At last week’s Central REG camp in Marquette, Michigan, the pro team members of Team Birkie were invited to mix with, mentor, train and compete with the region’s top Juniors. For one of the new team members, Erin Bianco, the camp marked a unique full circle moment. The former Minnesota State Champion has spent the last four years racing for Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and is now just coming home to pursue the next step in her ski career. We catch up with her on that journey, and where her individual story charts out in the development of US skiing from juniors all the way through to the pro-level.
Ben Theyerl/National Nordic Foundation (NNF): Can you start by giving us a quick background bio on yourself? Where are you from, who have you skied for in the past and who are you skiing for now?
Erin Bianco (EB): I am from Ely Minnesota where I skied for Ely High School. I then went on to ski for Colby College in Maine and now I am skiing on Team Birkie, a professional ski team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
NNF: You’re in the middle of a cool transition having grown up in the Midwest, raced the Eastern collegiate circuit and now back with Team Birkie. What’s this summer training been like as you get reacquainted with the ski community in Minnesota?
EB: The transition back to training has been a fun one. I have never spent much time training in Minneapolis and have been shocked by the number of smooth roads to rollerski on, multiple trail systems, and Theodore Wirth Trailhead’s gym for our strength sessions. In addition, it has been a warm welcome back from the East Coast from not only my new teammates on Team Birkie but the wider community as well. The Midwest ski community has always been supportive in providing countless resources to all skiers and I have felt that in just the short time I have been back.
NNF: How was Central REG camp? What were some of the highlights of the week?
EB: This past week myself and Team Birkie had the opportunity to be at the central REG camp. I had a blast training alongside some of the best juniors in the central region. I was inspired to see the dedication from the athletes throughout the week. It was also an honor to have a chance to share some of my thoughts on technique and the ski lifestyle while also learning a lot from the surrounding athletes as well. Marquette provided a lot of quality training where we had a mix of some longer endurance sessions along with some time trials.
NNF: Central REG is a little different than it was, say, when you were younger – the notable addition being more pro-level athletes from the Midwest’s Team Birkie. Can you say a little bit about the value of getting younger athletes together with some of you more experienced skiers? Maybe one way to think of this question would be what would high school Erin think of the opportunity to train with this present pro Erin/your teammates?
EB: I am very thankful to the coaches who invited Team Birkie to help out at REG. Thinking back to my younger days as a skier, it would have been helpful to have the opportunity to train with older athletes for a week. It was a great opportunity for younger athletes to understand what it is like to ski at the next level post high school. Additionally, as skiers, we all have different stories of how we started racing and why we like to ski. I think sharing these experiences to younger athletes provides different perspectives on how one can achieve their goals and to know that it doesn’t have to look the same as their teammates. It was also exciting to talk about our various collegiate skiing experiences and was fun for me to reflect on mine as well, being a recent graduate.
NNF: Last question, now that REG is past, any big plans upcoming for other camps this Summer/Fall going into next season?
EB: After a recovery week, my teammate Renae Anderson and I are headed back to Maine for a week for a mini-training camp before we meet up with our other Team Birkie teammates in Vermont for a two week camp. Renae and I both skied collegiately in Maine (Anderson competed for Bowdoin College) so we are both excited to get back on the East Coast. After this we will be training in Minnesota until early October when we head out to Park City for an altitude training camp. These camps will allow us to get in some big hours of training with fellow pro athletes across the country. I am very thankful for the opportunity for the variety of training that we are getting and that our Team Birkie coaches [Leo Hipp, Caitlin Gregg, and Jeremy Hecker] have put together for us!