s not practical on the entire length of 90km of trails, but perhaps could be used in certain areas. Some people are surprised that the Birkie trails are open 365 days a year.

Thanks for your time. Good luck with your new job, the move, and building your new house.
BP: Thanks

FIS Cross-Country Talk w/Liz Stephen

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June 28, 2013 – Liz Stephen of the US Ski team had a historic year in 2012/13, placing 5th in the 10k freestyle at the 2013 World Ski Championships (a best-ever finish for a US female), winning the Swiss National Championship 5km FR, along with a victory at the U.S. Distance Championships 30km CL.

Stephen was also part of the 4×5 km World Championships relay team that made US Ski team women’s history placing 4th. She was also part of the Olympic squad in 2010 and earned bronze at the U23 World Championships in 2008.

You were over in Norway for a personal training camp, and were recently up on the Sognefjell Snowfield. Are you training with specific athletes or did you join a Norwegian ski team camp?
Liz Stephen: I joined up with the Norwegian ski team for their 6-day camp. It was a really great experience and I am really grateful to their coaches, Egil and Roar who made it possible for me to join. I have really enjoyed the last two summers when I have gone over to Scandinavia to train with some new skiers and have made lasting friendships that makes living in Europe for five months much more enjoyable. Part of what is so great about this sport is making friends, but also learning from one another and trying to raise the level of the whole sport by sharing training ideas, pushing one another, and getting to know the other athletes. It’s been a really fun and beneficial experience for me, and I was welcomed with open arms by the Norwegian Team and even spent three extra days in Oslo at Celine Brun Lie’s house because I was having so much fun with the girls I didn’t want to leave quite yet!

Last summer you and your US ski team teammates shared in a camp with the Swedish Women’s Ski Team in Sweden, and have had joint camps with the Canadian women in Alaska the past two summers. These must be positive experiences if you continue to do them each year?
LS: YES! Very positive! I have made so many new friends, learned so much from the Swedish and Norwegian Teams and had a really good time training hard with new groups of athletes. I think it really gives me a jump start to my summer of training and adds an element of fun that gets me psyched to work hard for the next four months before we hit the road in November again.

For North American athletes you spend most if not all of the winter in Europe. Does having friends on the different teams make the time away from home an easier experience?
LS: Yes, for sure. Our women’s team all feels like after spending time with the Swedish National Team last year we all have a great group of friends to hang with each weekend, and it makes the whole scene seem more like home and less intimidating. If you are away from home for five months, only spending time with your teammates, and racing 70 girls whom you only know by name, the scene gets very stale. Now that we feel we have friends in those 70 people who used to be just names on a result sheet, the whole atmosphere lightens and becomes much easier to enjoy and as a result, ski faster. Happy athletes perform better.

You are coming off your strongest World Cup season ever, and recorded the best ever distance finish (5th place 10km free technique) for a US female cross-country skier at the recent 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. After such a successful season do you make any changes this summer or just try and replicate last year’s plan?
L.S.: There are always changes that I make to the training each year. Some years the changes are big and some years just little tweaks, but there are always things that I think of during the season, even on a good year that I think I can improve on during the next season’s preparation period. This year, I will just tweak the training from last year a bit, adding certain elements that I think were lacking a bit during the season, and taking away things that I tried but didn’t think made much of a difference.

You and your teammates gathered a great deal of attention at the start of the season with your first ever World Cup 4 x 5km relay podium, and followed up with a 4th place finish in the same event at the World Championships. Is an Olympic medal in the relay at “team” goal for the coming year in Sochi?
LS: Yes, that is for sure a huge goal of ours, and it is for sure my biggest goal for next year. I can’t imagine a more meaningful medal than one that is won by a team of people, though I believe any medal that is won, even individually, takes a team to make it happen.

If you don’t mind sharing, what are your individual goals from the coming year?
LS: My goals for the year are for a top 10 at the Tour de Ski, be a consistent top-10 World Cup skier, and my biggest individual race focus will be the Olympic 30K Freestyle race where I hope to win a medal.

Read more HERE.

Talkin’ with the Gravy Train – Interview w/Chandra Crawford Part 2

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June 22, 2013 (Canmore, AB) – Talkin’ with the Gravy Train is pleased to present Part 2 of our interview with Canadian cross-country skiing star Chandra Crawford from Canmore, AB, of Olympic fame who is training on her own for the Sochi 2014 Games… listen to Part 1 HERE.

We caught up with Crawford in Canmore, AB… she was enthusiastic and happy and addressed such topics as her decision to take a step back from competition last February, how well her training is going, and her preparations for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games next February.

Chandra also talks with eloquence about what it’s like to recharge the batteries after what she called a “solid burnout”, and how she has found the joy in skiing and training again. The Canmore, Alberta native also speaks about health and happiness in this inspired interview. At the end, one thing is certain…Crawford will be a force to be reckoned with this coming season.

Interview with Chandra Crawford – Part 2


FIS Interview w/Kikkan Randall in Dubrovnik

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June 06, 2013 (Dubrovnik, Croatia) – FIS Newsflash caught up with FIS Cross-Country World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall (USA) on the eve of the 2013 FIS Calendar Conference. Randall is present in Cavtat-Dubrovnik (CRO) for her role as one of the two Athlete Representatives for Cross-Country Skiing within the FIS Athlete Commission. The FIS Council has to formally confirm all members on June 10.

You were recently re-elected as the female athlete representative for Cross-Country Skiing. It was four years ago in 2009 when you first attended one of these meetings that just happened to be in Cavtat-Dubrovnik as well. Looking back over those four years, do you return to this location with positive feelings from your role as a Cross-Country Athlete rep?
Kikkan Randall: You know being back here in Dubrovnik really helps me reflect on the past four years. When I arrived the first time in Dubrovnik I really didn’t know what I was doing, and now four years later I know the ropes much better and have built what I feel is a solid platform for me to be able to represent the needs of the athletes.

What is on the agenda for you this year?
KR: We had a very productive athlete’s survey that focused on a few things on the calendar. For next season and the seasons beyond, we will be able to provide clear and direct feedback on things like what competitions and formats the athletes would like to see. Also I will continue to work to improve little things like athlete areas and execution of prize money payment. These are small details but this is a great time to bring attention to those items here at the meetings. It’s also important that I also take back what I learn here and present it to the athletes.

During your first term as athlete rep you were partnered with Sami Jauhojärvi of Finland. What were your first moves to build influence within FIS on behalf of the athletes?
KR: Working with Sami we developed a network and a way of getting feedback from the athletes and presenting it in a manageable form for the FIS Cross-Country Committee. Over those four years the process has become more refined and we now have an established pathway to make the needs and the concerns of the athletes heard.

As a result of your work on behalf of the athletes, you now have a voting right at the table of the FIS Cross-Country Committee. That is a first time for such a right for athlete representatives within FIS.
KR: I think that is one of the biggest accomplishments that Sami and I have achieved over the past four years. It’s huge for us. We really took the lead from the IOC Athlete Commission, where they have representation at the highest level on their Executive Board.

Aside from the FIS meetings, how is your training going in the new year?
KR: Our US competition season continued about 2 weeks longer than usual this year, so it feels like it has been a quick turnaround since my season ended, but I have been back to training again for three weeks now. I am being cautious so far to make sure none of the foot trouble I had last season resurfaces. It’s been a good start and enthusiasm is high with it being an Olympic year. I am hoping to be able to get a few little training sessions here while in Croatia.

Thank you for your time. Good luck with the meetings and the upcoming training and competition year.
KR: Thanks.

Team USA Interview w/Billy Demong

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May 31, 2013 – Check out a great interview with 2010 Nordic Combined Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Demong (USA). Steve Mesler of the 2010 gold medal winning four-man bobsled team does the interviewing honours as Demong reflects on Vancouver 2010 and articulates his feelings on the lead-up to Sochi 2014 as defending champion. “This year I didn’t medal at World Championships (individually), and for sure didn’t kill it, and I think that makes me more motivated for sure,” says Demong… read the interview HERE.

Talkin’ with the Gravy Train – Interview w/NNF Director David Knoop – Part 2

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May 13, 2013 – Here is Part 2 of our interview with Dave Knoop, the Director of the National Nordic Foundation (NNF) on Talkin’ with the Gravy Train. Knoop gives an inside look at the history of the organization and how it is able to provide over $150,000 to support Nordic skiing and speaks about the mission of the NNF, the all-important pillar projects, the Nordic community and the future in general. Read more about Knoop and find our Part 1 interview HERE.

Interview w/David Knoop – Part 2

SIA 2013 Demo at Devils Thumb Videos Part 4 – New Atomic Boa Race Skate Boot

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May 13, 2013 (Tabernash, CO) – Here’s one of our 2014 product vids that was missed during our coverage of the SIA 2013 Demo at Devils Thumb in Tabernash, Colorado where SkiTrax caught up with Atomic’s Isaac Wilson who introduces the newly released Boa Race Skate boot for 2013/ 2014 – the only skate boot on the market using the Boa system.

Season in Review with FIS XC Race Director Pierre Mignerey

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May 09, 2013 – FIS Cross-Country Race Director Pierre Mignerey took a moment to evaluate the past season 2012/13 competitive season. He spoke about Val di Fiemme, TV viewership, the Worldloppet series, his personal season highlights, and what’s on tap for next season.

Looking back, what is your overall evaluation of the past 2012/13 season?
Pierre Mignerey: It was, first of all, a very good season in terms of snow conditions and the Organisers did an excellent job. From a sporting perspective, we had a full season calendar with great World Championships in Val di Fiemme (ITA) and an exciting Tour de Ski and World Cup tour in general.

