This week’s Drive fore 25 is all about athletes like Ava Thurston. The Vermonter recently accepted her nomination to join the US Ski Team D-Team after compiling a resume that includes three Junior National Championships, U18 Nordic Nation’s Trips, and a Junior World Championships appearance. Thurston is looking ahead to big dreams and a bright future, and doing so while furrowing into the ski community that she has called home since she took her first strides. Hailing from Mansfield Nordic Club, before marticulating at Dartmouth College last year, and joining the Stratton Mountain School T2 Team this summer, she is deeply connected in her small home-state where skiing takes on an outsized importance. From strong grassroots club organization from people who just plain like to ski to a special group of peer athletes including World Championship medalists Jessie Diggins and Julia Kern at SMS T2, it takes a village to lift up and point the way for athletes like Thurston and those she’s developing alongside. What’s true in one corner of the US ski community is amplified on a national scale. For each athlete that develops to the sport’s highest level, there’s a tight-knit community working in muted humility towards a day when we can all roar in celebration at what they accomplish. That’s our goal with the Drive for 25: helping any athlete, from anywhere, reach their full potential, and doing so knowing we do it together. In an eloquent letter, Ava Thurston catpures exactly what that looks like here:

Dear U.S. Skiing Community,

This is Ava Thurston writing to you from Stratton, VT. I recently returned from a great two-week camp with the U.S. Ski Team in Park City, Utah. It was amazing to have such a big crew (National Training Group, pro team, and US ski team athletes) training together on the Soldier Hollow roller ski track and up on the mountain trails. Having such a large portion of our top skiers come together to push and learn from one another, all while having fun, is one of our nation’s greatest strengths. 

Over the past four years, I have been lucky to have many amazing experiences training and racing internationally at events like the U18 Nordic Nations trip, Junior World Championships, and International Junior Camp. I still remember the excitement of qualifying for the U18 trip in Falun, Sweden and trying on a U.S. Ski Team suit for the first time. On that trip, I met athletes who would later become my Dartmouth and U.S. Ski Team teammates. But this excitement was not without worry about the cost of such a trip. The National Nordic Foundation plays a huge role in subsidizing the expense of trips and camps like these, and without its support, it would have been very difficult for me to afford to go. My situation is not unique. The funding NNF provides helps so many young athletes attend their first national camps, race internationally for the first time, and ultimately continue to progress in their skiing careers. 

Right now, The Drive for 25 is trying to generate over 1,000 individual donations of $25 or more, as it tries to also surpass a fundraising drive goal of $100,000. While these targets are lofty, the community support and enthusiasm I felt at camp in Utah makes me think we’ll be able to do it. I’m asking you to join me as we try to get the entire U.S. skiing community to support this great cause.

See you on the trails!

Ava’s check-in from International Junior Camp Summer 2023:

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