The skate sprint at US Nationals. I qualified well, but went down in the quarterfinal and did not advance. (Photo: Bert Boyer)

The skate sprint at US Nationals. I qualified well, but went down in the quarterfinal and did not advance. (Photo: Bert Boyer)

Back in October, when I was laying out my season with my coach, I asked him how I should plan my season. Should I expect to go to U23s and race the second half of the season in Europe or should I see how it plays out and plan as I go? Luckily, he was way more confident in me than I was at that point in the season and he told me to plan everything expecting to make the U23 team. So I did, still unsure of my abilities. On the last day of US Nationals, I was in seventh place on the U23 list and with the US team only taking five to Europe I figured I needed to finish top three in the last race, the classic sprint, to qualify. I ended up finishing second and booked my ticket to Munich that day to leave on Monday, in three days. I made it to Europe on Tuesday the 14th, a week ahead of the rest of the team and took the train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I decided to do this instead of going back home to Alaska so that I could adapt to being in Europe.

Easy living in Seefeld. Perfect tracks, perfect day.

Easy living in Seefeld. Perfect tracks, perfect day.

My former UAF teammate, Max Olex, helped me connect with a team in Garmisch at a place called “Haus der Athleten”. It is a boarding school for young athletes mixed with a hostel. With three meals a day, travel to skiing, and new friends to show me around town, I was in heaven. Considering I had never traveled to Europe alone before, my situation could not have turned out better.

Nordic Combined world cup. US Ski team member Taylor Fletcher heading out of the gate.

Nordic Combined world cup. US Ski team member Taylor Fletcher heading out of the gate.

While I was in Garmisch, I was able to ski twice in Seefeld, Austria, a thirty-minute drive away. My second trip down, I stayed and watched the Nordic Combined World Cup. It was awesome to see those guys crush it over here.

The streets of Toblach with the Dolomites always in view.

The streets of Toblach with the Dolomites always in view.

After a week in Garmisch, I made the five hour train ride to Toblach, Italy. Even though I had planned everything out to the T, it was still incredibly stressful. Since I was hauling around two sixty-pound bags including a ski bag and since I had some tight transfers, I wasn’t able to get a ticket before I got on the Italian trains. I know nothing about traveling by train and the entire time I was worried whether they would catch me and leave me at the next stop. As it so happens, you can buy tickets on the train, it just costs five extra euros. Luckily, I had some cash.

I finally met up with the rest of the team here in Toblach. We are staying in a very nice hotel, getting served by a magical little man named Zigi (he literally does magic tricks for us, which has mesmerized everyone, especially Ben Saxton) three course meals. We have been skiing every morning and venturing into town in the afternoon, a 10-minute walk away.

So far, this is the best trip I have been on and it just goes to show how the US Ski Team along with NNF is stepping up their game in every way to prepare us for bigger and better things. I am really excited to start racing next week. We have a great team with high expectations. I hope we can ride the wave the world cup athletes have created for us.

Next stop, Val di Fiemme!

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