In terms of TV audience, our season review is looking positive. Although we still have to improve the quality of some of the TV productions, we are overall very satisfied with our TV exposure. In addition to the World Cup competitions, the season was a great success for the Worldloppet Organisers with a new record number of almost 135,000 athletes participating in the world of ski marathons.

Your personal highlights?
PM: I will definitely keep in mind the fight for the men’s overall World Cup title which lasted until the last weekend of the season with only 15 points separating the first three athletes at the start of the World Cup Final in Falun (SWE).

In addition, we will be remembering the amazing 50km in Val di Fiemme with the incredible solo-escape by Johan Olsson (SWE), for a long time.

On the ladies’ side, Cross-Country Skiing is still dominated by Justina Kovalczyk (POL), Marit Bjoergen (NOR) and the Norwegian team in general, but we could see that some other teams are remarkably improving including a young and promising Finnish team and an astonishing USA squad.

On the road to the next season….
PM: Next season, the focus will naturally be on the Olympic Winter Games. I’m also looking forward to the first part of the World Cup season with another exciting Tour de Ski.

With regard to television aspects, we are in permanent contact and discussions with our TV broadcasters in order to improve the quality of the TV production especially for the interval start competitions.

Concerning the team support, we will concentrate our efforts on the team service area and try to solve the recurrent issues with waxing cabins.

Ski Jumping Season Review with FIS Race Director Walter Hofer

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May 02, 2013 – FIS Ski Jumping Race Director Walter Hofer took some time to share his reflections on the past competitive season. Overall, Hofer is pleased with the 2012/13 season and offers some constructive feedback to making next year’s competitions even better.

Looking back, what is your overall evaluation of the past 2012/13 season?
Walter Hofer: First of all it was one of the most successful World Cup seasons ever. It was mainly based on the excellent organisation by our various organisers and overall good external conditions. Only one competition day had to be cancelled due to strong winds.

What were your personal highlights?
WH: From a sporting point of view, it was great to see that the restrictions with regard to jumping suits worked out extremely well. We never had so many close and exciting finals in any of the events. Many more athletes and nations were able to gain podium places compared to the years before. The fluctuation among the winners is a very positive sign with Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer once again showing an outstanding performance. Especially the number of possible winners in team events has increased.

On the road to the next season …
WH: Our season analysis has detected the need to better communicate the information to spectators especially with regard to the evaluation of the individual performance of the jumps. In this respect, we are going to completely review the single interval of an athlete´s run down in order to make the calculation of the final score more transparent and more easily understandable to the audience. The upcoming FIS Ski Jumping Summer Grand Prix series should give us the right tool to test out these details.

Distance Nationals 50km CL Interviews w/Freeman, Newell, and Ulsund at USSA SuperTour Finals in Lake Tahoe

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April 12, 2013 (Truckee, CA) – Kris Freeman powered away from his competitors at the end of the men’s 50km CL Distance National Championhips, besting teammate Andy Newell, to win the coveted 2013 U.S. title in Lake Tahoe following the USSA SuperTour Finals. In this video, Martha Bellisle recaps the race with some great action footage and catches up with Freeman, Newell, and third place, Norway’s Einar Ulsund, for their comments on the race – full report and results HERE.

Distance Nationals 30km CL Interviews w/Stephen and Randall at USSA SuperTour Finals in Lake Tahoe

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April 11, 2013 (Truckee, CA) – Liz Stephen won a landslide victory in the women’s 30km CL event, besting teammmate and World Cup Sprint Champion Kikkan Randall, to earn herself the title at 2013 U.S. Distance National Championships in Lake Tahoe following the USSA SuperTour Finals. In this video, Martha Bellisle recaps the race and catches up with Stephen and Randall for their thoughts on how it all unfolded – full report and results HERE.

2013 Haywood Ski Nationals Videos – Interviews w/McMurtry, Heidi Widmer, Kocher + Race Footage

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April 01, 2013 (Whistler, B.C.) – SkiTrax was on site at the 2013 Haywood Ski Nationals held March 23-30 at the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley to catch all of the action. Get the scoop about the competitions straight from racers Brent McMurtry, Heidi Widmer, and Zina Kocher, as well as some exciting footage from the finish of the Men’s 50km Free and the start of the Juvenile Girl’s 7.5km Free.






Interview w/Canadian Men’s XC Team Coach Justin Wadsworth in Falun

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March 25, 2013 (Falun, Sweden) – SkiTrax caught up with Canadian Men’s XC Team Coach Justin Wadsworth after the FIS World Cup finale in Falun, Sweden this past weekend to get his take on the 2012/13 season, the highs and lows, and what the squad will do differently next year to get the team back on their game.

While many teams would love to have Canada’s record this season with half-a-dozen podiums and the first ever individual medal by a Canadian man at the World Championships courtesy of Alex Harvey, the Canucks were striving for more following an astounding 14 medals last season.

Things did not go as planned this season admitted Wadsworth, but he is positive the team will turn things around in the upcoming Olympic year – when it really counts.

For a quick 2012/13 season Canadian team medal recap: Len Valjas scored two medals this season, including a bronze in the Sprint FR in Val Mustair (SUI) and silver in the 15km CL Mass start in Val di Fiemme (ITA), both during the Tour de Ski. Alex Harvey finished right behind Valjas in the latter race to share the podium with his teammate winning the bronze.

At the end of the TdS, Ivan Babikov scored the silver in the final 9km FR Pursuit stage up Alpe Cermis (ITA). Babikov was also the top NA skier in the overall WCup in 20th (Devon Kershaw was second overall last year while Harvey was 6th).  Then Harvey came around again near the end of the season to be the first ever Canadian man to win an individual World Championship medal when he placed third in the classic sprint in Val di Fiemme (ITA).

On the women’s side, the highlight was when Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova scored third in the team sprint at the Sochi World Cup (RUS).

Interview w/Justin Wadsworth

Canada’s Harvey and USA’s Randall on Norwegian Late Night TV Show

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March 21, 2013 (Norway) – Alex Harvey and Kikkan Randall were recent guests on Norwegian late night talk show Senkveld (Late Night) with Thomas & Harald. Check out their great interview on YouTube (in English)!

Karhu 2014 – SIA 2013 Demo at Devil’s Thumb Videos Part 3

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March 07, 2013 (Devil’s Thumb Ranch, CO) – Karhu is back in the U.S. after a few years of absence from the market. The brand, which is best known for its line of ski touring equipment, has a huge range of gear for the 2013/14 season, including cross-country skis and boots. The company has now partnered with Craft, known for endurance sport clothing, and is now introducing a new line of eyewear to complete the comprehensive Nordic and back country ski touring equipment line-up.

Interview w/Ivan Babikov after Snagging 4th in 15km FR in Val di Fiemme

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February 27, 2013 (Val di Fiemme, Italy) – Check out this video interview courtesy of CCC with Canada’s Ivan Babikov after he narrowly missed out on the podium in the men’s 15km individual start free race at the 2013 FIS Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme today. His performance marked the best-ever result by a Canadian male in the 15 kilometre individual start skate-ski race at the Nordic World Ski Championships

Interview with Track Star Tara Whitten – Former XC Great and Gatineau Loppet Honorary President

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February 18, 2013 (Gatineau, Quebec) – Last year was a rough one to have heroes in cycling. It was a reminder that all too often the attributes that make successful athletes need not be those that make holistically praiseworthy people.

So it was refreshing to sit down with Tara Whitten at this year’s 35th Gatineau Loppet for a wide ranging interview. Not just an Olympic bronze medallist, multiple world champion and PhD candidate in neuroscience, Whitten is also a genuinely nice person, discussed topics from; ski racing, to track development, to her own athletic plans for the future.

She went as far as to apologize for being “wishy-washy” about her future in the sport, but then again, after a decade of international competition, first as a skier, and then as a cyclist, Whitten has earned herself a break.

Whitten was this year’s Honorary Gatineau Loppet President, and while the Edmontonian had won this 50km skate event here in 2004, she hadn’t done a proper ski race since Nationals in Quebec in 2007, by which point her heart was no longer in the sport. It was at that point that she began to shift her attention to track cycling – a sport in which she had first dabbled back in 2005.

Whitten did admit to having done the Edmonton Birkie last week, and said she felt much less beat up than after this weekend – joking that maybe she was already making a training adaptation. For an athlete that Cycling Canada’s HP Director, Jaques Landry, once called “a freak of nature” such an adaptation isn’t entirely unlikely.

So right upfront what are you plans right now for your own sporting future?
Tara Whitten: To be honest I’m a little uncertain. On one hand I’m excited about the prospect of the 4 person four-kilometer women’s team pursuit. It’s an interesting change, and would be neat to be a part of as our whole team just keeps on getting stronger. It’s tempting to think about being part of. I’m also excited about maybe focusing more on time trialing.

So the Omnium has no part in your plans?
TW: For the Omnium we’d have to wait and see, I think its future as an Olympic event is a bit more uncertain. I also think its future might be more with the sprinter – not pure sprinters, but riders with real speed. I actually think Gillian [Carleton] has a chance to combine that pure speed I don’t have with the endurance needed for the event. But we’ll have to see how it all develops in the next few years.

Team pursuit with four women. Good or bad for Canada?
TW: There are two ways to look at that, it can be good or bad. There are some countries with more depth and a deeper pool than us for sure. But at the same time after what we accomplished in London, I think that will help attract younger athlete into being interested in the track. I think we will find some strong new team pursuiters in the next four years to compliment the ones we already have.

How is the situation in Canada now compared to when you first started five years ago?
TW: There is so much more depth now. I really believe that team events have a huge impact on development. They give so many more opportunities for women to get involved, and from there they can branch out into the individual events as well. In 2007 when I started I was the only women in Canada pursuiting under 3:45. Now every girl in the pool can do that – that is four women if you don’t count me.

