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Archive for December, 2012

The SoHo Snow Serpent

30.Dec.2012 by Caitlin Patterson

Most of the GRP skiers have now descended upon Soldier Hollow, Utah, to prepare for US Nationals. Nationals start on Wednesday, January 2nd with a classic sprint race, and continue through January 8th. Along with the classic sprint, there will be a 10/15k individual start skate race, a 20/30k mass start classic race, and a skate sprint.

Soldier Hollow was fortunate to receive natural snow not too long ago, and the skiing is really quite good. However, the organizers are still manufacturing a huge quantity of snow, to ensure that the snow depth is adequate for classic tracks and clean skiing. Anyone who has wanted classic tracks the past few days has been stuck with about 1k of terrain near the lodge, though the outer loops are excellent for skating and quite good for classic without tracks. The snow piles cover about half of the sprint course as well as a few other places, and they haven’t been groomed smooth yet, which makes it somewhat difficult to ski certain loops of the trails. The piles are moderately skiable, but they’re actually pretty icy, so its not that fun to skitter across their steep sides. We heard that the sprint course may be ready for skiing tomorrow though, so I made sure to take a few pictures of the great Snow Serpent of SoHo today. The shapes of the piles and their alignment make them look like huge fins or vertebrae of a serpent.


The snow serpent from above. You can see our Craftsbury Sprinter van near the center left of the photo, which is somewhat dwarfed by the snow piles. Big snow fins.

US Nationals has been plagued by snow troubles in the past few years, so its great to see these trails looking wintery and the snow plentiful, even if some of it’s man-made. Cold temperatures and sunny days are keeping everything white and bright. Though we may still be relegated to a shortened loop, I’m crossing my fingers for a full 5k loop for the distance races. Though 3.3k is a possibility and would be quite nice too.


On a different note, after racing in the Canmore World Cups, I headed home to Alaska for the holidays.

The World Cup races were quite the experience – eye-opening, challenging, and inspiring. Beyond the racing, the atmosphere itself was very festive and fun. I know Ida and Pat posted lots of photos already, but here’s one more… a bunch of school kids and other spectators slide down a hill towards the parking lot, instead of waiting to walk the stairs, after the men’s 15k classic. Everyone was enthusiastic and happy to watch the skiing, but when the race was over, it was time to get down from the course and go do something else.

Alaska was cold, but it was very nice to be at home.  Within the first few days, I had seen at least 10 moose while driving around town or skiing.  My cats were not quite sure if they remembered me at first, but they quickly came around and we played lots of games and they chased balls and feathers all over the house.  On Christmas day it started snowing mid-morning and continued through much of the day, and I went on an evening ski with my parents and brother under the lights.

On the solstice I helped coach at the 2nd annual Lickety Splits Camp for kids – we had around 100 kids ages 7-11, ready to brave the cold to play skiing games and have some active fun. We took this picture at the end of the skiing session, after quite a few kids had retreated inside. (Photo by Janice Tower)

On December 22nd and 23rd I raced in the Besh Cups, Alaska’s equivalent to Eastern Cups, and I was 2nd place in both the classic sprint and the 5k skate.  We were lucky to be able to race the 2nd day, and the race was nearly cancelled due to the cold, but after a 1.5 hr delay it was supposedly above  -4F.

I was trying to protect my lungs from the cold, so I wore an Airtrim mask for many of my skiing sessions. After around an hour and a half of skiing on one of the colder days, I didn’t realize anything funny had happened, but I had in fact grown an ice beard. A good reminder of how much water can be lost just from breathing.


Make sure you don’t miss the Fasterskier article about Susan’s race at Schalke, it sounds fascinating. (

Racing excitement here in Utah will commence in a few days, we’ll try to keep you posted!

Canmore WC

28.Dec.2012 by Patrick O'Brien

Some more pictures from the GRP skiers time in Canmore…

Riding the shuttle to the venue

Headed to the venue

Most of the WC teams stayed in three or four different hotels so we had to time our shuttle rides up to the venue from the Radisson hotel carefully.  Once the racing started the shuttle drivers did a great job ferrying athletes so we never had to wait much more than 15 minutes before another bus would come along.

