It has been a transformational year for US Skiing, and likewise for the grassroots movement propelling the sport’s development in the sport at the National Nordic Foundation. 2022 saw new highs reached for US skiers at the World Cup and at the Beijing Olympics, and saw those successes mirrored by skiers at all stages of their athletic development – at U23/World Junior Ski Championships, in regional competitions, and in the hard, numerous hours that skiers spend together between races on skis, rollerskis, in strength rooms and chalets, There was a real sense of coming together around the American ski community throughout the past year, least of which because many of us were gathering literally again in light of the conditions necessitated by the ongoing COVID pandemic.
The pandemic still marked a key theme throughout. Skiers from all over the country started to regain that crucial sense of community that the sport of skiing provides, but still had to weather the changes to their individual journey in the sport necessitated by it. What continues to become apparent this winter is that the challenges posed on those skiers, on the ski communities that they are a part of across the country, and our sport, have led to a new sense of resilience and dynamism that will benefit US skiing in the years to come.
All those individuals and their characteristics in sum is the essence of the National Nordic Foundation, and like those who have given and taken part in our programming, this year marked significant progress towards pushing on the idea of the NNF towards new organizational health and expanding our programming to help create a Nordic community that mirrors the ideals of our supporters and skiers. That has included resuming and re-imagining the potential of our pillar projects, expanding our programming towards serving the coaching community, and a big year for our fundraising that will set the organization on the financial footing to keep our positive momentum going into 2023.
Below are just a few highlights of a year of transformation for the National Nordic Foundation.
US Cross-Country Ski Championships and the SuperTour Return – January
With the start and finish lines set up at Theodore Wirth Park in March 2020, COVID forced an abrupt end to the return of the World Cup on US soil. Just a couple weeks before, however, the premier domestic competition for US Skiing, the SuperTour, finished up a test event on the same venue, saw its clubs and skiers spread out across the country, and eventually find themselves in the middle of a crisis which forced the cancellation of the robust schedule that had seen significant development in recent seasons.
The winter of 2020-2021 marked a significant pause for the SuperTour, and a challenge for the skiers for which it played a significant developmental role in their journey to the World Cup.
When the 2021-2022 season approached, it became clear that the SuperTour could capture the momentum it had before the pandemic, but that it would need a significant boost. Which is when NNF stepped in to become the title sponsor, and re-start the NNF Cup, a competition to encourage the best clubs in the country to engage in a friendly competition throughout the season. The first period races kicked off in the Midwest in Duluth, Minnesota, and Cable, Wisconsin in December 2021, before US Senior Cross-Country Championships resumed as an event in Soldier Hollow New Year’s week of 2022.
With the US Senior Cross-Country Championships set to take place once again in Houghton, Michigan next week, the SuperTour sponsored by NNF is once again providing the early steps for young skiers to engage in national competition on a weekly basis, and in doing so also providing a reunion of the ski racing community in the places it visits across the country.
Team USA earns medal at Junior World Championship for 5th out of last 6 years – February
In February, the best Junior skiers from around the country travelled to Lygna, Norway to represent the United States at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships.
Junior Worlds has been firm ground for hope for US Skiing in the past half decade, flowing out from an individual medal for Katharine Ogden in 2017 and Bronze for the Women’s team in the relay the same year to perennial places on the podium for American skiers. A particular point of pride for the US has been matching the unique and individual demands of skiing together in the team event, and in 2022, that was continued, as the US Men’s team – Michael Earnhart, Brian Bushey, Walker Hall, and Will Koch – captured a 3rd place finish in the 4x 5 k Team Relay.
Their medal marked the 5th time in the last 6 years that the US has put a team on the podium in a Team Event at World Juniors, after having never done so prior to 2017. In a bronze medal was also a benchmark, coming right after the Beijing Olympics this year, that US Skiing is on track towards being one of the best programs in the world.
Junior Skiers Adapt for June U18 Camp in Whistler – June
Traditionally, the Nordic Nations Cup, where the US sends a contingent of top U18 skiers with the support of NNF, has marked an important first experience for promising athletes to gain international competition experience. The US was again set to send a strong team this year, but a mounting COVID spike in Europe last January forced the cancellation of the event to be held north of Trondheim, Norway.
It marked another stumbling block for a particular group of athletes who had made their first steps onto the national competition circuit during COVID. As last season concluded, and the COVID situation in the US eased up, US Ski and Snowboard and NNF saw an opportunity to provide another opportunity for the group of athletes that had earned a shot at gaining the crucial experience of being around other like-minded skiers from across the country for a forward-looking training and racing experience.