Have you spent much time in the Ottawa area before?
TW: A couple times for the Keski, and for my first ski nationals in this region in 1995. As well I’ve come out twice in the summer for the Women’s GP – so I’ve spent a bit of time here.

There is a group in Ottawa working to build a velodrome in the National capital region- how important it to have development opportunities like this in Canada?
TW: The importance of facilities like that is hard to overestimate. You need kids to have the chance to do a sport to get excited about it – especially a sport like track that you don’t even see on TV except for the Olympics. There is no chance for a development system without these facilities. The more opportunities there are for kids to try different sports the better. And some of those sports will cross over – like  cycling and skiing did for me. We can’t just be building hockey arenas.

How long were you a ski racer before you became a cyclist?
TW: I spent 13 years as a ski racer before cycling. Cross country skiing has a GREAT development system. When you go to a ski race you see the whole family, with two year age categories for boys and girls aged 7 and up. The kids are just out there having fun and racing Jackrabbit. It’s very different from most bike races you go to which is made up mainly of masters and men. They are guys that love the sport, but it’s not development.

Cross-country skiing also seems to be far more co-ed.
TW: Fore sure, hugely so. I’m not sure if cycling has an intimidation factor that keeps girls out or what, but the numbers of girls competing is so much smaller. There was definitely a tendency for the girls to drop out of the skiing more than the guys as they got a little older, but they are there in the younger ages.

How important was Richard Wooles’ decision to move the Canadian track program to L.A.?
TW: I don’t think there is any way we could have done what we did without a world class facility as a training base. Los Angeles isn’t necessarily ideal- the road riding around there isn’t great for example. But having access to that facility and training as a team were so  important to Team Canada’s success.

It would have been nicer to have been able to be in Canada. A lot of people felt really disconnected from home and the people in their lives. It was definitely a bit of a sacrifice to be based there. It wasn’t even like significant others could get visas and relocate there.

Do you think the new velodrome in Milton will be a big change?
TW: For sure! Just being able to be in Canada, I can’t explain how exciting that is. I imagine the endurance riders will have to do some road  camps in the winter. And it’s not just great for the elites, but for young athletes to be able to see high level track cycling in their own  backyard will be a huge step forwards for the next generation.

Just for the record, what exactly is your PhD in?
TW: Neuroscience, my thesis in high frequency rhythms in the hippocampus in sleep-like states. It is an area of the brain that is involved with memory, which we’ve known about since the 1950’s because of the case of Henry Molaison.

At this point Whitten was whisked off to hand out medals to the podiums in the skate races. In a funny twist the first winner Whitten presented a medal to was former national cycling team teammate Veronique Fortin, who had won the 27km freestyle event.

Interviews w/Canada’s Gaiazova and Valjas after Liberec WCup Sprints

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January 14, 2013 (Liberec, Czech Republic) – Check out these audio interviews with Canada’s Dash Gaiazova and Len Valjas following the Liberec World Cup sprints on the weekend. Gaiazova had a stellar day on the 1.3 CL course, finishing just off the podium in fourth. In the team sprint, Gaiazova and Perianne Jones finished 11th. Gaiazova is coming off of recent podium finishes on the OPA Cup circuit.

Valjas was the top Canadian man of the day in Liberac’s 1.6 CL event in 10th place. It was the rangy Canadian’s first race back after the grueling Tour de Ski during which he delivered the country’s first World Cup medal of the season.



Interview w/Canadian Biathlete Rosanna Crawford

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January 09, 2013 (Canmore, AB) – Rosanna Crawford, the 24-year-old biathlete from Canmore, Alberta has had the most successful world cup start of her career thus far, regularly finishing in the top 30 and just out of the top ten at the Pokljuka World Cup Sprint with a career-high 12th-place finish.  SkiTrax caught up with Crawford as she prepared to return to Europe for the next rounds of World Cup racing and the World Championships to talk about her breakout season, how she spent the holiday break, and what she expects for the rest of the season.
How satisfied are you with your performance for the first part of the season?
Rosanna Crawford: I am really happy with how the start of the season went. My goal had been to get a couple top 30’s but after Sweden to be making top-30 every race and getting a top-12 was pretty exciting.
Has your skiing been what you expected?  How about your shooting?
RC: My skiing has improved a lot since last year and I am happy with how things are shaping up. I usually get faster as the season goes on. Shooting has been better than last year but still not where I want it to be. I think my shooting average is 81% and to be around 86% or 87% would be ideal for me.
What have you been up to since the last World Cup in Pokljuka, Slovenia?
RC: Since I got home I spent some time with my family and boyfriend and enjoyed the amazing Canmore Nordic Centre. Brendan [Green] and I also spent two nights up at Mt. Engadine lodge up the Spray Valley, which was incredible! It got pretty cold here over Christmas, so there was a lot of -25 classic skis!
What do you want to improve on during this next block of World Cup racing?
RC: For this next block of racing I would like to improve my shooting percentage in the four-bout races. And keep working on consistent loop times.
What are your expectations heading into the World Championships in Nove Mesto?
RC: For World Champs right now I am focusing on what I can control, trying not to think too much about results, but the process of biathlon. I think a good goal would be top 30’s and shooting average of 85%. I didn’t attend the World Cup race there last year, but it was tough shooting conditions – really windy and foggy. I’m flying over on Sunday and our first race will be the relay in Ruhpolding on Wednesday!
Good luck in the rest of your season.
RC: Cheers.

On the Team Canada Bus – Interviews w/Babikov, Kershaw, Valjas, Harvey and Wadsworth

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January 07, 2013 (Val di Fiemme, Italy) – As the 2012/13 FIS Tour de Ski wrapped up on Sunday with the grueling handicap-style Alpe Cermis hill climb it was time for goodbyes until next time as teams dispersed and some were on the road soon after. We caught with the Canadians on their magic bus en route to Munich to get their final take on a very strong Tour.

Ivan Babikov, who won this stage in 2009, finished a fantastic second place to take seventh overall in this season’s TdS nailing a personal best along with the top Canadian result this year. Devon Kershaw posted a personal best 13th place on the Stage 7 ascent up Cermis to secure a respectable 12th overall in the Tour, followed by TdS rookie Len Valjas in 23rd on the day and 23rd overall. Alex Harvey was forced to abandon the Tour to protect his left leg, which was operated on in 2008, but scored a podium and showed his form is getting stronger. And finally we chatted with Head Coach Justin Wadsworth for his take on the Canucks at the Tour and beyond aka relay…

Ivan Babikov
– 7th overall

Devon Kershaw – 12th overall

Len Valjas – 23rd overall

Alex Harvey

Justin Wadsworth

Tour de Ski Wrap – Team USA’s Stephen, Diggins, Brooks, Randall, Hoffman and Whitcomb Talk Shop

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January 07, 2013 – With the 2012/13 Tour de Ski in the history books, Team USA’s Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins, Holly Brooks, Kikkan Randall, Noah Hoffman, and Coach Matt Whitcomb talk shop, reflect on the TdS, and look ahead to the rest of the season.


Liz Stephen – 15th overall

Noah Hoffman – 46th overall

Matt Whitcomb

Jessie Diggins – 21st overall
Wow, Cermis was really, really tough. This was definitely the hardest race series I’ve ever done! And it feels so great to have completed it healthy and in one piece. I am so proud of my teammates and all the staff for such a positive and energetic ride through all the stages – because that was the most fun I’ve had on the World Cup yet!

The race today was really cool – my teammates warned me that the stretch of trail from the stadium to the base of Cermis was super narrow and really only one skier wide, so I got right out in front and me, Liz, an Italian and French girl all took turns leading. That really made a difference, too – drafting was so much easier than when it was your turn to pull! But we worked together and made up time before the base of the climb.

I’d watched the race video from last year to get a feel for what the hill looked like, but the cameras show the athletes coming up, it doesn’t show what it looks like from the viewpoint of the person actually racing! So although I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, I definitely had one of those “Oh-my-gosh-where-IS-the-finish-line????” moments out there!

Holly Brooks – 38th overall
The second half of the Tour was extremely rough for me and I’m still wondering (a bit) why I kept going…. If I was from any Euro team I’m sure I would have been sent home a long, long time ago. I kept hoping that my energy would turn around each day and it never did. Maybe that’s the optimist in me? Yesterday was especially tough and it was clear that no miracles were going to happen. But, with only one stage left to go I decided that I would “get her done.” I put on some extra sparkles, wore some white aviators and tried to have fun out there.

I had some bright spots at the beginning of the Tour (prologue and sprint) and I’m happy for that but at this point, I’ve had two tough years at this event. But, I’m glad I tried it this year so that I can plan accordingly for next year, which is an Olympic year.

Most of all, I’m just really proud of my teammate’s accomplishments. While Liz may have been #2 today on the Cermis she is “Queen of the Hill” in my book!

All of us will skip Czech in order to rest up from our efforts. Sadie and Ida will be representing us there. Our next appearance will be in La Clusaz. My plan is to take some time away from skiing and go visit some dear friends in Polcenigo, Italy. After a period of rest I’m looking forward to a training break. I’d love to do a race or two that aren’t World Cups as part of that training period – we shall see.

Kikkan Randall – 12th overall
A tough day out there – how were you feeling this morning? What was the atmosphere like on the final stage… similar to previous years? You looked solid until the very last section… tell us about today’s race.
KR: Today was a tough race for me and not the performance I was hoping to get out of myself. But, it was still a good experience and I will pull some good lessons from it. I actually felt pretty good this morning. My warm-up went smoothly and I felt like I had good energy. In my two previous tours, I have struggled on the climb. Going into today I was optimistic that my skating form was stronger and my goal was to climb better this year.

