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Nationals Notes: Friday Brings Maiden Voyage for New Kincaid Sprint Course

Throwback Thursday: Erik Soederstroem (UAF) glides across the line with teammate Tyler Kornfield (UAF) outlunging Mike Hinckley (APU/Rossignol) for second in the classic sprint final at 2010 U.S. nationals at Kincaid.

By Gavin Kentch

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Wednesday saw the first races of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, the 10- and 15-kilometer freestyle interval starts. Friday brings the first sprint day, with qualification for the skate sprint going off at 10 a.m. local time, slightly before the sun officially rises at 10:10 a.m. (Welcome to Anchorage in January.)

To help you get ready for sprinting, here’s U.S. nationals chief of competition and longtime Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) operator/groomer Matt Pauli with some thoughts on the theory and practice of sprint course design and operation, and what athletes can expect to see on the new-and-improved Kincaid sprint course. Hint: Advances in classic skiing technology in the past decade have something to do with it.

(FasterSkier spoke with Pauli in-person in early December, sitting in a wood-paneled Pipeline-era ATCO trailer nestled near the NSAA Operations Bunker just up the hill from the Kincaid Stadium. This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.)

FasterSkier: So let’s start at the beginning. When was the first sprint race at Kincaid?

Matt Pauli: Actually and formally, at 1999 JNs [Junior Nationals], they initiated the first prologue, which was a short event, but not quite a sprint. I think Rob Whitney was racing then; I think he cleaned up that day. But the way the sprint rules evolved, you started seeing them in early World Championships in ’99, probably 2001, and then the first Olympics in 2002. So it evolved from there.

FS: So it’s the Kikkan Era, basically.

MP: It’s that, and maybe it’s a specialization era, too. I think that’s what I notice. … It’s just evolving, the way I think the sport has always evolved.

FS: Can you tell us about the history of the sprint loop at Kincaid?

MP: You look at [the hill to the immediate northeast edge of the main Kincaid Stadium] – some people call it the Junior Nordic Hill, I call it the Play Hill, and I think it’s more or less going to be taking the name of the Gong Hill – that all used to be trees. The only trail going through it was Margaux’s Loop. And that was it.

So I think Bill Spencer was in a little bit on clearing, and what we can do with that area. I think also Ben Powell, Mike Miller, me to a lesser extent. Then shortly after that we started getting the snowmaking, and those types of things. I can’t put an exact date on when the area was cleared out, but certainly it had to be in 2005, 2006, because that’s when the first piping started going up there for snowmaking. That was the vision, to go up that way.

FS: When you say, “Let’s design a sprint loop,” I’m taking it as a given that you pretty much have to start from the stadium, because that’s where all the infrastructure is. Taking that as your starting variable, what else do you think about in setting up the sprint loop?

MP: Certainly for the athletes, [you think about] technical challenge, testing all the different techniques, turning techniques, ascending, descending. Providing areas where athletes can overtake each other. Ensuring that it’s a sprint loop that falls within a time frame that it doesn’t become a distance course.

What I’ve heard, and information passed on to me, and just what I’ve observed when I’ve got to serve on juries at World Cups and such, is you’re looking at 3 to 3 1/2 minutes [time for an athlete to ski the sprint course]. And that way it gives the spectators something to see, it gives the athletes good recovery time before the next heat, and it keeps the competition, particularly World Cup, World Championships, anything that’s televised, within a certain time period. Spectator-friendly – they’ve got to see it. That’s the whole reason, I think, behind it. Another big reason is that you want to be close to the spectators, you want people to see the competition.

There’s probably a myriad of other things that you can throw in there for homologation, but the general theory is: competitiveness, fair, safe, spectator appeal, and in some instances TV appeal, too.

The old sprint course at Kincaid, used from the late 2000s through last season. The largest climb, of 17 meters vertical gain, comes in the course’s first climb starting at around the 200-meter mark, with smaller rolling hills following. (Screenshot: 2017 Seawolf Invitational race program)

FS: So that was the first sprint loop, and we all skied on it for a decade or so, and there were two national championships held on it (in 2009 and 2010). So, did it work? Was it a course that did the things you just described?

MP: I think it worked, up until getting some comments last year about double poling. And deep back in my mind, I already knew that, just from every fall I used to attend the FIS meeting in Zurich, just to get an idea. And I remember last fall, 2016, the FIS hierarchy, Vegard Ulvang, just producing all these videos of youngsters starting to double pole just about everything, and how classic technique “needs to be preserved.”