With World Junior Championships being on these U18 skiers goal list for the future, and the confluence of circumstance of World Juniors being scheduled for Whistler, British Columbia in 2023, the idea sprung up to convene the group of U18 skiers who had qualified for Nordic Nations together for a week of training that looked forward, metaphorically and literally, towards the future.
US Sport Development Director and US Development Team coach Greta Anderson led a camp that included hard workouts, waterfalls, and some intentional time together as a ski community for some of the top juniors in the US. Read NNF’s recap from June here.
REG, U16, NEG, and NTG Return to Full Schedule – June, July, August
The pandemic led to a fracturing of the training camp model that has marked so many off seasons for skiers at all ages of development through the recent past of US skiing. Over the past couple of summers, regions and divisions carefully navigated how to provide exceptional training opportunities that celebrated their athletes with the need to keep athletes and coaches safe.
The summer of 2022 allowed a resumption of a unified and robust Regional Elite Group and U16 camp model, bringing hundreds of skiers from across the country together for weeks of full immersion into Nordic skiing training, education, and camaraderie alongside top regional coaches, and US Ski Team personnel.
The spirit of collaboration was apparent across the country, with burgeoning U16 skiers having the opportunity to cross paths with those at the top of the US Ski Team, and world skiing, pyramid – as happened in Vermont in late July.
It was a return to normalcy that marked in many individual moments joy, leading to that being the predominant theme for the ski community through the summer.
New Trail to Gold Fellowship – August
After Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the first gold medal in US cross-country skiing history in 2018, an illustrious group of former US Olympic women came together around the idea of telling the story of how US skiing had gotten to that milestone. The resulting book: Trail to Gold, The Journey of 53 Women Skiers added a crucial piece of literature to the ski community, telling the history and journey of women in the sport in the United States over the past half century.
The women of the Trail to Gold book project group then looked at how to continue that Trail forward. With the proceeds from the book, they reached out to NNF with the notion that women still had a long way to go in their journey towards equitable representation in the ski coaching community, and a partnership between NNF, the Trail to Gold authors, Women Ski Coach’s Association, and the US Ski Team soon brought to fruition the idea of the Trail to Gold Fellowship.
Modelled after an internship that current US Ski Team D-Team coach Kristen Bourne completed with the US Ski Team World Cup coaching staff during the 2021-2022 season, the idea was to send talented women coaches from across the US to the sport’s highest level – allowing them to gain experience working at the sport’s highest level, credentials, and inspiration to bring back to their home clubs.
The first cohort of Trail to Gold fellows was announced in November, and they have already played a key part in helping boost the US Ski Team’s coaching staff on the World Cup this season.
Drive for 25 Raises Over 300k for NNF Programming – November
The Drive for 25 represents the National Nordic Foundation’s most important, and longest-running, annual fundraiser. Held just before the start of the ski season in November each year, it represents a moment for the US ski community to come together around itself, putting support behind the sport we love for the sake of the sport we love. The Drive for 25 funds our pillar projects, allows us to explore new possibilities for development, and continue our work as an organization.
This year’s D25 was held Thanksgiving week, with the initial goal of having 1000 individual donations unlock a generous $100,000 matching grant from a donor. Once the D25 kicked off, a wave of momentum built. A second donor offered a $100,000 matching grant with the idea of inspiring the ski community to drive not just for 1000 individual donations, but $100,000 from those donations. As things counted down on Friday, the ski community put out a rallying call to try and reach both objectives, and in the end, the whole community reached both goals. $100,000 unlocked via 1000 individual donations, with those donations raising just over $100,000 on their own. That unlocked the 2nd grant for $100,000, with the total raised for this year’s Drive for 25 in just 5 days: $310,000.
That total represented the highest total ever for a Drive for 25, and now represents a healthy financial base for NNF to support and expand its programming through this season and beyond.
It was a remarkable moment for US Skiing, showing the resiliency and dynamism that it had gained through weathering the storm of the past few uneven winters.
Ahead to 2023
At the end of a transformational year for US Skiing and our grassroots movement to push us all forward, we at the National Nordic Foundation want to express our gratitude and look forward to seeing you all out there as the SuperTour resumes next week and the snow falls all around the United States.
You can support our mission in 2023 by donating through the button below: