An air of anticipation is a core fact to cross country skiing – you wait and wait for the snow to fly, and when it finally does, the whole thing is frenetic. That’s reflected in the race schedule from juniors all the way on up to the World Cup. From the first flurries in November up to now, the schedule is saturated with races as athletes chase goals, dreams, and the joyous reunion that comes with being back around the ski community again. That also makes the couple of weeks here, smack dab in the middle of winter, unique. The SuperTour has entered its mid-winter break after having completed a long-ranging tour from Sovereign Lakes, British Columbia at the end of November, through U.S. Nationals, and culminating in a weekend that reflected the unique citizen racing culture present in the Midwest at the Seeley Hills Classic. The World Cup too, took a momentary pause before seeing a weekend of relaxed racing in Livigno, Italy, highlighted by Julia Kern and Rosie Brennan combining for a 3rd place finish in the Team Sprint for the USA.
Much of the pause in the ski schedule is dedicated to the shuffle of athletes, literally and figuratively, as dreams chased now become realities. As you read this, some of the U.S. most promising young athletes will be connecting to flights on their way to Europe for their first World Cup starts, or taking planning out their trips north of the border to Whistler, British Columbia for their first international competition at Junior World Championships. At the NNF, it’s Pillar Project season, where the hard-work and dedication that the US ski community has put into supporting the development of its skiers now becomes real support driving promising athletes to new places, new competitions, new experiences, and new dreams in the sport of Nordic skiing.
Below are some of the highlights that the US Ski Community can look toward in the coming weeks to see its strength – working together towards building a world class Nordic skiing program – reflected in the promising athletes making their way out onto the world’s stage through our Pillar Projects.
FIS World U23/Junior Nordic Ski Championships, Whistler, British Columbia (January 28th – February 4th)
Being held on the North American continent from the first time since Soldier Hollow hosted in 2017, the depth and talent of the youngest generation of American skiers will be on full display in Whistler. A U23 team with faces quickly becoming week-to-week fixtures of the World Cup, along with Juniors eager to get their shot at international competition, promises to make for another exciting week for the US ski community. Junior Worlds has been the venue for key breakthroughs in the US skiing program stretching back to a pair of Bronze medals won by Katharine Ogden and the Women’s Team Relay, containing Ogden, Hannah Halvorsen, Julia Kern, and Hailey Swirbul in 2017.
Junior Worlds has proven a thrilling preview on the future of where US skiing is headed ever since, and the United States contingent, supported by NNF, promises to continue that in Whistler in a few weeks’ time.
U18 Nordic Nation’s Cup Jyvaskyla, Finland (February 17th – February 19th)
One of the original NNF Pillar Projects, the Nordic Nation’s Cup trip (formerly Scandinavian Cup) has long served as an important introduction to international competition for promising American athletes, and as a key site for coach development along the same lines. The ski federations of Norway, Sweden, and Finland invitation for a delegation from the United States to compete as a site of mutual sport exchange has been an ongoing sign of goodwill and Nordic ski culture, and American athletes have seized the opportunity to turn in great results at the competition over the years.
The 2023 U18 trip will be particularly special, as COVID has forced the cancellation of the Nordic Nation’s Cup for the last few years. Athletes who have previously qualified will finally get the chance to take this crucial developmental step into the European racing theater, and the US skiing can resume fostering camaraderie, goodwill, and competition with some of the best ski programs in the world.
NNF-Supported Athletes Making Steps to World Cup
NNF’s programming is designed to support the dreams of promising athletes right up to their first steps onto a World Cup start-line. As the shuffle of SuperTour results and US Nationals now settles, athletes who have been part of that crucial mission are now taking that important next step. It’s a proof-of-concept for us, and for American skiing, that many athletes who have been supported by NNF in the past few seasons are now ready to launch their careers on the sport’s highest level. In Livigno, Les Rousses, Toblach, there will be new faces racing for the US Ski Team who are familiar to NNF, our supporters, and the US Ski Community that makes it possible for the dreams of any of its young members to become a reality.
NNF Cup Enters SuperTour Break with Close Competition
The NNF Cup, celebrating club excellence in US skiing, entered a break along with the SuperTour after Seeley. The latest weekend saw yet more jostling between the top clubs in the US – read about them here – in what is turning into a close competition across all classifications for the honor of top domestic club in US Skiing. While the University of Utah still holds top spots in the Overall, Men’s, and Women’s classifications, Bridger Ski Foundation, APU Nordic Center, Craftsbury Green Project and Team Birkie have all been on the move up the standings. The close competition among clubs from across the continent speaks to the depth and dynamic investment in pro skiing that currently defines this moment in US skiing. The NNF Cup resumes, along with the SuperTour, on February 18th at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota.