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Nordic Racing: How to Get Ridiculously Happy on Race Day

Race Resources, Tips & Ideas Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Whether you’re racing, spectating, or running support, these surprising hacks will crush stress and send your happy factor soaring.

After years of interruption due to Covid, a full-on Colorado Nordic race season is upon us! But racing doesn’t have to be all about the competition, stressful and intense with an all-or-nothing mindset. Race day for cross-country skiers has hidden joy opportunities for racers and spectators alike. Here’s how:

Scout out parking ahead of time

It may sound boring and basic, but rolling in for a race requires some strategy to avoid stressing out. Whether you’ve got a bib or want to watch, check out the race site FAQs or chat up Nordic center staff ahead of time to find out the real deal, when to arrive, and where to head. Be sure to ask if there are overflow, alternate spots, or shuttles available to help get you and your gear to the start.

Add a cowbell

That cheerful jangle can give an instant boost to a racer’s spirits. First stop? Check your home Nordic center shop first, as they likely have a stash for free or to share, and sometimes race sponsors may have some as swag at their demo tents. But these are coveted on race days, so if you come up short, surprising sources include hobby stores and farm and ranch suppliers (that’d be actual, legit bells for cows). Fun fact: Applause (or its Nordic equivalent, cowbells) is contagious and even described by social scientists as viral. Your joy will spread. 

Choose a racer to champion

Having someone to root for makes a race meaningful. So chat up a racer at the start, seek out an underdog, google last year’s second-place winner, or cheer on a friend or significant other. Hot tip: If you’re racing, pick a buddy at the start and root for each other as you go—it’ll lower anxiety, which boosts performance. 


It’s a fabulous way to meet people in the Nordic community and get a better feel for the racing lifestyle. Race organizers need help operating feed stations, checking in racers, working road or trail crossing, or helping organize parking (type A Tetris fans, that’s for you). Also cool? Volunteering has payoffs for you, including boosting self-esteem, combatting depression, releasing dopamine, providing a sense of belonging, and, if you keep at it, even lowering your mortality risk. All for handing out Honey Stinger waffles? Yes, please. 

Embrace the joy

Nordorks can be intense, but few of us are Olympics bound, so lighten up already. One of our favorite races for levity? The Alley Loop in Crested Butte, where the weirder the race costume, the better.

Join in. Want to race? Ready to volunteer? Plenty of events to choose from await.

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