And knowing that here at Kincaid we just have – we’re a nonprofit, in a public park, you just can’t do what you want. It has to be feasible, and it has to meet whatever plan they have for the park, as well. So I knew right away that I wasn’t going to be cutting new trails. I might be working on some trees – or, as we like to call them, “shrubs” – to make it a better course, make it a safer course when you throw the safety aspect in there.

The whole aspect is that we’re not going to be doing wholesale trail work. So I think, from the Zurich meetings, and knowing that watching [the classic sprint at] Besh Cup last year, watching actually Besh Cups throughout the last three or four years, watching college races that decide to run a sprint – I never thought our sprint course was a bad course, ’cause I got anecdotal good feedback saying, “Hey, this is really spectator-friendly.” … I think for the most part, our sprint loop is pretty much visible during the competition.

FS: If the course works well, why change it? Is it safe to say this is largely responsive to changes in classic skiing over the past decade?

MP: Yeah, that has a pretty significant bearing on it.

The new sprint course at Kincaid, to be officially used for the first time on Friday morning, Jan. 4. The largest climb is now 24 vertical meters, and occurs after 750 meters, roughly the midway point of the course. (Screenshot: U.S. nationals course maps page)

FS: Let’s talk about the new course. Can you just walk me through what it looks like, and what it’s designed to do, and how it came to be?

MP: Now, the climbs that are associated with this one, I met with [USST Development Coach] Bryan Fish and [U.S. Ski & Snowboard nordic domestic program director] Robert Lazzaroni, they passed through on their way home after Spring Nationals [in April 2017]. … I said, “This is what I think would work pretty well.” And that meant starting higher up on the plain [in the central stadium area] by the Lekisch tunnels, and cutting up in front of the Gong Hill, toward the Bunker Tunnel. And then dropping down to what we call the low point, or the Frog Pond.

And then climbing out of there again – that climb sets it up that, number one, I’m trying to limit double poling the entire thing. Throwing that dogleg in there for the final, you take that left-hand turn and you still have to climb to the top, you’re going to lose all your momentum there in a double pole. And there’s no way, on some of those 17 to 19 percent grades, you’re going to be able to pick up that momentum. Certainly you can herringbone up it, that’s a diagonal technique. But I think from a standpoint of pushing your way up it in a double pole – maybe in another couple of years. (laughs) It’s only going to evolve. But that’s, I think, one of the main reasons to switch things around.


It still follows the same line of coming back off the top, the men going behind and the women coming across what I call the Saddle, where the gong is, and then dropping down back into the north end of the stadium. And doing a really good 180 at the bottom. There’s a big arc right there. It’s wide, it’s not off-camber. There’s some narrow bits coming back into the main race trail, where the old sprint loop used to finish. But once you get there … if that’s a chokepoint, if we have to widen in regards to snow or what you have to.

But it just follows the regular path in. Which is a good finish from the standpoint of, you know, you have a 1.5, 2 percent [uphill] grade to the finish [on the final straightaway through the stadium to the finish line, visible in the background of the top photo in this article].

And you know, I would like to see 3 percent, actually. But I’ve been in stadiums at championship venues that had 5 percent. I think that, for having a 100-meter straight stretch, it just so happened to work out. And certainly the grade’s kind of changed with the artificial snow on top, when we push that out – but at the same time, we still keep the original finish zone [in front of the timing building].

FS: Is it quote-unquote “good” or “bad” that you have to change the course like this to react to changes in classic skiing, or just neutral?

MP: I think it’s neutral. Certainly any time you go through a homologation, there’s a cost involved. I have to get an inspector out here, and … that’s a $600 fee. And each certificate application, each certificate, has a fee. So there’s always those costs that can be borne by the event, borne by the Organizing Committee. I’m not getting paid, but I still gotta collect the data. And then at that point it becomes time. Because I have to – I’m not a map guy, so I go to my friends at CRW Engineering, and I can bug the hell out of them, and they go, “Oh, I’ll put someone right on it.” So there’s certainly people’s time involved.

FS: We’ve talked about changes in classic skiing over the past ten years, and why that was a main reason for changing around the sprint course. This is getting sort of inside baseball, but are there different considerations for a skate sprint than a classic sprint? Would there be anything stopping you from running two different sprint courses in one championships?