Similar to the Quebec World Cup, the event organizers provided all the athletes with a warm and well stocked lounge for changing and refueling after workouts and races.

Biathlon range house/athlete lounge

Looking out over the wax trailers and stadium area. The US wax room is second to the left. A quick trip with skis to get trailside!

The whole town was really supportive of the event going on in Canmore. The drive up the the venue was filled with flags from the different nations competing. Local school children had even drawn welcoming signs that were hung throughout the wax rooms and lodges! This sign was right inside the entrance of the warming hut for the NZ athletes

Perfect tracks every day in Canmore!

It was amazing to see the amount of time and resources involved in hosting a World Cup. Course access was tightly regulated throughout the week with designated training and wax testing times.  All athletes and servicemen had to be accredited with their specific bibs to even access the trails the days leading up to the races. I spent a few bus rides digging through my bag afraid I had forgotten my athlete bib!

Techs running countless laps and skis in the stadium area. Norway apparently brought 90 pairs of test skis- 9 sets of 10 pairs each with a different grind and hand structure applied over the top

More testing…

One aspect of a World Cup that I hadn’t given much thought to before Quebec and Canmore was the amount of work that goes into shooting and editing all the footage that goes into the TV production.  Part of the reason for such strict crowd control and the kilometers of fencing is to ensure that on race day the cameras still have clear shots of the athletes competing.  Almost every meter of the courses in Canmore were covered from some angle by TV crews either from the crane mounted stadium camera to the mobile snowmobile cameras.  The morning of the guys 15k classic race when I was skiing I had a chance to stop and talk to one of the camera boom operators who was the high point of the course practicing his shots for the upcoming race. The whole setup was really impressive and looked to take a huge amount of skill to capture the athletes whizzing by.

All the components for the boom and platform were snowmobiled 2 kilometers up to the highpoint of the course

The unit was counter-balanced with free weights and joystick operated. Left side controlled the camera zoom and angle, right side controlled the direction of the video camera at the end of the boom

The unit also had video monitors with live feeds from the TV crew directing in the stadium below. That way the production crew can instruct the camera operators to follow certain athletes as the race breaks apart or shoot a specific type of shot for the TV production

Here are some pictures I shot from the the Sprint race on Friday and the Pursuit race Saturday.  It was great to see so many US  fans out on the trails at Canmore cheering on the racers. And a big congrats to all the athletes for some great performances!

Kikkan and Sophie in their Quarterfinal

Sadie up front in her Quarter

Ida sitting in and skiing smart in her Quarter

Skyler trying to get away from Emil and the chase pack

Andy skiing smooth in the Semifinals

Kikkan passing in her Semi

Sophie in the pursuit

Caitlin switching to skate out of the stadium

Kikkan powering over the last hill into the finish of the pursuit

Ida staying strong

Caitlin into the finishing hill

Nils striding it out in the 30k

And finishing the last skating lap

Next up, Nationals in Utah!

Back to Canmore

25.Dec.2012 by Ida Sargent

Mountains, sun and great skiing! It’s great to be back in Canmore! GRP had great representation at the World Cups hosted by the Canmore Nordic Center with Pat, Caitlin, and I all racing.  (Noah Hoffman photo)


With a thick manmade base of snow, topped with natural snow made for kilometers of perfect skiing. It was a real treat! We had lots of choices of terrain to ski on as well. The XC race trails had long hard uphills, the Banff trail was more gentle rolling terrain, and the Frozen thunder loop was still open on the biathlon side but most of us skied enough of those loops in the fall. (Noah Hoffman photo)


Fast and Female took advantage of the World Cup skiers in town and hosted an event for local girls. Since we were all busy racing, we didn’t ski and the relaxed event focused on inspirational talks. All the ambassadors shared a lesson they had learned from ski racing. I spoke about balancing school and ski racing because I believe college is a great path for many young racers. My favorite speech, though, came from a Canmore World Cup Academy racer, who spoke of distracting herself from the pain during the race by visualizing herself as different animals throughout the race. For example, over a three lap race she may progress from an Albertan horse to a gazelle to a jaguar as she picked up the pace and charged for the line. We all got a good laugh and maybe I’ll give it a try sometime!


