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Archive for December, 2011

So Long, And Thanks For All The FIsh

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Well, it’s been fun – but that’s all from Kieran Jones.

My two World Cup-weekend swing to Europe brings to a close my time at FasterSkier. In case anyone thought otherwise, they were both awesome, eye-opening, and unbelievably.

My writing for FasterSkier is going to be on hiatus for at least for the next four months, as I focus solely on coaching (the 40-odd athletes from 15-17 years old at Nakkertok Ski Club), and traveling around to a number of different awesome locations doing splits, waxing skis, and sleeping far less than I would choose to on my own.

The experience I have had at FasterSkier has been, in a word, great. I’ve always been a fan of skiing, as well as writing. FasterSkier put me in a position to see the ski world happening up close, to get in touch with hundreds of different people, to write stories I wanted to write, and most importantly to me, create a platform for Canadian skiing news.

But it almost didn’t happen. I appreciate the leap taken by Topher, Matt, and Nat when they selected me as an intern in the summer of 2010, picking this random kid from a no-where town in Canada who had no journalism experience, used a writing sample from his school ski team’s blog to apply, and literally had to have his hand held the first time through WordPress. I leaved heavily on my sense of humor, and the hope that people would appreciate it – like Nat and Toph most of you seem to have stuck with me on that front, and understood that ski journalism can be fun, exciting, interesting, and completely different from anything you usually read.

Nat especially had to suffer me longer and more intensely than anyone else – being my first point of contact, he was the primary editor of the really stinky stuff during the first four months, and thereafter. He had to endure long and painful Skype calls where he was forced to explain the basics of writing, interviewing, and why the U.S. keep running sprint qualifier-only sprint races when the rest of the world runs heats (but I digress…).

To all those who took the time to talk to me, sit through a painful interview, answered questions while grocery shopping, or did a post-race interview phone call during the Super Bowl (that would be Drew Goldsack), and thereby gave me the information needed to write stories, I thank you.

To all those who I talked to and never managed to turn your interview into a story – I’m apologize. I can only do so much – the fault was not with you, but me.

To all those who read, commented, pointed out mistakes, or gave me feedback personally or via e-mail, thanks. Your interest and enthusiasm pushed me to work harder.

To all those who hated everything I wrote – you’re in luck, you no longer have to see my by-line on the homepage!

But I do still have some loose ends to tie up. I have a few short articles that I want to finish and post before Christmas, and I want to stay in touch, maybe with some continued Canadian content, and I still follow the World Cup more than avidly, which can result in the occasional preview-writing experience.

I won’t flatter myself – I don’t imagine my departure will be much of a loss. Audrey Mangan and Alex Matthews have been home-runs in their short time at FasterSkier, and as the race season progresses, no doubt they will get even better. And I wasn’t much use last winter, as most people noticed.

The one thing I do hope for? A continuation of the Canadian presence – there is currently no dedicated Canadian ski news website in existence, and that hurts Canadian skiing. If you hadn’t picked up on the fact, I’m Canadian, and intensely proud of our ski program, skiers, and accomplishments, and feel they deserve more coverage.  Not just with their decision to hire me, FasterSkier has admirably stepped into that void in the last year or so, and I believe that they will continue to lead in that department.

I’m going to continue updating this blog for the winter – I have some back-bloggage to file, including my recent European adventures, a lobster-eating mess with Nat last summer, and I also hope that my winter will produce some interesting tidbits.

For now, be satisfied with a picture from the press conference last weekend in Davos:

World-exclusive photo of Kikkan having a rad time with Emil during the press conference in Davos, Switzerland last Sunday.

Yeap, Europe!

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

It’s kind of crazy to think that in less than 24 hours, I will be on a plane to Europe. For the first time in my life, I will be leaving North America.

Sure, call me a homer, or lame, or unworldly or whatever, but I don’t care I have never been off this continent – I am pumped to do it now, and in style.

Where am I off to? The first stop is in Dusseldorf, Germany, followed up by what seems to be the Canadian National Team coffee-drinking mecca that is Davos, Switzerland. I’m hitting both for their respective World Cup stops, which should be epic.

There is a little back-story to how this adventure came about.

First off, I should say that the Dusseldorf World Cup weekend has had me hooked from the first time I discovered it. Dusseldorf is like the crack-cocaine of my ski world – so much so that I even brought it up when I first applied to be an intern at FasterSkier. While I would like to share that initial enthusiastic offering, I am far too embarrassed about it to copy it onto my blog for others to read – Topher, Matt, and Nat will just have to snicker quietly from home.

It’s always been this idle dream – I can’t count the number of times my roommates, teammates or family members have heard me talk out my ass about how I was going to somehow organize my life so I could go to D-Dorf and Davos, the two most highly regarded locations on the World Cup tour, at least in my mind.

And I always that it was just that – brainless chatter that I could never back up (I have a tendency to do that around vacations – I’ll explain why later).

So when I got into the following conversation on Skype this past fall, you could understand why I got excited.

[19/09/2011 9:46:38 AM] [Name Removed For Privacy]: Hey you should come to dusseldorf, mom and dad are talking about it.

[19/09/2011 9:46:46 AM] Kieran Jones: whaaat??