MP: The parameters for a freestyle sprint are more liberal, because we know we’re not going to be doublepoling. So that’s why you see city sprints, that’s why you see – you can basically have a freestyle sprint on a flat course, because the parameters say so. As the [homologation standard] tables indicate, there are some differences in what we would look at for classic and freestyle.

For right now, it’s just convenience. I would gladly go back to the old sprint for the freestyle. But then it means that the teams and the athletes are going to lose a ski depot. Because that’s what I designed at that south end of the stadium by the Lekisch tunnel – none of the courses go over that anymore, unless of course we’re going [on a snowmaking loop for all races]. But it’s an area where athletes, coaches, and technicians can set up their ski depot for testing skis, switching out skis, because it has direct access to the waxing areas. So that’s the main reason we’re using the same course.

Now the coaches agreed, down at the [USSA] Congress last spring, that since the freestyle sprint is first, I’m not going to have the opportunity – they’re not going to have an opportunity for training on a classic sprint course. Because the freestyle sprint is the second event, and the classic mass is the race after that. [And the classic sprint is the day immediately after that.] And I pointed that out, and apparently we can live with that. From my standpoint, I have a hard time living with that, because I haven’t had the opportunity to dial in. So, we’re going to do our best. … I just want to ensure that the course is safe, and as dialed in as I can.

*   *   *

The sprints start Friday morning with the qualification round from 10–11:30 a.m. Alaska time. The heats are scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. The heats for the junior races are scheduled to begin in the mid-afternoon, following the flower ceremonies for the senior races.


FasterSkier updates:


Start lists and results:



(should be the same feed, hosted in two different places)


General news and updates:

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Nationals Notes: Eve of 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships

Athletes getting in some race prep in the southern half of the Kincaid stadium as seen on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — One day before the first race of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, all the pieces are in place for a successful race week. Now it’s all about the weather cooperating.

Following two weeks of seasonal temperatures in the 20s and teens Fahrenheit, readings at the Kincaid Park weather station on Tuesday around 2 p.m. were around 40 degrees F. While the above-freezing temperatures and a strong south wind (which blew consistently at 20 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 37 mph) are making for thin snowpack outside of Kincaid, coverage on the snowmaking loop appears ample enough for the entire week. Everything except the top few inches of the snowpack should still be relatively firm, given the cold temperatures over the preceding two weeks.

Tuesday’s weather appears to be largely a one-day warmup. Temperatures are expected to fall back below freezing at some point Tuesday night and to stay there throughout the race week, with temperatures a seasonally appropriate 15 to 25 degrees, if closer to 30 to 32 degrees tomorrow. In the short term, current forecasts call for the possibility of a “wintry mix” on Tuesday night, with a chance of snow showers on Wednesday. Humidity is forecast to be 90 percent throughout the evening and during both races tomorrow, which is unremarkable for a venue that sits less than a kilometer from the Pacific Ocean.

Race organizers recently announced the course for Wednesday’s distance raceIt has an official length of 2.5 kilometers, but the course map provided suggests that the length may be a bit longer at 2.69 k, which would make Wednesday’s 10/15 k freestyle races 10.8 k for the women and 16.1 k for the men. The race will have a total climb of 292 meters for women and 438 meters for men, according to a 2018 U.S. Nationals press release.

In the same press release, organizers provided additional information on race-day logistics, including start times. The women’s race starts at 10 a.m. Alaska time on Wednesday, while the men start at 12:30 p.m. (10/15 k freestyle start lists: Women | Men)

The update has additional information regarding parking, warm-up areas, athlete areas, and other logistics (plus: food trucks!).

FasterSkier will have two reporters on site throughout the week, and will be providing daily coverage from Jan. 3-8. For additional information, see the links below.


FasterSkier updates:


Start lists and results:



(should be the same feed, hosted in two different places)


General news and updates:

— Gavin Kentch

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Nationals Notes: Cold Weather Returns to Anchorage

Fresh tracks and recent grooming are visible in the Stadium area at Kincaid Park, Thursday morning, Dec. 21, 2017, in this screenshot capture from the NSAA webcam. (Screenshot:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — With less than two weeks to go until the first race of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, race organizers have emphasized their commitment to holding the races in Anchorage while mentioning the possibility of a backup venue, an hour-drive away, if racing at Kincaid Park becomes untenable.

