COVID may be tinkering with our event and travel planning, but it hasn't changed the ingrained timeline Nordic skiers live and train by — the January/February race season, the time when we aim to be at the peak of our winter fitness.
It's the culmination of fall training and early winter workouts, and a highlight of the season for those who love crushing goals, traveling the mountains, and rubbing shoulders with the speedsuit set. But it's also a great carrot for intermediate skiers to help them focus on a goal and improve basic skills like waxing and technique. Whether you're prepping for a race like the Alley Loop or just aiming to hack the best racing tips for more all-around skiing enjoyment, these four tips will get you ahead of the crowd.
Brian Seppala is a former collegiate racer and coaches middle-school Nordic racers in Grand county, and the first thing Seppala nails down is a condo or hotel room with a kitchen. "No joke, that is something a lot of people overlook," he says. "Having to try and find a spaghetti joint at the same time 200 other people are in a town looking for the same damn spaghetti is not my idea of fun. Or at least make a reservation at a place to eat well before you get there. The less you have to worry about before a race, the better, and food and shelter are the number one worries!" Bonus points if you figure out your race-day parking situation in advance as well, he adds.
Why do Nordic skiers like to race? In Steve Hindman's book Cross-Country Skiing for Fun and Fitness, he emphasizes that racing is about people: "Socializing and camaraderie attract skiers to racing at all levels." Translation: we Nordorks are a pretty good time. Nordic culture is reliably laid-back and the community is friendly and small, making catching up with the usual suspects over a post-race beer a draw. It's also a great way to find other skiers at your level and connect with potential training or travel buddies.
Be on form.
Former Olympian Jana Hlavaty, manager of Keystone Cross Country Center, offers this advice: "When you feel tired—racing or just training—tell yourself 'relax, don't try as hard, ski pretty…relax shoulders, breathe deep, relax arms, push off from your legs with a snap, try to glide longer." Trying too hard uses up too much energy and your skiing becomes less fluid.
Hlavaty's power tip? "Training counts. Skiing without poles while you are training makes you use the real power generator: Your legs."
When you're training, race a friend. Bring your dog. Chase your kids. Nordic racer and endurance coach Joe Howdyshell of Summit Endurance Academy says, "Your skills will improve drastically if you let yourself mess around. So go ahead and hit jumps, skip on skis, try to do standing 180s." When training feels like play, we're more likely to dive in and stick with it.