If you were going to pick a place to use as a metaphor for the development of Nordic skiing in the United States, you might just take a look at Marquette, Michigan.
Tucked deep into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Nordic skiing has been around here for awhile. From the bluffsides a century ago, the bravest among the Finnish immigrants who settled here looked out from the top of ski jumps at the vast expanse of Lake Superior. Nearby Ishpeming was where in 1905, the organization that would become US Ski and Snowboard was formed. The cross country ski program at Northern Michigan University (NMU) came along later in the century, and under coach Sten Fjeldheim helped to cement the unique collegiate culture that runs through Nordic skiing development in the US to this day. Marquette is an important place for skiing. But it is also somewhat up and out of sight. The glacially carved hills and the Lake make it as beautiful a place as there is in the world, but it’s tucked away. Marquette is ready to take in those willing to quietly and persistently devote hundreds of hours of time, and many more of thought, to the singular pursuit of a sport that requires everything out of its athletes.
And this week, Marquette has done just that again. The Central REG camp, continuing the series of REG camps across the country, came to town this week with the top Junior and Senior Nordic athletes from across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. On site at Northern Michigan University, the top Juniors from across the region combined with Senior pros from the rapidly developing Team Birkie to not only train together, but plot out the future of US skiing in line with their locale’s history.
What that looked like in action was much more familiar. The smiles and laughs of time spent training in the company of others. Looks of determination as REG athlete’s took part in the time-honored uphill running time trial (where the Midwest collectively looks at other regions of the US and says “we can climb too!”). And the studious scene of some of the region’s best athletes listening to US Ski and Snowboard Sport Development Director Bryan Fish as he presented to them a blueprint for achieving the dreams that each athlete in that room came to the sport of skiing with.
The whole week played a crucial role in giving athlete’s an important focused training experience to build their summer training around, but also helping stoke and keep the spirit of Nordic skiing that has seen the sport’s development reach new heights in the United States. It was, in other words, just what skiers have been coming to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to do since Nordic skiing got its start in the United States, and will, as always, be a bright indication for the sport’s future!