Organizers posted the following update on the U.S. nationals website earlier this week:

All races will be held as scheduled-

• Snow is currently falling in the Anchorage bowl. Snow production is continuing at Kincaid park. There are currently 2.5km of skiable terrain and this terrain is being groomed.

• All competition events will be held. Revisions to the race courses may be considered by the jury.

• If conditions deteriorate and are no longer viable at Kincaid park, Government Peak Recreation Area trail system, 1 hour driving distance of Anchorage, will be the backup site.

It snowed roughly two inches in Anchorage on Tuesday of this week, with no new snow since then. That was the first significant snowfall in Anchorage in the month of December.

The first half of the month wasn’t just snowless, it was also historically warm. As the National Weather Service wrote on Facebook on Dec. 15, “At Anchorage the average temperature is more than 19 degrees above normal and is the first time that the first two weeks of December has averaged above freezing.” Rain was not uncommon in the first half of this month.

The first weekend of Besh Cup races, the race series used to select Team Alaska skiers for Junior Nationals, last week was moved 300 miles north to Fairbanks on four days’ notice. In explaining the reason for the change, Cross Country Alaska discussed the need to preserve Anchorage’s snow for nationals.

After all that, colder temperatures returned to Anchorage at the start of this workweek. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 18 and 19, saw snowmaking resume at Kincaid. There was also the natural snowfall on Tuesday, which the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) wrote came to “1-1.5 inches” of accumulation at Kincaid. Following warmer temperatures and no snowmaking on Wednesday, the snow guns were running again on Thursday.

In a Thursday morning grooming update, NSAA wrote, “The SML [snowmaking loop] and Play Hill have been groomed this morning. With these colder temperatures, the crew is concentrating on making snow. They are working in the Stadium and heading toward the Chalet.”

As U.S. nationals chief of competition Matt Pauli explained earlier this month, the next planned step in snowmaking would be to expand coverage toward the chalet and generally west of what is currently covered.

Also Thursday, in a separate update, NSAA added, “It seems that the groomers are back in business, at least for a little while.  Some of the Lighted Loops at Kincaid have been resurrected, however with the U.S. National’s quickly approaching and with colder temperatures, the crew is focusing on making more snow.”

As the update on the nationals message board noted, all planned competitions at U.S. nationals will be held, but changed courses may be considered as necessary. The sprint loop is currently 100 percent covered with machine-made snow. While the distance courses (the longer FIS-certified loops of 5 and 7.5 kilometers) are mostly outside the direct reach of the snow guns, Pauli previously discussed ways of bolstering the snowpack, if needed, on the distance courses, such as moving manmade and/or natural snow onto those courses.

As of Thursday, the full distance courses had not been groomed since Tuesday’s snowfall. They currently feature a one-inch skiff of fresh snow on top of an icy base. Regarding plans to potentially use these courses during race week, U.S. nationals Organizing Committee Chair Joey Caterinichio wrote in an email to FasterSkier, “Kincaid snow production continues, temperatures have cooled making this easier and viable. Using our FIS designated race courses is the desired goal and plans continue to prepare the courses. Revisions to race courses may be determined by weather and jury at a later date.”

“Kincaid is a go,” Caterinichio noted. “We have snow and are making more.”

She explained that teams are skiing daily at Kincaid, wax trailers are arriving, and the preparation for the major event is in full force.

“It will be great and will be at Kincaid. Live timing and live steaming are planned,” she wrote.

The backup venue, Government Peak Recreation Area, has a packed base of 6-8 inches, according to recent grooming update, with double classic tracks set in preparation for the upcoming Icicle Double community race series

While the Competition Loop at Government Peak is not International Ski Federation (FIS)-homologated, Ed Strabel of the Mat–Su Ski Club wrote in an email to FasterSkier that it does feature a FIS-worthy total climb of 185 meters over 5.13 k, or 36 meters of climbing per kilometer. This is slightly hillier than the 7.5 k FIS course at Kincaid (35 m/km), and substantially hillier than the shorter snowmaking loop.

The first race of U.S. nationals is the distance skate race on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

— Gavin Kentch

* * *

For more updates, check out:

Grooming and snowmaking: NSAA grooming report | User-submitted trail reports | Kincaid Stadium webcam | NSAA temperature guidelines for operating snowmaking equipment

Weather: Long-range forecast ( | Long-range forecast (

Main U.S. nationals site for updates: U.S. nationals

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Nationals Notes: Conditions Suboptimal Three Weeks Out, But Time and Hope Remain

The logo for 2018 U.S. Nationals, featuring a subtle “Road to PyeongChang” Olympic motif in the upper left corner

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Just over three weeks out from the first race of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, organizers are responding to warming temperatures with a primary goal of providing athletes with a challenging course and as much good skiing as possible. The first races are set for Jan. 3 in Anchorage, Alaska. 

