This is Amelia Circosta from the Craftsbury Ski Club in Vermont! I’m reporting on my recent trip to Falun, Sweden with the U18 Nordic Nation’s trip, made possible by NNF. In short, the entire week was incredible, with a emphasis on a great finish to a week full of new experiences for me and my teammate’s from across the country.
Saturday the 20th started out with disappointment, but it just got better from there: The temperature for the 10 k Classic distance race hung precariously around the legal minimum to race, and when the thermometer dipped below the limit, the race had to be delayed until the next day. We had all been rearing to get on our skis and go fast, but, on the bright side, the cancellation gave us a chance to discover what Sweden was like outside of the ski venue and to feel well-rested for the last race day.
Instead of racing, we found ourselves deep underground in Falun’s UNESCO World Heritage Copper mine, winding through dimly lit chambers and unsuccessfully dodging the dripping water coming down through the rocks. It was humbling to think about all of the people who worked in such horrible conditions during the 1,000 years (!) that the mine was in operation.
After this dose of culture and history, we emerged and made our way back to the hotel, where we watched some inspiring World Cup classic racing to get our heads into the next day’s races. The temperature was stubbornly parked around -10°F, but many of us still headed out for a shake-out ski that evening on the beautifully lit wooded trails. Each teammate had exactly in mind what he or she needed to do to feel primed for the final race, and we were all ready to send it on Sunday for the Classic 10 k interval start.
The next day’s temperature being much more merciful, I ditched the face tape and buff for face glitter and red, white, and blue hair ribbons. The boys ripped it up on course while the girls warmed up, then they re-grouped as the loudest and most enthusiastic cheer squad ever for the girls’ race! I’m usually deep in my own zone during races, but there was just no way to miss all that yelling and hollering. That sure helped me get up those vicious climbs on the distance course. I definitely think that the Swedes could take some cheering lessons from the US team.
After the awards, the energy and hype were high during the chaos of cleaning, travel waxing, and packing all of the skis at the team wax cabin. The excitement carried late into the night with an expedition to the ski jump hills for some epic sliding. Without proper sleds, ski jackets did the trick, but a plastic shopping bag was definitely the hot set-up for maximum speed. The next morning, we headed to Stockholm, where we enjoyed our last day in Sweden, exploring the beautiful streets of the Old Town, taking time to unwind in a sauna and outdoor pool, and filling up an entire hotel conference room with our impressive pile of luggage.
For me, this was a trip of new experiences. I had never been to Europe before, much less traveled solo, and I had never raced in a United States uniform (…pretty sure patriotic pride makes you faster!). There were new teammates, new coaches, new race courses, a new time zone and latitude, and delicious new foods. I learned to adjust quickly and prepare well for racing while traveling and living in a different place, practiced assessing an unfamiliar and exciting course, and experimented with the capabilities of my new race suit to accommodate a startling number of underlayers. It was an incredible learning opportunity that was very motivating to me. How couldn’t this experience make me want to strive to be the very best skier and the very best teammate that I can become? When everyone went separate ways in the airport to disperse all around the US and back to our respective clubs, I took a moment to appreciate how well we came together into such a strong team for this trip.
A big shout-out goes to the awesome coaches on the trip, who not only offered great advice, prepared perfectly fast skis, and kept us all organized, but who were also wonderful humans. We won’t forget how Adam introduced us to Swedish pop during the van rides, Matt organized a team bonding ping-pong tournament, Dr. Katie kept us feeling patriotic and proud to be Americans, and Greta was the organizational wizard that kept the whole thing together and moving in the right direction.
I know that I won’t ever take opportunities like this one for granted. Thank you NNF for making the U18 Nordic Nation’s trip possible! And thank you to my home team of Craftsbury for the continued coaching and support. Without such an incredible ski community, none of this would be possible.
Amelia Circosta, Craftsbury Ski Club, Team USA
(Photos: Courtesy Images/Dr. Katie Eichten)