Trail to Gold Program

National Nordic Foundation Trail to Gold Coaching Grant

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 Program.

When it debuted in 2022, the Trail to Gold Coaching Grant (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 coaches were selected to complete a two week experience on the World Cup designed to immerse them in all aspects of coaching and wax teching on the World Cup. The results; each coach brought 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 to its Pillar Projects, ensuring the grant’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 Program:

A continuation of the Trail to Gold Olympic Book Project, the T2G Program funds World Cup coaching grants to talented women coaches, allowing them to join the US Ski Team coaching staff during the course of the World Cup season.

T2G Coaches:

  • 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 and coaches.
  • 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 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 Coaches for the upcoming World Cup season are announced annually in late October.

T2G 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 for the T2G Program.
  • Should Be Prepared to Identify a 2-week World Cup Competition Period: The T2G is completed in 2-week competition periods throughout the World Cup season, November-March. Coaches should be prepared to be away from their regular coaching duties for two consecutive weekends of competition.
  • May Have Completed the T2G Before : Coaches who have already earned a T2G Coaching Grant 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 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 Coaches 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

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