With some good skiers starting just ahead of me I put in a big effort to get myself in their pack. After about 2km, I got into the group and was able to conserve some energy for the climb. Unfortunately, once we started to head up the steeper sections, I struggled with my focus and let my tempo settle too much . I was skiing with my legs too straight and not fighting hard enough to keep my skis moving. The further I went up the climb, the more I struggled. I’m pretty sure this race is tough no matter how rested you are. So somehow I have to figure out how to keep my focus better and use my leg strength.

Still a great performance by you with second in the Sprint standings and 12th overall – and the team. Liz had the second best time today placing 15th overall and Jessie had a strong day finishing 21st at the Tour.
KR: I am still really satisfied with my Tour as a whole. To win two stages was amazing and I was really psyched with both of those performances. I had a couple solid classic races as well and to finish second in the sprint standings is a nice bonus. Despite being disappointed when my own race today I am incredibly psyched and proud of my teammates! I am really impressed with Liz [Stephen] for her first World Cup podium (although after the Blink festival climb this summer I was pretty sure she was going to rock Cermis this year)!! She dropped a full minute off her time from last year and fought hard all the way to the line. It is really fun to have such a great race to celebrate and I’ll have to do a few more climbing workouts with Liz to learn the magic!!

Also an impressive day for Jessie [Diggins], she had a really solid climb and visibly left all she had out there on the course. Holly [Brooks] also finished the Tour with a lot of heart, fighting through some heavy fatigue and making it all the way up Cermis, no easy task! Noah [Hoffman] skied a great rookie tour, Kris [Freeman] also kept pushing and Andy [Newell] had some good races in there.

I really have to thank our team of staff and coaches. We had such dedicated support through this really demanding week and it feels especially good to have accomplished what we have with a fraction of the resources and man-power of some of the bigger teams!

All of this has to feel good going forward to the Worlds.
KR: Having a good performance at the Tour de Ski is exactly what we were looking for and it fits in perfectly with our plans for the rest of the season. We’ve done a lot of racing so far, now we will focus on recovery, some training and refining everything in preparation for Worlds.

It was also really important to get some more time racing on the World Champs courses here in Val di Fiemme and we’re more confident than ever that this will be a good venue for the whole team!

What happens now as you prepare for the Liberec WCup… ?
KR: Now I will actually take a training break to recover from the Tour and I will not be racing in Liberec next weekend. It was a tough decision to miss a sprint World Cup, but last year continuing to race hard after the Tour put me in a precarious position health-wise midseason. I am heading to France tomorrow to do some training with my husband and recharge for the second half of the season. I am planning to rejoin the team and the circuit the following weekend in La Clusaz. Since we don’t get to go home for the entire season, I am really looking forward to a break from the hotel scene, I’m actually excited to do some laundry and some cooking!!


Interviews w/Bjornsen, Caldwell and Koos after U.S. 20/30km CL National Championships

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January 07, 2013 (Soldier Hollow, UT) – APU’s Sadie Bjornsen (USA) and Stratton Mountain’s Sophie Caldwell (USA) were 1st and 3rd, respectively, at the U.S. National Championship’s 20 km CL women’s race. Both women are headed next to the World Cup in the Czech Republic. Each spoke about their race, competing with each other and working the course together, and expectations at the Liberec World Cup. Bjornsen also talks about competing with her brother while growing up.

Torin Koos (USA) won his first US National Title in a distance race, his second US title of the week and eighth National gold. Koos spoke about the 30km CL race at Soldier Hollow, his history of athletics at the University of Utah, his friends from school, his first World Cup, and the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics as part of his affection for Utah. Koos also sees the sport of Nordic ski racing maturing in North America.

Interview with US Biathlete Tim Burke

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January 07, 2013 – US Biathlete Tim Burke celebrated his first World Cup podium this season in Pokljuka, Slovenia, with a third-place finish in the men’s 15km mass start – his first podium since his incredible 2009-10 campaign when he scored three podiums and became the first American to wear the World Cup leader’s bib.

Just prior to the start of the second half of the E.ON World Cup Biathlon season in Oberhof, Germany this past weekend, SkiTrax touched base with American Tim Burke to get his thoughts on the initial World Cups, what he was up to over the holiday break, his thoughts on his recent WCup podium, and what he expects for the upcoming World Championships.

How satisfied are you with your performance for the 1st third of the season? Has your skiing been what you expected, and how well you’ve been shooting?
Tim Burke: I was very pleased with my results from the first world cup period, especially considering that I did not feel 100% for most of the period. I expected to feel better on the skis during the first period but after struggling a bit with my health at the start of the season, I was forced to more or less race into shape. The biggest difference with my results during the first world cups was that I was much more consistent on the shooting range. This was something that I have worked very hard on and I hope to continue this for the remainder of the season.

You podiumed in the 15km mass start WCup race in Pokljuka, Slovenia reminiscent of your 2009/10 season. How did it feel and how important is it for your confidence going forward ?
TB: I think the most important thing about my podium in Pokljuka was what it did for my shooting confidence.  I never had any doubt that my skiing was strong enough to get back to the podium over the last few seasons but I struggled a lot on the shooting range.  Coming through under pressure like in Pokljuka is absolutely the best shooting training that I could have.  I hope to carry this confidence through the rest of the season.

What have you been up to since round three in Pokljuka, Slovenia?

TB: I went back to Lake Placid for the holidays. This was my last chance to go home before the end of the season, so it was important for me to see my family and friends and also to get a little mental break. Unfortunately, the snow was not so good at home so I had to spend a lot of time roller skiing on the treadmill. Of course this gets a little boring but I was able to get in some good training.

What are your expectations heading into the World Championships in Nove Mesto, CZE from Feb. 7-17?
TB: I am very excited about the Nove Mesto World Champs. I feel that this course suits me well and I will put a big focus  on these Championships even if that means training through some of the other World Cups.

Good luck in the rest of your season.
TB: Thanks.

Interviews w/Bender and Koos – 2013 U.S. XC Ski CL Sprint Champions

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January 03, 2013 (Solider Hollow, UT) – Check out these interviews with newly crowned U.S. XC CL Ski Sprint Champions Jennie Bender and Torin Koos. It was a spectacular finish for Bender in the women’s Classic Sprints, especially after coming off a summer of both mono and Lyme’s disease. Bender talks about acclimating to the altitude, returning to ski at Soldier Hollow, recovering from her double illness, and is looking forward to testing herself in the distance races. In the men’s competition, Koos qualified third and then led most of his heats to take the victory. Hear his thoughts on racing at Soldier Hollow and his excitement for the rest of the 2013 U.S. National Championships.

For the report, results and photos click HERE.


Interviews w/the Moustache Gals – Randall, Diggins, Stephen and Brooks after the TdS 1.4km FR Sprints

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January 02, 2013 (Val Mustair, Switzerland) – Check out these comments from the “Moustache Gals” U.S. Women’s XC team skiers Kikkan Randall, Jessie Diggins, Liz Stephen, and Holly Brooks – after the Tour de Ski 1.4km FR Sprints in Val Mustair, Switzerland. Randall dominated the field, winning by over 8 seconds, while all of her teammates qualified for the heats. Full Stage 3 results HERE.


Kikkan Randall (USA) – 1st Stage 3


Jessie Diggins (USA) – 17th Stage 3
Felt great to be getting my racing shape back slowly after being sick! I didn’t play my tactics quite right in the quarters and was just a little too tired but I’m happy with the day for sure. Today was too fun getting all of our girls into the heats and seeing Liz in the rounds and then seeing Kikkan crush the field!!!
Elizabeth Stephen (USA) – 25th Stage 3
Today was an incredibly fun experience for me. I have never made the heats and to be able to ski World Cup heats was so much fun I can’t even believe it. I still have a lot to learn, but today was step 1 of that process and I have a few of the best sprinters around me to learn from, so I’m pretty lucky.
The two-lap course was fun and I thought Val Mustair did an amazing job making it a cool venue for spectators, racing at night was really awesome and they had a great crowd of fans show up to watch. Everything was so well organized and well thought out – it was one of those venues that was a joy to be at as an athlete. Congrats to Kikkan on her amazing performance today. She really is one hell of an athlete.
Holly Brooks (USA) – 18th Stage 3
I was really, really happy with my qualifier. If every sprint could be long, hard and at altitude I would be totally pumped! Once again, the top ten eluded me but to qualify 11th in a stacked field felt great. It was my first “heat” of the season and it was great to toe the line with my teammates. We had a great team cheer and hug for the camera which started us off on the right foot! I wish I had a bit more gas to get right behind Kikkan on the second loop. I got stuck in third and Lauren (Sui) dogged it on the hill, then went I went to pass on the right, she turned on the gas. I think that was her tactic all along but I’m not sure. When we crossed the line Liz exclaimed, “That was the funnest thing EVER!” I couldn’t agree more – I only wish I could have had a do-over because I was feeling good!
We were actually really happy to hear that we were in the same quarter as Kikkan, Her QF are generally pretty quick so we thought our chances of being “Lucky Losers” were good. I should have pushed harder at the beginning of the quarter seeing that Lauren is very good for short bursts/sprints. At the Blink Festival she might have podium’d in the 100 and/or 500 meter sprint. We went into the lanes together but she got me at the end… I also had a little stumble in the sprint which allowed Vesna Fabian to out-toe me at the line. I was bummed about that but 18th place is my best sprint to date so I have to be happy! Sometimes progress comes in small steps and it pays to be patient. I’m just trying to learn from every opportunity and that’s one of my favorite things about the Tour.
I LOVED the venue. I wish that we could finish up the Tour here. They have beautiful skiing in all directions – apparently 100k of tracks. The Swiss went all out with everything….. from the “globe lights” to brighten the course to the huge snow-sculpture Stienbock in the middle of the track, to the food in the VIP and athlete rooms. This place is great. We had cold snow, sunshine, good food. I haven’t heard a single complaint. I just felt horrible for Dario who fell in the final on his namesake ” Cologna Corner” …. it almost looked like he (ironically) got tripped up by a Swiss Flag but I’m not sure?
I’m still feeling pretty darn good. The fatigue is certainly building up but I believe it is for everyone. We’re spending a lot of time on recovery every day – jogs, ice baths, massages, eating well – and often. We shall see! I’m really looking forward to the next event, the 15km Skate in Toblach. The course is notoriously difficult to pass on (it’s narrow) but I have good memories of it from last year at the OPA finals! In the classic races and the Hill Climb I’m just going to put my head down and fight for every second, and every place! I’m really enjoying the Tour this year….