The current state of the trails

There are roughly 50 kilometers of ski trails at Kincaid Park, the city-owned park at the western edge of the Municipality of Anchorage. Approximately three kilometers of trails, centered on the Stadium, have the capacity for snowmaking. Roughly two out of three of those kilometers currently have a decent base of manmade snow. That said, dirty spots are already emerging in several areas of the loop, and there is an increasing amount of dirt and debris in the snow – racers in yesterday’s citizen race tended toward Swix HFBW, Toko Moly, or other additives to help combat dirty snow.

The other ca. 48 k of trails in the park have a base of roughly 1.5 inches of hardpacked, snowmachine- and skier-groomed natural snow. Coverage is good; virtually no rocks or debris are visible on any of the trails, though long grasses and weeds are sticking through in several spots. But the 48 k of non-snowmaking trails are effectively impassable right now, following temperatures above freezing for most of the past nine days as well as intermittent rain that together left the trails icy and foreboding. (Before that, there was great skiing throughout the park for most of the month of November, following Anchorage’s first real snowfall on November 5.)

There are two sprint and two distance races at U.S. nationals. The sprint races are run on a course starting and ending in the Stadium; the sprint course is currently 95 percent covered with manmade snow. (Stay tuned for FasterSkier’s preview later this month of the new sprint course, set to make its competitive debut at Besh Cup #1 this weekend and its championship-level debut at this year’s U.S. nationals.)

The distance races are planned to occur on 5- and 7.5-k courses homologated by the International Ski Federation (FIS). If you’ve done a FIS distance race at Kincaid in the past decade, such as U.S. nationals in 2009 or 2010 or the college races last spring (but excepting Spring Series 2014, which was on different trails due to snow conditions), you probably raced on these courses.

If U.S. nationals were to happen tomorrow, the 5- and 7.5-k FIS courses would not be usable, barring sufficient scarifying to enable skiers to get a purchase on the 95 percent of each course that takes place off of the snowmaking loop.

What happens next

Given that firm base and good coverage on the FIS trails, it wouldn’t take much snowfall between now and Jan. 3 to make the full courses available. If it snows 6 inches in the next two to three weeks, and returns to seasonable temperatures of well below freezing, then the rest of this article is presumably moot, and the distance races take place on the FIS distance courses as originally planned. (Sample longterm Anchorage forecasts here and here, if you’d like to play armchair meteorologist. Short-term, here is a discouraging article from yesterday’s Anchorage Daily News headlined, “Ready the rain gear, Anchorage, we’re headed for a warm week.” Though temps are supposed to cool down again by the end of this workweek.)

Kincaid: not very cold right now. Screenshot from Kincaid weather station on Monday morning.

But if the weather doesn’t change, there is no meaningful snowfall between now and January, and the whole race series has to take place on manmade snow, what happens then?

“I do have a plan,” Matt Pauli told FasterSkier in an in-person interview Friday morning. Pauli is chief of competition for the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships. He has been an operator/groomer for the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) for many years, and has been involved with NSAA events dating back to at least the World Cup weekend in March 1983.

“I don’t want to call it a homologated snowmaking loop,” Pauli explained, but his goal would be to feature some climbs and to make the snowmaking loop as challenging as he can.

“I want to still make it as competitive as possible,” Pauli noted, “at least put some ‘B’ Climbs into the equation and we can have at least some height differences that are acceptable.” (The current version of the snowmaking loop includes the climb to the top of the Gong Hill, which is a climb of 24 vertical meters. This is by far the largest climb on the snowmaking loop. According to the FIS Homologation Manual, a ‘B’ Climb has a partial height difference of 10 to 29 meters.)

“I just don’t want to have to create distance,” Pauli clarified. “We can create lots of distance out here, but then it’s basically flat. … I don’t want it to ski like a golf course.”

(The winning time in Friday’s Anchorage School District high school boys classic race, which did not climb all the way to the top of the Gong Hill, was 12:35 for a two-lap course that was a total of 5.4 k long. At 2:20 per kilometer for classic skiing, this may be said to be getting pretty close to golf course speeds. That said, a grain of salt is necessary there simply because the pacesetter, Gus Schumacher, is no ordinary high school boy; he won the race by more than a minute over a strong high school field.)

