Trail to Gold Fellowship

National Nordic Foundation Trail to Gold Fellowship

The Story:

When Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won Olympic Gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, it represented an emotional apex for the US ski community. In the years following, one of the outgrowths of that moment was a special intergenerational connection between the Olympians that had skied across that finish line in Korea and those women that had skied the trail to that moment throughout the history of US Skiing. Ahead of the 50th anniversary of women competing in Cross Country Skiing at the Olympic Games at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, a book committee was formed to tell the story of each American women Olympian, and in doing so, chart the progress and growth of a sport and a community. Trail to Gold: The Journey of 53 Women Skiers was published in December 2021, and quickly became a staple on book shelves across the US ski community.

Having told the story of the Trail to Gold in the fifty years prior to 2022, the members of the US Olympic Women’s Cross Country Book Project then looked at how they could continue it for the next generation of women in US Skiing. The result; a partnership with the Women’s Ski Coaches Association, US Ski and Snowboard, and NNF – the Trail to Gold Fellowship.

When it debuted in 2022, the Trail to Gold Fellowship (T2G) looked to take advantage of a new FIS rule that reserved two on-course World Cup bibs for women coaching staff, and bolster a US Ski Team World Cup staff with perspectives and talents brought from across the ski community. Five fellows were selected to complete a two week internship designed to introduce them to all aspects of coaching and wax teching on the World Cup, with the results being an additional, dynamic presence on a World Cup staff that supported one of the most successful seasons in US Ski Team history.

In 2023, NNF added the T2G Fellowship to its Pillar Projects, ensuring the Fellowship’s funding for successive seasons. In doing so, we hope to continue to make an investment not only in the individual development of American women coaches, but the skiers that they support and inspire across skiing.

The Fellowship:

A continuation of the Trail to Gold Olympic Book Project, the T2G Fellowship funds World Cup coaching internships with the US Ski Team for the talented Women coaches at work in US Skiing today.

T2G Fellows:

  • Become Part of the Team: Join the US Ski Team World Cup staff for 2 weeks of hands-on experience in waxing, testing, coaching, and all aspects of being a team member of a world-class coaching staff.
  • On-Course Experience: Utilize FIS’ Women coaches bib allotment to test skis alongside the world’s best athletes.
  • Share and Inspire: Women coaches from across the US bring World Cup experience home, helping spread inspiration and passion across US ski communities from coast-to-coast.

The Application Process:

Trail to Gold Fellowship Applications are open for a period annually in late August. Applications are reviewed by the Trail to Gold Selection Committee (see below) and the T2G Fellows Class is announced annually in late October.

T2G Fellow Applicants:

  • Can Come From Any Level of US Skiing: Women coaches from junior, high school, collegiate, and professional/elite club skiing are all encouraged to apply to the T2G Fellowship.
  • Should Be Prepared to Identify a 2-week World Cup Competition Period: The T2G Fellowship is completed in 2-week competition periods throughout the World Cup season, November-March. Fellows should be prepared to be away from their regular coaching duties for two consecutive weekends of competition.
  • May Be Previous T2G Fellows: Coaches who have already completed a T2G Fellowship in previous seasons may re-apply for future World Cup seasons.

The Trail to Gold Selection Committee:

The T2G Selection Committee consists of representatives from the Trail to Gold book committee, Women Ski Coaches Association (WSCA), US Ski Team coaches, and another retired woman US World Cup athlete.

The 2023-24 T2G Fellowship Selection Committee:

  • Matt Whitcomb – US Ski Team Head Coach, NNF Board Member.
  • Kristen Bourne – US Ski Team D-Team Coach.
  • Leslie Hall – Trail to Gold author, US Olympian – 1988 Calgary, 1992 Albertville, 1994 Lillehammer.
  • Nancy Fiddler – Trail to Gold author, US Olympian – 1988 Calgary, 1992 Albertville.
  • Maria Stuber – WSCA Founder and President, SMS T2 Program Director.
  • Hannah Halvorsen – Harvard University Assistant Coach, Former US Ski Team Athlete, US Olympian – 2022 Beijing.

Having the Trail to Gold Fellows last winter was an incredible experience, and from my perspective, I gained so much from having these women from different teams and different parts of the US come over to help coach us and wax for us! 

- Jessie Diggins, 3-time Olympic Medalist, World Champion, US Ski Team Member

2023-24 Trail to Gold Application Now Open!

The application period for the 2023-24 Trail to Gold Fellowship (T2G Fellowship) is now open. The Trail to Gold Fellowship provides American women coaches and technicians the opportunity to gain international-level experience through an immersive internship with the US Ski Team.

The second class of T2G Fellows will build off our inaugural class’s success in adding a dynamic, impactful presence to the US Ski Team coaching and ski technician staff on the World Cup last season. This year’s T2G Fellowship, the first as an NNF Pillar Project, also represents the outgrowth of a successful partnership with the Women Ski Coaches Association (WSCA) and US Ski and Snowboard. And most importantly, the T2G Fellowship continues to celebrate the US Olympic Women’s Cross-Country Book Project’s efforts to tell the story of women in US Skiing, while writing that story’s next chapter. A recap of last year’s T2G Fellowship, authored by Book Project members Leslie Hall and Nancy Fiddler, can be found here.

T2G Fellows receive funding to travel and join the US Ski Team coach and wax technician staff for a 2-week competition period of the World Cup. The program is designed to introduce T2G Fellows to all aspects of coaching and wax teching at the sport’s highest level, while allowing them to serve as an integral part of the US Ski Team staff throughout their Fellowship. By applying their own coaching and ski service talents to World Cup preparation and competition, T2G Fellows further their coaching skills, and take back their experience to their own programs across US skiing.

Applications are open until Tuesday, September 5th. Women coaches working at any competition level of US skiing are encouraged to apply. Previous T2G Fellows may also apply for this year’s program. Applications will be reviewed by the committee members listed on this page. Read the full announcement of this year’s Trail to Gold Fellowship here.

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