Interview w/Len Valjas and Team Canada after their TdS 1.4km FR Sprint Podium

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January 02, 2013 (Val Mustair, Switzerland) – Find out what the Canadian men’s XC squad had to say after stage three of the 2012/13 FIS Tour de Ski 1.4km FR sprint in Val Mustair and the first Canuck medal of the season, courtesy of Len Valjas. Valjas and his teammates Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw finally broke out of their shells on race day, with all of them landing in the top 15.

Inside the Fence – Canmore Course Preview w/USA’s Bjornsen, Interviews w/Kershaw, Wadsworth and More

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December 13, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – Check out the latest edition of  FIS’s Inside the Fence – the Canmore preview. Follow the USA’s Sadie Bjornsen for a lap around the women’s 3.3km classic course, and watch interviews with Vibeke Skofterud, Kristen Stoermer Steira, Devon Kershaw and Justin Wadsworth.

Behind the Scenes Interviews w/Grover, Wadsworth, Flora, Dyer, Jeffries, Whitcomb at the FIS Quebec City Sprint WCup

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December 12, 2012 (Quebec City, QC) – SkiTrax caught up with a few North American behind-the-scenes players at the inaugural FIS Quebec City Sprint World Cup this past weekend to get the inside scoop on how the event played out for their respective teams.

Interviews include US XC Team Head Coach Chris Grover, CCC Men’s Coach Justin Wadsworth, APU Head Coach Erik Flora, and an elated US XC Team Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb. Plus, the legendary Peter Graves speaks with CCC Director of Events Dave Dyer and CCC Director of Business Development Matt Jeffries.

Chris Grover

Justin Wadsworth

Eric Flora




FIS Interview w/Kershaw – All About Canmore

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December 12, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – Two-time Olympian and World Champion, Devon Kershaw of Canmore, gives us a heads up on what to see, eat, and do while in Canmore, AB, this week during the FIS World Cup stop.

Kershaw continued his historic run in 2012 when he became the first Canadian male to finish second overall on the World Cup circuit. Kershaw’s incredible season included winning two World Cup races in addition to adding another silver and three bronze medals to his career total. Devon also finished fourth overall on the 2012 Tour de Ski. Devon first skied his name into the history books in 2011 with teammate, Alex Harvey, as the Canadian duo joined forces to become the first Canadian males to win a medal at the World Championships when they won gold in the team sprint race in Oslo, Norway.

You were born in Sudbury, Ontario and moved to Canmore, Alberta when you were selected to the National Ski Team. For how many years now have your called Canmore home?
Devon Kershaw: I’ve called Canmore home (full time) for ten years.

Outside of Canmore being the centre for Cross Country Canada, what else draws you to the area?
DK: The Bow Valley is a just such an inspiring area. Great little community, amazing trails that snake through the region offering so many great running/hiking/mountain biking options, excellent rollerskiing and the mountains never cease to amaze me. The Rockies are insanely beautiful – I could just sit there and stare for hours and hours.

If I am a visitor to Canmore during the World Cups, besides the racing what is one thing that is a must see?
DK: That’s such a hard question – I think everything is so fantastic. Just walking along the Bow River and looking around at all those fantastic peaks is enough! Nature is definitely the big draw in the area. As far as a “must see” for Canmore… Hummm… I actually cannot narrow it down to just one. My advice is get out there and get active. Go for a hike, a ski, or even just a walk!

Best place for breakfast?
DK: Summit Cafe – the Huevos Rancheros won’t disappoint. I promise you that. And if you are feeling extra hungry and/or are planning a massive day of activity and want to treat yourself – walk next door (to Fergie’s bakery/convenience store) and grab a “Fergie’s Apple Fritter” – it’s madness.

Best place for lunch?
DK: This is going to be funny – but I’d say Crazyweed Kitchen (that’s going to be my pick for dinner too though, haha). So if you want to change it up, hit up Mara’s Way Sushi, JK Bakery, or Le Fournil Bakery (the croissants and pain au chocolat are fantastic).

Best place for dinner?
DK: Crazyweed. Hands down.

Best place for a burger and beer?
DK: I guess most people would say the Grizzly Paw. It’s the local brew pub in town. I’m not a big burger/beer dude, but any of the pubs offer similar “pub fare” burger/beer options. The Drake, The Wood, type thing.

Best souvenir shop?
DK: Haha. No idea. Not much of a knick knack dude. There are some great art galleries downtown (like the Aven’s gallery) – so your best bet is to just walk down Main Street and poke your head into whatever shop looks interesting.

What other activities are possible besides cross country skiing?
DK: There are plenty of things to do in Canmore – we have a lot of stellar restaurants and cafes around. A couple outdoor hockey rinks to play some shinny (pick up hockey) if you’re so inclined. A short drive away there are a number of great Alpine Ski areas (Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Nakiska, Mt. Norquay) at your disposal as well. If you want to check out another beautiful and historic town in the Bow Valley – Banff is just 18km away (West on Highway 1) – and offers a whole different experience. Just walking and exploring both towns (Banff/Canmore) and taking in the amazing views – it’s hard to beat. The best adventures are the ones not planned – so my advice is just let your curious nature take over!

Best place for sushi in town?
DK: Chef Studio Japan.

Thanks Devon and good luck racing at home!
DK: Thanks

Interview w/Kikkan Randall after FIS Quebec City Sprint WCup

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December 11, 2012 (Quebec City, QC) – SkiTrax caught up with U.S. skiing star Kikkan Randall after the press conference in Quebec City following her exciting FIS XC Ski World Cup team and individual sprint wins on the weekend – she is now leading the Sprint Cup which she won last season. Randall then signed autographs for her fans. The Alaska star is ramping up for Canada’s second World Cup stop, which takes place Dec. 13-16 in Canmore, AB.

Interviews w/the Nishikawas, Webster and Eriksson at Haywood NorAm in Sovereign Lake

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December 10, 2012 (Sovereign Lake, B.C.) – Check out this video interview with the winning brother and sister duo of Graham and Emily Nishikawa after they took individual victories in the 10/15k free races at the Haywood Nor Am/Teck BC Cup at Sovereign Lake near Vernon, B.C. Also, check out interviews with Brittany Webster and Sweden’s Jens Eriksson

Interview with West Yellowstone’s Drew Barney

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December 06, 2012 (West Yellowstone, MO) – Riding in Drew Barney’s ’02 white pickup, we led a convoy of 20+ SUV’s and Suby’s up to the plateau where primo grooming and organized parking chaos awaited. Just 1200′ above town, the snow comes earlier and lasts longer. There had been snow in town, and then r_ _ _, yes, the four-letter word for non-solid precip. But the camp and the races must go on. Now in its 25th year, the Fall Training Camp at the Yellowstone Ski Festival is happening like never before, even in a lean year like this one. I caught a ride with Drew on our way up to the plateau for the clinics one day, and had a chance to ask him about the camp’s and his storied past.

First, Drew, how did you get into cross country, and how did the camps start?
Drew Barney: I grew up in Ogden (Utah) and worked in a ski shop. It was owned by Bob Chambers, who’d been an NCAA champ. I came in one day, and he had two brand new pairs of race skis. Bob said to “mount ’em up.” “Who for?” I said. “You and me are going racing tomorrow!” [replied Bob.]

The Camp started 1979, when the US Ski Team came to West under the direction of Marty Hall. I was a participant in the ’80 camp. In 1987 when a USSA sponsored coaches’ clinic lost funding, Dick Hunt and I saw an opportunity, and put together a training camp for athletes and coaches.

I used to do pretty well in the races, but it’s hard to stay in a position to be in the top three. I may race again after I get my hip replaced.

Drew walks with a slight limp now, but thinks he’ll be back in the game after some new hardware.

What changes have you witnessed over the life of the camp?
DB: We are faster at getting people to ski well. We have a better understanding of the importance of the link between Skate and Classic, and how you ‘can’t cheat’ with the weight shift in classic. In classic teaching we’re better at showing statically exactly what is going on with technique.

What drove the changes?
DB: The pressure is on. Other camps have turned up the volume. We’re always evolving. Coaches share their secrets with each other and with the participants. I’ve got the utmost confidence in the staff. They all bring different perspectives that all lead to better technique.

What sets the West Yellowstone Camp apart?
DB: The campers ski with 6 or 10 coaches over 3 to 5 days. Today (last day of the 3 and the 5 day camp) is the biggest learning day. People are putting all their learning together, and having breakthroughs. Even if their best coaching session was a day or two ago, people are synthesizing, and will look back on today’s session as ‘the best.’ Post event surveys bear that out. People are synthesizing all they’ve learned. For a lot of people who’ve been coming here for years, Thanksgiving in West Yellowstone, has become a given. For many, this is where you ‘do’ Thanksgiving.

Can you tell us a little more about the trail system?
DB: We’ve put a lot of money into the trails, getting them mowed so that we can start up with 6″ of snow. From the initial layout, connecting logging roads, we built the closer loops, then added Windy Ridge. We’ve got no new k’s with restrictions from grizzly and other wildlife habitat impact imitations. But we’ve got great USFS relations. We wouldn’t be able to do this if it weren’t for the Forest Service.

What else have you done in West Yellowstone?
DB: After a couple of years on the Town Council I served as mayor in ’07 and ’08. I got done what I wanted to get done, and was kind of relieved to have someone else take the torch.

You’ve put up with some crazy weather… like what?
DB: Two years ago a big storm blew in and roads were closed into the valley and along many of the routes people take to get here. Last year it was very, very cold on the first day. Skating was super slow. The next day it was 25ƒ, and everybody felt like a hero. This year we had klister conditions on the first day. Waxing was hard, and skating was so much better.

Drew rounded the last corner on the long switchback that gains the steep northern edge of the Pitchstone plateau, with a precipitous drop through tight lodgepole amidst tumbled boulders. Another mile and then some we were moving cones for the reserved camp parking. On top, trails diverged, heading off on mid-winter corduroy. The trails were crowded, yes, but manageable. The buzz in the air, as college racers warmed up for their race, as coaches hauled jackets to the finish line for the point-to-point race dictated by the trail layout on the plateau, or as classes passed each other, meant a high five or hello at every turn.

Do you have any words of wisdom you would like to add?
DB: Winning is fun… for 15 minutes. The fun is in getting there.

Inside the Fence – Interviews w/Norway’s Pettersen, Brandsdal, Golberg in Kuusamo

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November 29, 2012 (Kuusamo, Finland) – Check out the second episode of the new FIS series, Inside the Fence, hosted by Jeff Ellis. This edition features pre-race interviews with Norwegian sprinters Oystein Pettersen, Erik Brandsdal, and Paal Golberg. Find out what they have to say leading up to their big race in Kuusamo.

Interview w/Chantal Lachance – Inside Look at Inaugural FIS World Cup Sprints in Quebec

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November 28, 2012 – SkiTrax recently caught up with Chantal Lachance, Vice President of Gestev Inc., organizer of the inaugural FIS Sprint Cup in Quebec, City. LaChance and Gestev President, Patrice Drouin, have been staging events at Mont Ste-Anne, QC, for over 20 years including two UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and countless UCI MTB World Cups. Gestev and their outstanding team are renowned for always putting on amazing events feature plenty of good fun and entertainment as well. This will be another world-class show, that promises to be too good to miss.

Everyone is thrilled and excited to come and watch this historic World Cup weekend in Quebec. How did you first go about getting the World Cup with FIS?
Chantal Lachance: At the annual FIS Congress in Sprint 2010, we had discussions with FIS and Cross-Country Canada in order to position Québec as a world cup stop. It’s important to mention that the success of this bid is a combination of many factors for Québec to host such an event – the track record of the city and the event producer Gestev, Alex Harvey performing on the international scene, the presence of legendary Pierre Harvey, and Gestev has been being staging events with FIS since 1997, etc. All of these factors had a positive influence on the decision by FIS.

You must be very proud to have secured the World Cup, but know that it represents a lot of work.
CL: Yes, one of the biggest challenges of this event is to be able to make enough snow in downtown Quebec City at the beginning of December. The clock is ticking as the snow making experts have been dealing with mild weather in order to achieve the 10,000m of snow needed to build the 850m long course. This past weekend however, we were able to meet our objective of snow making, which is great news. In case of milder weather, we have other options up our sleeve… but let’s see how fast winter will show up!

The venue seems incredible, a perfect place for racing – what do you think about it?
CL: It was designed with television very much in mind. Sprint Québec will wow crowds gathered in front of the National Assembly by the thousands, eager to see the 150 athletes from close to 20 countries in action. The pictures will really be something special with the National Assembly in the background. We also developed a step down of 30cm and we think that it will be a challenging feature on the course.

You must be expecting very big crowds, any idea how many might come for the weekend on racing?
CL: Yes, we are expecting more than 50,000 visitors on the Sprint Québec site from December 7 to 9. Fans will feel the action and speed that urban sprints deliver while enjoying the beauty of this unique patrimonial and UNESCO environment such as the Parliament hill along the famous Quebec fortification.

Chantal, with such a crowd, where will people park or access the venue each day?
CL: The visitors will park in the public parking lot as usual during the events in Quebec City. Of course we planned the track with the idea of allowing the crowd to see their champions close to the course and accessibility has been on our mind while thinking about the whole project.

Will there be ticket sales?
CL: All the events are free. People can come on site and watch the race and they can visit our Sprint Quebec Village for free and learn more about the cross-country skiing industry. But if someone wants to encourage local ski teams, there is the possibility to buy a ticket in the corporation lodge – all the info to come this week on our website).

What things might we expect at the venue such as amenities, entertainment, etc.?
CL: At 10 a.m. on Friday, December 7, the Sprint Québec Village at Place George V will open its doors to the public. Young and old will be able to meet industry specialists and winter sports fans and take part in a host of activities at the hydraSense Family Zone. Children age 9 to 12 can take part in free Iniski to learn the skating technique with Rossignol professionals. And local microbrewery Archibald will be there for adults in search of a refreshing beer. Then the weekend will end on a high note on Sunday, December 9 with the amateur event Sprint Québec Open fuelled by Chocolate Milk, the final event of the weekend with cross-country skiers of all stripes invited to tackle the World Cup course in a race against the clock. Divided into categories according to age and ability, the participants will get a chance to see how they do compare to their favourite athlete from the Canadian national team in the race of their lives!

Will you be having live TV or sending a broadcast overseas?
CL: Yes, TVA Sport will be live from 14h-16h on December 7 and from 13h-15h on the 8th. CBC and CBC Sports will also be live on site.  We will have more hours to come from CBC after the event. International TV is showing interest, but for now we don’t have confirmation of any crews attending. We will also provide the live feed to Infront, our distribution partner that will deliver the feed to broadcasters throughout Scandinavia and Europe – the world feed live for live or non-live broadcasts.

With the Canadian team doing so well the last years, and especially to have the great local skier Alex Harvey racing, it looks like it will be a great experience and one not to be missed.
CL: Exactly Peter.  Alex will have an incredible reception from his fans that’s for sure. Here is a what Alex said about the event. “It’s going to be a fun event, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to compete in front of my home crowd.”

I hear that given the closeness to Canada, many people from the USA are planning to attend.
CL: Yes for now we have a few media from USA that confirmed their presence during the event to follow the US Team.

Finally, how should we direct people who want more information about the big event?
CL: The public can visit our website www.sprintquebec.com and follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/sprintquebec) and Twitter (twitter.com/sprintquebec)

Thanks so much Chantal and best wishes to you and the entire team on a great week of racing
CL: Thank you.

Kikkan Randall’s Q&A – Kikkan Explains Her Foot Injury

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November 21, 2012 – SkiTrax contributor and columnist, Marty Hall, has been following USST member Kikkan Randall’s foot injury that has been plaguing her since last season and wondered how her injury happened. Randall sat out the team’s Euro season opener FIS races in Muonio, Finland this past weekend, but she hopes to be on the start line in Gallivare, Sweden for the start of the WCup this coming weekend. This is what Randall had to say about her foot…

Kikkan Explains Her Foot Injury

Kikkan, do you know how the break in your foot occurred? Was it over-use or from a fall, or from jumping or landing on a rock or some form of trauma like that? Did you have any signs or did it just sneak up on you?

Marty Hall
Dunham, NH

Hi Marty,

The stress fracture in my second metatarsal seemed to be more of an over-use injury, there was no singular moment where it happened. I started to feel the pain slightly about a year ago and felt it intermittently during the season. My foot was quite painful at the Tour de Ski from all the consecutive days of hard racing, but then would chill a little bit in between race weekends.

The pain started up again this spring with all the crust skiing up in Alaska and during our opening camp in Bend, OR. I kept trying to manage through the summer, but by the end of our Alaska camp, it was clear I needed to get my foot checked out. I got the first MRI in mid-July and was diagnosed with a stress reaction.


All of us at SkiTrax wish Kikkan a speedy recovery and the best of luck this season.

Talkin’ with the Gravy Train – Interview w/Jessie Diggins Part 1

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November 16, 2012 – This week on Talkin’ with the Gravy Train, we bring you Part 1 of an interview with young U.S. cross country skiing superstar Jessie Diggins. Talkin’ with the Gravy Train is a series of audio interviews hosted by famous sports commentator and journalist Peter Graves, that provides a forum for notable Nordic personalities to talk about the sport they love in their own words and express their point of view.

Jessie DigginsMaking Her Mark
The US Ski Team’s Jessie Diggins, a 21-year-old Minnesota native, has enjoyed a strong off-season of training and is anxious to start racing again.

Diggins enjoyed a breakthrough season last year with fine results like her second place finish in a team sprint in Milano with Kikkan Randall, at just her third World Cup start. She also scored her first World Cup points last season taking a 6th place in a sprint in downtown Moscow. With results like that the sky’s the limit and in this candid interview she talks about her goals for the season and contemplates that this could be a more challenging campaign.

Diggins goes into the year with five US National titles in her career, and will be targeting the FIS top-seeded Red Group for both sprinting and distance skiing

We caught up with her last week, as she was training and packing for the start of the international season. She’s currently in Finland with the rest of the USST team, and in this edition of TWTGT she shares her passion and joy of cross-country skiing and a look at what’s ahead.

Talkin’ with the Gravy Train – Interview w/Jim Galanes Part 2

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November 02, 2012 – This week on Talkin’ with the Gravy Train, we bring you Part 2 of the interview with the multi-talented and well-known former US star skier and coach, Jim Galanes. Talkin’ with the Gravy Train is a series of audio interviews hosted by famous sports commentator and journalist Peter Graves, that provides a forum for notable Nordic personalities to talk about the sport they love in their own words and express their point of view.

