The Season Begins

A lot has happened since my last post. After I got back from Montana, the team went straight to snow in Hatcher Pass. Here is a video of our early season training thanks to my teammate Reese Hanneman.

And another from West Yellowstone, Montana.

After training in Anchorage for a month, we started our race season. We went back to Montana to race in West Yellowstone and Bozeman. My races did not go like I had hoped in West Yellowstone but I started to come around for Bozeman. Unfortunately, sometimes weather comes in the way of feeling good and the race directors were forced to cancel the classic sprint, my favorite race, because it was too cold. They raced the 15k classic the next day in some of the coldest weather I have ever raced in. Since I spent the last four years in Fairbanks, I should know how to race in the cold, but I was still under prepared. I was happy to finish and satisfied with my race as a nice stepping-stone to where I want to be.

Reese on the skate sprint podium in West Yellowstone!
Easy day in Rossland. Winter wonderland.

After Bozeman, the team went up to Rossland, British Columbia to race the Canadians for the weekend. I qualified for the skate sprint, which was a huge confidence booster after having missed many in the past year.

My teammates had a really good start to the year, accumulating five podiums in the first three weekends. Even when I do not do as well as I hope, it really helps to have teammates do well and bring up the mood, especially when we near the last part of a trip.

Erik Bjornsen winning the skate sprint in Rossland.

Even more importantly than early season racing, I held the third annual, Lickety-Splits Ski Camp for Kids! It is a one-day camp I started in 2011. The first two years, we had about 100 and 90 kids respectively. This year, we have 120. My idea for the camp was to start to get my generation of elite athletes more involved with the next generation. Hopefully in a few years, Anchorage will have many more. I know that when I was younger, any interaction with an athlete, at any level, meant the world and I hope Lickety-Splits can encourage some of these kids to ski for the rest of their lives.

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The day after the camp, I raced the Bech Cup classic sprint and the skate 15k the following day. They both went well and I left the weekend excited for US Nationals.  Normally, the Anchorage Besh Cups are the premiere race of the season in Alaska, but this year we also have Spring Series in March. Alaskans have very few chances to race in front of friends and family, so we are very excited to be hosting this year.

Reese (National Classic Sprint Champion), Eric, and me in the Final. (Photo: Charlie Renfro)
Reese (National Classic Sprint Champion), Eric, and me in the Final. (Photo: Charlie Renfro)

In my next post, I will update you on my adventures in Utah for US Nationals and the plan for the rest of my season.