[19/09/2011 9:47:11 AM] Kieran Jones: that would be great

[19/09/2011 9:47:15 AM] [Name Removed For Privacy]: yep that’s what dad said in a text yesterday’

Allright, so I better disclose at this point that I’m going with my parents. They’re awesome for letting me tag on, and we get on pretty well (the three of us also went to the Olympics together, and all came back in one piece, although it was touch and go when a buddy and I set the fire alarm off one night at midnight making some inebriated nachos).

They’re also damn good ski fans. They read FasterSkier, mostly to correct my grammar, like their Canadians, and take some rad pictures, including a batch at World Championships last year in Oslo. Suffice it to say they know what they’re doing a heck of a lot more than I do.

My Dad took this one of a bunch of Norwegians and their home-theatre setup along the trails at World Champs last year.

But back to me, and going to Europe. Now, before you think I’m just going to strap on some skis, pound some German beers, and eat Swiss chocolate, check yourself – it’s hardly going to be a full-blown tourist-wander through Europe, or a Cancun-debauchery style vacation.

In fact, it kind of irks me when people call it a ‘vacation’ – my primary purpose in heading to the two World Cup stops is to provide FasterSkier with some wicked on-site coverage. And I’m pretty sure that isn’t exactly going to be a walk in the park in two countries where I don’t speak the language (German 101 in university doesn’t really count), have never done the on-site World Cup reporter thing before, and am doing it without any other more experienced FasterSkier staffers to lean on. Although Nat did call to give me a good pep talk today – expect me to get all up in Emil Joensson’s grill about his thigh injury – if he even starts.

I’m preparing myself to work hard, learn a lot, and hopefully come back fully employed by FIS (just kidding Topher, and any Nakkertok coaches/athletes/parents reading this).

But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the whole trip is somewhat anxiety-producing. This week as I have scrambled to get organized, I remembered why it is that I have not missed more than ten Nakkertok practices since I was hired by the club 16 months ago. (While that may not seem like a lot to some people, multiply roughly 3 practices a week x however many weeks that is – it’s a lot.)

It’s way more work to organize yourself to go away than to just stay here. There are a million tiny reasons that come up, and a ton of things I know other people can handle just as well or better than me. In the back of my head, I know my athletes won’t all fall to pieces, explode, or run amok in 14 days, but it’s still tough to disappear.

But now it’s less than 24 hours away; I can’t back out, I’m locked in, and it’s going to be awesome. Stay tuned for more notes and thoughts in the next 14 days!

Anyways, here’s some random things that I have been doing/thinking about the last couple of weeks:

-          This past weekend I went to Foret Montmorency, north of Quebec City, to get a little bit of early season skiing in. Oh yeah, and I brought 40, (yeah, that’s four-zero) athletes along with me. Talk about a long weekend.

-          The best part about the trip to Foret was the massive numbers of Americans on location for the weekend. My favorite part was during one specific meeting where all the coaches were brought together to discuss shared snow usage. One unnamed coach opened with “well, we have an off day tomorrow, so we’re clear.” Wait, you scheduled an off day during a four-day on-snow training camp? Allright…

-          Not sure why there were Americans in Quebec at all. I thought they were all over in West Yellowstone…there probably would have been more skiing.

-          Packing for this trip to Europe has been interesting. I bought some new luggage, which is exciting because for the last 5 years I’ve used the same massive black hockey-style bag that is falling apart and makes me look like a goon on trips.

-          I bought new snow tires and rims this week, which were desperately needed. The tires on my car barely grip the road when it’s dry and sunny – if the pavement gets a little chilly they start slipping, much less snow and slush. On the plus side, I feel like an F1 racer, because any time the weather is bad, I don’t take my car anywhere.

-          It’s difficult to imagine some days, but outside of skiing I do actually lead some sort of life. This month it has been mostly about going to NHL hockey games with my roommates, who are a good bunch of dudes. Unlike this guy we found drinking his beer out of a straw while wearing a New York Rangers Sean Avery jersey. I didn’t even want to know what he had to say.

Yeah, this guy. If you're going to support to Blueshirts in Ottawa, at least buy a Marian Gaborik jersey, you dink.

-          Len Valjas’ moustache combined with his fifth-place finish in the Kuusamo classic sprint last weekend is the early leader for performance of the World Cup season. I’m going to ask him so many moustache related questions in the mixed zone in D-Dorf, it won’t even be funny. I hope he gets on the podium, and then at the post-race press conference when they take questions from the floor, I can get that one in.

-          I feel oddly confused about preview season ending. On one hand, it’s a massive amount of work – on the other, it’s the thing I am most proud of during my time here at FasterSkier. If you didn’t catch any of 23 Teams in 23 Days, you should go back and take a look. It’s always a surprise what I turn up, or what turns up after I post them – like Estonia’s major newspaper picking up the Estonian preview. I wonder how well my humour translates…

-          There is nothing I hate more than coming home from a trip to no food. When I’m tired, grumpy, hungry, and angry at the world after consecutive 16 hour days, I should really have something other than beer in the fridge. It’s not conducive to anything.

-          Before I headed to Quebec, I got on snow in Ottawa! It was a bit greasy, but I hammered along the Ottawa River not far from my house between 6:30 and 8:00 AM one morning, mostly just so I could tell people I had been skiing.

By the end of our time at Foret, this bridge was a bit bare...

-          My goal is to update this blog fairly frequently while I’m away, at least with short anecdotes, pictures, and hilarious back stories about getting lost in a country I don’t really understand. Stay tuned, or follow me on Twitter (yeah, personal plug there) @joneskieran.