Jim Galanes – A Man For All Seasons Seasons
I have known Jim Galanes since we were both teenagers growing up in Southern Vermont. A truly gifted athlete, he excelled in the Nordic sports and later in cycling. Born in Brattleboro, Vermont, his brilliant ski racing career began with Nordic Combined as the local famed Harris Hill was calling. His prodigious talents and his drive helped him secure a USST berth at the tender age of 17. A member of three US Olympic teams in ’76, ’80 and 1984, Galanes dropped ski jumping to focus on cross-country skiing and turned in many outstanding international performances. A twelve-year member of the U.S. Ski Team he won three national Nordic Combined championships and two World Cups, in addition to ten xc ski national championships.

His interest in coaching led Galanes to head up the US Ski Team from 1986-1992, followed by a stint at Vermont’s SMS leading to his outstanding career at APU from 1995-2006. Considered among the elite of the coaching fraternity, he has worked and coached many of America’s top skiing talents. Recently he moved from Anchorage to Sun Valley where he currently operates Galanes Sports Lab Institute in Ketchum, Idaho, offering a variety of services from coaching, ski trail design, program development and ski products – read more HERE.

Jim Galanes – Part 2

Review Part 1 of the Jim Galanes interview

Talkin’ with the Gravy Train – Interview w/Jim Galanes Part 1 UPDATED

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October 29, 2012 – Welcome to a new season of Talkin’ with the Gravy Train where notable Nordic personalities have a forum to talk about the sport they love in their own words and express their point of view. We’d like to thank all of our guests for taking the time to chat with us and our loyal audience for listening. Our first guest this season is the multi-talented and well-known former US star skier and coach, Jim Galanes.

We just realized that the correct Part 1 of this two-part interview was not provided (only about 3min was included) initially when we first posted this interview and we apologize to all readers – the correct version is now linked below.

Jim Galanes – A Man For All Seasons Seasons
I have known Jim Galanes since we were both teenagers growing up in Southern Vermont. A truly gifted athlete, he excelled in the Nordic sports and later in cycling. Born in Brattleboro, Vermont, his brilliant ski racing career began with Nordic Combined as the local famed Harris Hill was calling. His prodigious talents and his drive helped him secure a USST berth at the tender age of 17. A member of three US Olympic teams in ’76, ’80 and 1984, Galanes dropped ski jumping to focus on cross-country skiing and turned in many outstanding international performances. A twelve-year member of the U.S. Ski Team he won three national Nordic Combined championships and two World Cups, in addition to ten xc ski national championships.

His interest in coaching led Galanes to head up the US Ski Team from 1986-1992, followed by a stint at Vermont’s SMS leading to his outstanding career at APU from 1995-2006. Considered among the elite of the coaching fraternity, he has worked and coached many of America’s top skiing talents. Recently he moved from Anchorage to Sun Valley where he currently operates Galanes Sports Lab Institute in Ketchum, Idaho, offering a variety of services from coaching, ski trail design, program development and ski products – read more here.

Jim Galanes – Part 1

FIS XC Athlete Interview with Kikkan Randall

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October 11, 2012 – USA’s Kikkan Randall became the best sprinter on the ladies’ side last season. The skier from Alaska talked to FIS Cross-Country News about her summer preparation, goals for the winter and her four-year term on the FIS Athletes’ Commission.

You are coming to the end of your four-year term as the female representative for Cross-Country on the FIS Athletes’ Commission. How has the experience been and would you like to continue for another four years?
Kikkan Randall: Yes, I have really enjoyed my time on the FIS Athletes’ Commission representing Cross-Country. It has taken these four years to learn the ropes and get to know the people, and I have established some good paths of communication with the top levels of the cross-country committee. So I feel that can I continue to be effective and would enjoy doing this for another four years.

After having such a successful season last year taking the World Cup Overall Sprint title, what are your goals moving forward towards the 2012-13 World Cup season?
KR: Yeah, last year was certainly a lot of fun and I would like to continue to improve at both my sprint and distance results.

You have struggled with a foot injury this summer. Has that affected your off-season training?
KR: Unfortunately, I’ve had to slow down a little bit this summer after good training through mid-August, as it became clear that I had a stress fracture in my right foot. I’ve had to take the last month a little bit easier too give the foot some rest and avoid activities that aggravate it.

What are the activities that bothered the foot?
KR: Primarily, it was skate skiing. But for the past six weeks I have also not run, and only double-poled roller skiing.

Has that changed your approach to the start of the racing season?
KR: Normally I would have been looking forward to really coming in in good form with the opening races in Gallivare, and the mini-tour in Kuusamo, as well as the two sprints in Quebec. But I haven’t been able to skate for six weeks now and it’s still another couple of weeks before that becomes a possibility. Hopefully, I will be ready to participate in those races, but don’t see my form coming around until the Tour de Ski.

FIS Interview with Italian Coach Silvio Fauner

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October 11, 2012 – Italy will be hosting two major events next season, the final stages of the seventh edition of the FIS Tour de Ski and the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme. The Squadra Azzura has been working hard to meet the challenges of competing on the home ground. FIS Cross-Country News talked to Italy’s head coach Silvio Fauner.

Silvio, how was the off-season for your team and your athletes?
Silvio Fauner: We had a very good summer. The team was healthy except for David Hofer who was coping with muscle injury in July, however, it was a minor injury and he did not have to stop training. The team has been working very hard. The men’s team is now training in Passo Stelvio together with the B team. Ladies team is in Ramsau.

Have there been any changes in your coaching staff?
SF: We have made only one change; Paolo Riva has become the main coach of the men’s team. He was the B-Team coach and also coached the Italian Biathlon World Cup team. Saracco remains the sprint coach and Stauder coaches ladies.

For Italy, Roland Clara had a very strong start into the last season. Do you expect him to be again strong, or somebody else?
SF: I hope Roland will again be in good shape. On the other hand, I would wish that other young skiers will do well. David Hofer has been working hard on the free technique and Thomas Moriggl has been looking good, too. There are other good young skiers with a potential in the B-team. I would like to take one or two of them to the first World Cups of the season.

Italian ladies’ team has been through a generation change. Do you see light at the end of the tunnel?
SF: I think we have really good young ladies, but this year will probably be too early for them. I feel they are still too young to break through on the World Cup level. Deborah Agreiter is the silver medalist from the U23 World Ski Championships in Erzurum last year. She is 22 years old and even the big names such as Paruzzi, Longa and Follis had their first big successful competitions and results when they were 27 or 28. I see young women with a potential but not yet for this season.

What is your preview to the next winter?
SF: The season will be long and most likely we all our athletes will not compete in all World Cups. Also not all the athletes will finish the Tour de Ski, maybe two or three. The rest will continue preparation for the World Championships. For sure our biggest goal for the season is to perform well at the home Championships in Val di Fiemme. The dream would be to claim a medal every day, but that’s not so easy. I see our biggest chance in the sprint, 15 km free technique and team sprint, maybe in the relay.

How is the upgraded Val di Fiemme venue?
SF: It is a new venue with upgraded Cross-Country courses. The stadium has been changed and the tracks are very, very hard, especially the ladies’ sprint. On the other hand they are very nice and fair.

You are representing Italy at Cross-Country Committees here in Zurich. Will you return home satisfied?
SF: Yes, I am leaving Zurich satisfied. Perhaps we will speak with other nations to suggest some small changes.

Noah Hoffman on The Local’s Show

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August 19, 2012 (Aspen, CO) – Recently, Noah Hoffman of the US Men’s XC Ski Team, was a featured guest on The Local’s Show, an Aspen, Colorado local TV talk show hosted by Erik Skarvan. Watch yesterday’s program online and learn more about this rising cross country ski star HERE.

Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train – USSA’s Tom Kelly

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May 22, 2012 (Park City, UT) – In this edition of Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train, Peter Graves speaks with USSA VP of Communications, Tom Kelly, at the recent USSA Convention in Park City, UT. Kelly has been involved in the sport for decades, sporting the role of reporter and photographer along the way, and working with such legends as Tony Wise as his Public Relations Director for the Telemark Lodge, along with the venerable journalist Paul Robbins. He was also the co-owner (with Graves) of Worldwide Nordic, a travel company that specialized in trips to the World Loppet and other international Nordic races. Born and raised in Madison, WI, Kelly is also a member of the FIS Media and Marketing Committee. In his interview, he speaks about Kikkan Randall’s historic season, but more significantly, the impact she and her team mates have created with regards to cross-country skiing in the USA.

Tom Kelly

Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train – CXC’s Yuriy Gusev

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May 15, 2012 (Park City, UT) – Tune in to this week’s edition of Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train, as renowned sports reporter and announcer Peter Graves talks with CXC Director, Yuriy Gusev, at the recent USSA Convention in Park City, UT. CXC, the Central Cross Country Ski Association, has seen tremendous growth and success with their race team, aka Jessie Diggins, and various programs, and Gusev accepted the award at the Convention for CXC as winner of the cross-country club of the year. In this in-depth interview, Gusev speaks about his central motivation, which is to grow the sport of cross-country skiing, and the steps he has taken with his team to achieve that goal for CXC.

Yuryi Gusev

SIA Videos Part 1 – Fischer, Alpina, Swix

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April 27, 2012 (Denver, CO) – The 2012 SIA Snow Show, launching all that’s new for 2013, was held in Denver, CO earlier this year and SkiTrax caught up with many exhibiting companies to find out about their latest product offerings from the top end on down, including some fun stuff, for next season. In Part 1 of our series of interviews here’s a look at what’s new from from Fischer, Alpina, and Swix…

Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train – Marty Hall Part 2

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April 24, 2012 – On this week’s edition of Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train, we pick up where we left off last week during Peter Graves’s interview with former US and Canadian XC Ski Team Head Coach, Marty Hall. Hall delves deeper into the North American success this year and looks at the next wave of talent and what it means for the future of the sport on this continent. Hall coached the US Team when Bill Koch won his Olympic silver medal at the Games in Innesbruck, Austria, and was also at the helm of the Canadian Team during Pierre Harvey’s heyday – check out his report cards in his column Hallmarks in the final issue issue of SkiTrax this season.