One unknown factor here is whether or when temperatures will drop cold enough for the NSAA operations staff to turn on the snowmaking equipment again. NSAA has historically said that it decides when to make snow in accordance with this temperature matrix. It most recently made enough snow during the month of November to cover, as explained, roughly 2 out of 3 kilometers of the standard snowmaking loop. NSAA has said that its snowmaking abilities are limited to roughly 1/3 of potential capacity due to limited water at the site.

There was not extra snow made and stored during November, as sometimes happens in advance of national championships.

Kincaid: definitely snow-covered, but getting a little dirty. A growing patch of dirt and ice is visible in the background of this capture from the NSAA webcam, taken Sunday afternoon and showing the center of the Stadium. (Screenshot: NSAA webcam)

“Hopefully we get those cold temperatures so we can get the snow guns running again on the west side” of the snowmaking loop, Pauli explains, “over by the play hill in front of the chalet. I’d like, certainly, to utilize that portion. That would expand the loop and what else I’ve traced out.”

He estimated that would give him about a 3 1/2 k loop.

“Certainly we can get up to 4 [kilometers] and such, but that’s kind of two-way traffic, flat, or adding extra flat, which I really don’t want to do. I think athletes want to be working the entire time … not to dispute that double poling is still defined as a classic technique. But at the same time, I think we’d like to see it expand out to the [normal] trails.”

Pauli’s goal for next month’s races is clear: “to have as much good skiing as possible.” But he is currently reluctant to run a PistenBully on the main FIS trails to try to chop up the ice.

“It’s hard to put heavy equipment on any of the trails we have now,” he said, “because we just don’t have the base. If this stuff freezes solid though, and with the rain we get, and any snow accumulation, anything we put on, then we’ll have a pretty bombproof base that’s going to prevent rocks and such.”

While Pauli cares deeply about protecting the base and covering rocks, he’s less concerned with “things like grass and leaves”, he said.

Other options

Pauli is also open to potentially snowmachine grooming on Elliott’s Climb, a sustained climb leaving from the north end of the Stadium that would space out a mass start field, add an ‘A’ Climb not available on the snowmaking loop, and provide another 2+ k of race course (counting the roundtrip up Elliott’s Climb and back down Rollercoaster to the Stadium).

“So if we can snowmachine groom going up Elliott’s Climb,” he notes, “that’s certainly gonna be in the mix. Because I think we can have a freestyle race, if it cools off, and we drag it with our snowmachine equipment. And then utilize the rest of the snowmaking loop, and dial that in.”

As for invoking more ambitious measures, those are still some ways off in the future. “Windrowing snow, meaning actually snowblowing snow and creating windrows and then snowblowing those into tubs and getting those out on the course? Not going to make that call for another week or two, probably two weeks or so,” Pauli explains.

“Firing up the snow guns” that are centered on the Stadium and trails immediately next to it? “We can’t haul that stuff out, but we can certainly fortify and expand what we’ve got out here. But hauling manmade snow right now, when we don’t have any base, just would wreck it.”

Bringing in snow from the nearby airport? That’s not on the table.

“I know people say, ‘Oh, why don’t you just haul snow from the airport?’ Nobody wants to ski on snow with deicing fluid, gravel, and sand in it,” Pauli says. “And I don’t think the city wants that type of snow dumped on their park. Because it all has to go someplace. So if we have to scrape out snow from the woods here, what we can, if we have to windrow and haul it by tubs if we can, that’s what we’re going to do, fortify those trails. Especially for freestyle events – it might be bumpy, but I think it’s still going to be raceable. So I think we can do a good job of preparing those non-snowmaking trails.”

According to U.S. nationals Organizing Committee Chair Joey Caterinichio, there are no plans to move the event elsewhere. She was optimistic about Kincaid’s base and snowmaking opportunities in the coming week with cooler temperatures in the forecast.

Gavin Kentch

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U.S. Nationals Distance Race Preview: Part 2

HOUGHTON, Mich. — The theme of experience versus young talent continues in the women’s field for the 20 k mass start freestyle event at the 2016 U.S. Cross Country Championships. Check out the previous blog post, Part 1 for a look at the men’s field.  U.S. nationals falls after Period 1 of SuperTour racing including two race weekends at West Yellowstone and Sun Valley.

For the women, Craftsbury Green Racing Project looks to continue their momentum from the first two days of racing in Caitlin Patterson and Kaitlynn Miller. Patterson dominated the women’s 10 k classic and placed third in freestyle sprint this week at U.S. Nationals. However, she did not win a  SuperTour distance race during Period I, taking third in the Sun Valley 10 k classic and sixth in the first 10 k of the season, a skate race, in West Yellowstone.

Miller has posted personal bests all week at nationals and her fourth-place finish in the freestyle sprint final shows she has skating fitness and confidence.

Chelsea Holmes of Alaska Pacific University (APU) is the distance leader in Period 1 of the SuperTour and is looking for another podium to add to her third-place finish in the 10 k classic this week. Holmes has been the most consistent distance racer this season, taking a win in Sun Valley and second in West Yellowstone.

Becca Rorabaugh of APU hasn’t finished beyond 11th in a SuperTour distance event since 2014, making her one of the most consistent female racers on the circuit and a serious contender for the podium in Houghton. So far this season, Rorabaugh has claimed second in the distance race in Sun Valley, ninth in West Yellowstone, and 11th in the 10 k classic at nationals.

Leading the young guns is Katharine Ogden of Stratton Mountain School (SMS) who topped Holmes at West Yellowstone in the only freestyle SuperTour distance event yet this season. The 18 year old took sixth in the 10 k freestyle at nationals last year in addition to sixth place in the skiathlon at Junior World Championships.

Hannah Halvorsen of Sugar Bowl Academy is currently the top U18 skier at nationals and hopes to hold the position to earn a spot on the Youth Olympic Games team. Halvorsen notched fifth place in the skate sprint and 11th in the 10 k classic this week and is looking for a strong distance race to punch her ticket to Lillehammer, Norway.

Eliska Hajkova, a coach on the Boulder Nordic Junior Racing Team, impressed last year at nationals, taking third in the classic mass start. This season she has two top-10 finishes in SuperTour distance races and sixth place in the nationals 10 k.

SMST2 teammates Anne Hart and Erika Flowers look to build on strong showings in the first two days of racing. Both Flowers and Hart notched top-10 finishes in both the 10 k classic and the freestyle sprint, highlighted by Hart’s runner-up finish in Monday’s sprint.

Other contenders likely to be in the mix include Mary Rose of the Sun Valley Gold Team, APU’s Rosie Frankowski and Jessica Yeaton, Liz Guiney (CGRP), and College Cup Grand Champion Vivian Hett of Northern Michigan University.

Follow the action on Thursday by following FasterSkier on Twitter (@FasterSkier) or the official Twitter feed of the Cross Country Championships (@NordicNationals), watching the live stream, and following live results from Superior Timing.

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Pre-Race at U.S. Nationals: Snowy Sprint Day

HOUGHTON, Mich. — The forecast said flurries but it was downright blizzard-like conditions before the start of the men’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint at U.S. Cross Country Championship at the Michigan Tech Trails on Tuesday morning. Temperatures read around 7 degrees Fahrenheit, a slight drop from the early morning, and tracks not freshly skied in were blanketed with a fresh layer of powder.

The women’s qualifier starts at 10 a.m. followed by the men at 11. Heats kick off at 12:30 p.m. Live timing at

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SuperTour Finals Pre-Race: Another Bluebird Day in Anchorage (Photos)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — It’s another nice one outside with no wind and temperatures in the 20s the morning of the 1.4-kilometer classic sprints on Sunday, the second day of SuperTour Finals at Kincaid Park.

Like the last few days, temperatures are expected to rise into the mid-30s under sunny skis by the afternoon. Qualifier starts with the women at 11 a.m. Alaska time, and the heats kick off at 1 p.m.

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SuperTour Finals: First Tracks at Kincaid Park (Photos)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Beneath the impressive mountain landscape, the flights that float in and out of Anchorage International Airport, there are plenty of open and thoroughly-groomed trails within the 1,500-acre Kincaid Park — a feat in itself considering the surrounding area looked pretty brown a week ago.

But a weekend storm changed all that, dumping more than two feet of fresh snow at higher elevations on the other side of town and several inches in Kincaid Park. It wasn’t a lot for the original site of SuperTour Finals and U.S. Distance Nationals, but it was enough.

On Monday, four days after race organizers announced that they were moving the races to Hillside and the Alaska Pacific University ski trails, their website stated they might be back at Kincaid. On Thursday, it was confirmed: “Races will be held at Kincaid.”

