I must apologize for the lack of updates for the last while.
The ski season came to an end for me on April 21. It was a long season, but I’m actually still feeling really good. If someone had asked me to race for another month I think I would have said yes, I would have been on autopilot, but my body seemed to be doing all right!
Lets see, I’ll start with the most recent events for now. I decided to go with the Burke Mountain Academy trip to Scandinavia for three weeks this April. The purpose of this trip for me was to gain experience. So after some fundraising efforts I jumped on a plane and headed for Stockholm. I left a day earlier then the rest of the group so I could go for a bit of a tour. The problem was that I didn’t make it past the shopping area! There is definetly a lot going on in that beautiful city! The next day I met the rest of the group at the Airport and we drove a few hours to Gavle, a beautiful port town home to Gavle coffe just north of Stockholm. The next day we drove up to Pitea where we would be racing a 3.3km prologue and a 10km classic pursuit race. Unfortunatly I was a little fatigued from travel and work before I left that I didn’t have the same effortless feeling I had been enjoying for the month of March, I felt more like I was swimming, not a good thing to feel if you are wanting to ski fast. However I think that both days woke my body up a bit and I started to feel better by the time we left Pitea. The course in Pitea was amazing! I love hills, so when we arrived at the race site I was pumped to see that we would be going up an alpine hill!
We did a long ski before we left for Finland on mostly single track trail that wound its way up the “escarpment” into the reforestation clearcuts, it was here we had our first reindeer experience! Sara and I saw 4 reindeer running down the ski trail- it was pretty awesome!
After Pitea we loaded up the skis and luggage (along with our slightly bruised egos…I know I felt very humbled after those races!) and headed for Finland. We would be racing in three towns along the Tornio river: Tornio, Pello and Yllas. Our home base was in Pello which had some amazing ski trails! The first race I was really excited for as I could feel my body coming back around into shape and I finished 5th in the 5km skate, the next day in Pello I finished 6th, but was definetly fighting tooth and nail for that result, Yllas was a learning experience and I found out why you have to be prepared and organized and above all focussed and ready to race- if you don’t do all those things in Europe you will leave the site extremely dissapointed. Most of us were happy to leave Finland as the weather wasn’t really cooperating with our “spring skiing holiday” mentality. So we drove for 13hours to Bruksvallarna.
Bruksvallarna is quite possibley the most amazing ski destination I have ever been. Our hotel, the Walles Hotel was situated part way up one of the Valley mountains and had ski trails 10m from our door step, coupled with amazing food and great company, I’m not sure life gets any better! The next morning we were all excited to explore the trails, so Sara, Liza and our Swedish tour guide Erik headed out for some phenomenal crust skiing. I had no idea you could ski EVERYWHERE!! Most of the trail system is above the tree line, so you can just zoom around the mountains- its a pretty surreal feeling! I definetly didn’t want to stop skiing that day, in fact I think if I was out there any longer I would have pulled over to join someone in their sun pit and have a bbq!
The races in Bruksvallarna were a lot of fun. I loved that it was a festival and sort of a end of the year celebration, it kept the energy around the trails high! The 26km mass start started in the town of Bruksvallarna and then gradually went to the base of the ski hill. From there we went straight up for 3km! It was AMAZING. At the top of the course there was a sprint preem and I lost focus for just a bit and lost the pack- I think I was still in a bit of shock that I could actually ski with the lead group! From there it was a mix of gradual downhill which actually felt like it was flat or uphill because the snow was transforming on the middle of the track where skiers had gone over it and then there was cold dry powder=slow! on the sides, so you had to just keep pushing in one-skate and two-skate even on the downhills!
The next day was the skier cross. Now, I have to mention I am a menace on the downhills on a good day, so the prospect of me actually doing some “extreme skiercross” event was unlikely. None-the-less I needed to improve my confidence and entered anyway. The morning of the race we woke up to highwinds and cold temperatures. Sara, Liza and I skied up to where the start would be, but there was no one there, so we put on our helmuts (that you HAVE to rent…that should have been my first clue of what I was getting myself into!) and skied down the mountain. Because of the wind and cold the trail was super fast and icy, but with ruts from the melt-freeze and it hadn’t been re-groomed, I snowplowed for what seemed like forever and decided right then that I wasn’t going to do the race. Turns out it was a good decision, as we worked our way down the course there were trees wrapped in padding and kids flying by at crazy speeds. So instead I snowplowed through the “glades” with my helmut on…kind of a funny picture! Three girls with white helmuts with snowflakes on them “tree skiing” on cross country skiis…it was a perfect way to end the season!
It was a great trip and I strongly urge other skiiers to take this opportunity again if comes up. Pete Philips did a phenomenal job of planning the trip for us, there would be no way we could have done it alone!
Enjoy the photos, most were taked by Sara Hewitt, Liza Goodwin and Erik Neillson