Marty Hall part 2 – for part 1 click here.

Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train – US XC Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover

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April 06, 2012 – On this week’s edition of Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train, renowned sports journalist and announcer Peter Graves speaks with US XC Ski Team Head Coach, Chris Grover. In his interview, Grover reflects on the historic season for the US squad, that saw Kikkan Randall take home an overall World Cup series title, the American women storm the international circuit with tremendous results, the first distance points for sprint star Andy Newell, and a U23 Worlds silver medal for Noah Hoffman. Graves and Grover explore what changed within the US team and with the athletes themselves that made their fantastic season a reality.

Grover has a 25-year history in the sport, with nearly 20 of those years as a coach, telling Graves that Randall’s hard work, focus, and energy made her achievement a reality and showed the entire team it is possible to make it to the top. Looking at the next generation, Jessie Diggins floored onlookers this season with the incredible leap she made in her skiing, such as when she qualified first in the Moscow sprints.

Chris Grover


American Birkie Comments from Elliott, Brooks, Liebsch and Gregg + PHOTOS

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February 29, 2012 – SkiTrax caught up with the top men’s and women’s finishers after the biggest XC ski marathon in the U.S. – the American Birkebeiner in Cable, WI. Read race recaps from 50k FR winners Tad Elliott and Holly Brooks, as well as comments from runners-up Matt Liebsch and Caitlin Gregg.

Full results HERE.

Tad Elliott – 50km FR Men’s Winner
I was looking for a marathon to participate in on the weekend when the World Cup took a break and noticed that the American Birkie was the same weekend. It has been a dream of mine to win the Birkie but I was a little nervous about the travel back and forth from Europe. I asked my Dad what he thought and he was nervous about the travel as well saying it might be best to stay in Europe.

I asked my Mom what she thought about the travel and the Birkie. She got really excited and said that I should do it and make it happen. She raced the Kortelopet a few years ago and loved the atmosphere and racing in Wisconsin. Right then I knew I would be making the travel to WI.

I emailed Salomon asking if they could help me out getting to the Birkie and taking care of me while I was there. They booked my ticket, hotel room, entrance, and made sure I had transportation. The Salomon staff are my friends and also my support staff. Without the help of Bill Sterling, Josh Korn, Andy Gerlach, and Pete Zeller, I would not have been able to do as well as I did.

Zach Caldwell even came out to wax my skis for the race. He chooses all of my skis with Salomon and puts race grinds on them. The amount of testing and work he put into my skis for the Birkie was amazing. Without Zach, my results would not have been what they were. The overall support was absolutely incredible. I felt like it was a team effort for me to win, a lot of people worked very hard so I could have this opportunity. My dream came true.

The race itself was awesome. Huge thanks to the groomers who made the course a blast to ski on after all of the new snow. At the start, my track came together with another track and Morten Petterson and I were going to get pretty well acquainted – he slowed and let me in – classy guy. We laughed and the race was on.

My skis felt a little slow at first in the new cold snow. Once I hit “OO” [about the 1/2 way point] where Zach had tested my skis at 5 a.m. they sped up significantly. I could tell that had the best skis in the field – right when I needed them. A French skier and Nish [Graham Nishikawa] were off the front with a 1:07 lead at one point. I was stressed that we would not be able to bring it back. Matt Liebsch kept me in line and said that together we could bring it back, but not before 33km. True to his word, at 33km Matt and I worked together to bring them back.

After that, the paced slowed a little and I attacked with 11km to go and was able to get a gap alone. From then on I was committed to the finish. Across the lake, I kept looking back thinking that I would be caught with only 500 meters left in the race. Once I hit the wiskers in the finishing lanes and looked back, I knew I had won.

I celebrated pretty hard and was extremely happy. It was the perfect day for me. I was so pumped and I’m still stoked. At the finish I borrowed a stranger’s phone to call my parents. I don’t think I’ve heard my mom that excited in a while. She was really pleased.

The best moment of the day for me though was sharing the podium with two other Americans who are also my friends. I have stayed at both of their houses in the last month while training and racing. Just a rad experience all around.


Holly Brooks – 50km FR Women’s Winner
Today was awesome – I really couldn’t have wished for a better day. Just last week I remember hearing the race was “on the rocks” and amazingly, the conditions today were PERFECT. The temperature, the snow, the grooming. Heck, the sunshine even came out for the race finish – and of course the great spectators!

As for the race itself, there was a large group of women that skied together until “OO” – myself, Caitlin [Gregg], Nicole Deyong, Rebecca Dussault, and a Russian skier were taking turns at the front. Shortly thereafter I was taking a feed and Caitlin made a decisive move, weaving through skiers from the men’s elite wave.

I wanted to finish my GU so she lost me for a bit and I had to work to reel her back in. In the process, we gapped the rest of the girls. When I realized that we had a lead on the others, I told her and said that we should work together to make sure they didn’t catch us.  So we traded leads, pulling each other towards Hayward. It was a blast skiing the race with Caitlin – she’s a good friend and a great skater. Now we’ve each won the Birkie once!

I was leading off the lake and made the 90 degree corner onto Main Street… I had been in this situation before in 2009, only to be caught by Rebecca D at the line (2nd by an inch!). This year, I definitely had a flashback to the race three years ago, and I was determined to NOT lose the sprint!

I took the sprint by a hair but made sure to not “pull a Morilov” and celebrate before fully crossing the finish line!  Funny thing was that both my husband Rob, and Caitlin’s husband Brian, were waiting at the finish line to see who’s wife would win! Brian had a great race as well, landing third on the podium – a good day for the Gregg family!

All in all, I’m really glad that I made the trip out here to race the Birkie and I’m ecstatic that I can “check this off the list” after three years of jokes about my boot being too small or the fact that I shouldn’t have clipped my toenails that day!

Check out the Anchorage Daily News for a great story on the race.


Matt Liebsch – 50km FR Second
This was an amazing Birkie and I was so happy that I got to be on the podium with two of my best training partners and friends. There was great depth and it was a very competitive field this year at the Birkie.

I broke a pole this time at a very in-opportune time in the race. I knew we were getting to the point where moves were going to be made. Tad [Elliott] went off the front followed by Brian Gregg. I tried to get into the 3rd spot and put my pole between Lars [Flora] and myself and we both fell. Santiago Ocariz saw what happened and took his pole off and gave it to me. With that I was able to get back into the race.

The Birkie course was wonderful and it’s always a race where I strive to have one of my best results in. I want to thank all the volunteers, board members and people who work so hard to make this an amazing event. This year’s Birkie will be one of my most memorable!


Caitlin Gregg – 50km FR Second (defending champ)
The Birkie race was fantastic! It was a great way for me to test my fitness. The pace in the women’s race was very very slow for the first 30km. I was feeling great and only a few of the ladies were taking turns at the front so I decided to make a run for it. Holly [Brooks] was the only skier that followed and soon we were a few minutes off the front.

Holly and I worked together and maintained our gap until Main Street. The final sprint was awesome and we both skied our heart’s out. In the end Holly got me by 0.4 of a second. It was very close but also a ton of fun! Holly has been racing very well on the World Cup circuit and it was great to be able to ski with her so much during the race.

After the race I realized I had four bridesmaids in the Birkie this year and two were on the podium! The whole weekend of events was incredible and I am so happy that I get to share the Birkie experience with so many family members and close friends!

Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train – Matt Liebsch Interview

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February 23, 2012 – This week on Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train, Peter Graves catches up with 28-year-old American skier Matt Liebsch of Orono, MN, who won Tour De Twin Cities and the Boulder MT Tour this season. Liebsch races for Team Strong Heart/Team Birkie and is also the Director of Race Services at Gear West Ski and Run in Long Lake, MN. His palmares include a win at his favourite race, the American Birkebeiner, in 2009. He’s stoked and primed for the 39th edition of the race coming up this weekend. Listen what he has to say about the historic event.

Matt Liebsch Interview

Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train – FIS Sprint Cup Leader Kikkan Randall Interview

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February 15, 2012 (Poland) – This week on Talkin’ with the Gravy-Train, Peter Graves checked in with top American female skier Kikkan Randall, the FIS Sprint Cup leader who is currently preparing for the inaugural WCup races in Szklarska Poreba, Poland. Despite a recent stomach bug and cold that forced Randall to sit out some races, she is pleased with her season to date – going so far to describe it as “wonderful”. Randall has two WCup wins this season and claimed two silver medals recently in Milan (in the individual sprint and team sprint, alongside team mate Jessie Diggins), plus pre-Xmas she took home a silver at the Dusseldorf team sprint with Sadie Bjornsen and at the Tour de Ski in Toblach, Italy she won silver in the FR Sprint. Randall sits 5th in the overall standings and Graves caught up wit her in Poland… XC ski fans rejoice – all of the Gravy-Train interviews will be archived shortly for fans to enjoy all season…

Interview w/Kikkan Randall

Interview with Canmore IBU Cup Double Gold Medalist Nathan Smith

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February 13, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – Canada’s Nathan Smith made history on Saturday in the Rockies when he won the men’s IBU Cup sprint race, becoming the first Canadian male to win an IBU Cup tour competition. Then on Sunday, he did it again, scoring gold in the 10k. Hear what the 26-year-old Canmore local has to say about his recent success.