The day before each race, we do a race prep workout together as a team. This involves a L3 effort around the course and is an opportunity to warm up the engine before the hard race while experiencing the flow of the course and practicing important transitions. Skiing it as a team mimics the mass start feeling and a fun way to work together the day before the race. Here are Kikkan, Holly, Sadie, Caitlin, and myself climbing out of the stadium at the start of the L3 lap.


We were ready the next day to work together in the 10km classic mass start race. Sadie and I skied most of the race together before she dropped me going into the finish, scoring her first distance WC points with a 25th place finish! I just missed the points crossing the line right behind Holly in 31st.  Top 30 score World Cup points so 31st is never somewhere you want to be but with two races left in Canmore it left me hungry for more.  


Here’s a shot of the pack in a World Cup race. The pace usually starts out super fast and there is lots of aggressive skiing. The course in Canmore started climbing steeply out of the stadium so we were working very hard from the gun. In this race I was bib 45 so you can play “Where’s Waldo” to find me in the pack. It was fun to ski with a lot of different people including many teammates. In this shot I’m following my former Dartmouth teammates Rosie Brennan and Sophie Caldwell so it kind of felt like we were working together for an EISA carnival race!


Skate sprint day! I narrowly sneaked into the heats with a 28th place finish but I was able to move up from there. In the qualifier I went too hard on the top of the hill and my legs were dead. So in the quarterfinal I tucked in the back of the pack and was able to draft the big downhill and move up to second in the final sprint, advancing to the semifinal. I did ski tactically as well in the semifinal and found my self on the opposite side of the draft. This time I was the one being passed in the final meters and I had to settle for 5th in my heat. This was still my best ever skate sprint finish with a 10th place overall. I’m still learning a lot about the tactics of the sprint heats as each one plays out a bit differently. (Rob Whitney photo)


Kikkan, Andy, and I at the awards with Klister the Canada World Cup mascot.  The podium won cowboy hats so that will be a fun prize for Kikkan to travel with for the rest of the season.

The sprint day was another great day for our team with Kikkan finishing 2nd, Andy 5th, and Skyler, Sophie, and Sadie all skiing fast qualifiers and racing in the heats. Here are Kikkan, Andy, and I at the awards ceremony with Klister the Canada World Cup mascot. The podium won cowboy hats so that will be a fun prize for Kikkan to travel with for the rest of the season.

The last race day was a 15km pursuit race so 7.5km of classic skiing, a quick transition to skate gear, and then 7.5km of skate racing. After getting too excited in the previous 10km mass start race and wasting a lot of energy trying to move up too quickly from my poor start position, this time I focused on staying controlled and moving up slowly when openings arise. The pack strung out quickly with the fast pace set by Justyna Kowalczyk but I stayed relaxed, hoping I would have opportunities to move up during the long race if I skied within my own limits. This turned out to be a much better strategy. (Rob Whitney photo)


More skiing with teammates! Here Holly leads Kikkan and I during the classic section of the pursuit.  

I continued to move up during the race and really surprised myself with a 14th place finish on the day, my best distance World Cup finsh by far! I had fast skis and my body felt good. It takes a lot of races but when everything comes together it sure is fun! These races were great way to end Period One of the World Cup.

Happy Holidays!  Keep the snow dances rolling!

Bozeman Video Blog, Starring Bryan Cook

20.Dec.2012 by Gordon Vermeer


Check ‘er out! The third blog in our video series has an interview with Bryan and some footage of the races there:

Watch on YouTube


Missed the first two? Find them on youtube here and here.