On Friday morning, skiing was great: firm, tilled and fast in temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The day warmed up to about 36 degrees — right on par with the forecast that’s expected to repeat for the duration of the series March 22-28.

Here are some photos of “first tracks” on the trails around 10 a.m. Friday morning (it’s Spring Series, racers want to sleep!) Click to enlarge.

Also check out the Anchorage Daily News preview of the weeklong event.

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T-2 Days Until U.S. Nationals Opens in Soldier Hollow

The 2002 Olympic venue of Soldier Hollow welcomes top U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association athletes from clubs across the nation for the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships this weekend. (Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski Team)

The 2002 Olympic venue of Soldier Hollow welcomes top U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association athletes from clubs across the nation for the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships this weekend. (Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski Team)

(USSA press release)

SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 2) – Around 350 of the top cross country skiers from U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association clubs from around the country will converge at the 2002 Olympic venue at Soldier Hollow beginning this weekend for the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships. It’s the second straight year Soldier Hollow has been the host site for the event. In addition to U.S. Championship titles, athletes will be vying for spots on the 2014 Junior World Ski Championship Team and U23 World Championships.


  • The 2002 Olympic venue of Soldier Hollow will be the site of the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships beginning this weekend.
  • The event will bring the top U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association athletes from clubs across the nation to Soldier Hollow.
  • It’s the second straight year Soldier Hollow has been the host site.
  • The U.S. Championships is a prominent event on the USSA SuperTour, with athletes getting double points at the Championships towards the SuperTour title. After three events, Brian Gregg and Caitlin Gregg (both Minneapolis) are leading men’s and women’s tours respectively.
  • Other top athletes expected to compete are last year’s medalists including two-time winner Torin Koos (Wenatchee, WA, Bridger Ski Foundation) along with other gold medalists Jennie Bender (Johnson, VT, Bridger Ski Foundation), Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT, APU Nordic), Erik Bjornsen (Anchorage, APU Nordic) and Dakota Blackhorse von Jess (Bend, OR, Bend Endurance).
  • In addition to U.S. Championship titles, teams will be named out of the event for the International Ski Federation’s Junior World Ski Championships Jan. 27-Feb. 3 in Val di Fiemme, Italy, as well as the U23 World Championships.
  • In addition, the College Cup will be awarded to the best college team over the two distance races. A Grand National Champion will be awarded to the best skier over all races, including the distance championships to be held in Anchorage in late March. Cash prizes will be paid to the top three finishers.
  • The Championships are scored on the International Ski Federation Cross Country Points List, which is used as a part of Olympic selection after World Cup results.
  • Foreign entrants in the Championships are not eligible for U.S. titles.


Soldier Hollow

Saturday, Jan. 4
10:00 a.m., Women’s 10k classic (individual start)
12:00 p.m., Men’s 15k classic (individual start)

Sunday, Jan. 5
10:00 a.m., Men’s freestyle sprint qualification
11:00 a.m., Women’s freestyle sprint qualification
12:30 p.m., Men’s and women’s freestyle sprint heats

Wednesday, Jan. 8
10:00 a.m., Men’s 30k and women’s 20k freestyle (mass start)

Friday, Jan. 10
10:00 a.m., Men’s classic sprint qualifications
11:00 a.m., Women’s classic sprint qualifications
12:30 p.m., Men’s and women’s classic sprint heats

U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Nationals

Jan. 1-8 

  • Wed. Jan 1: Official BIA training – Sit ski & Standing
  • Thurs. Jan 2: Biathlon Sprint 6/7.5km – Sit ski & Standing

  • Fri. Jan 3: Official Training CL distance (standing); 10/15km XC long-distance sit ski

  • Sat. Jan 4: 10/15kmCL–Standing & sit-ski sprint

  • Sun. Jan 5: Sprint Freestyle – Standing

  • Mon. Jan 6: XC Sit-ski 5/10km

  • Tue. Jan 7: Official training FR MST

  • Wed. Jan 8: 20/30km Freestyle MST (Jr 5/10km MST & Adaptive Stand-up)

For more info, visit

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Corduroy Conditions in West

There’s snow in West Yellowstone, and it’s looking good. Real good, based on a photo sent by West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation (WYSEF) Program Director Moira Dow.

Freeheel & Wheel owners Melissa Alder and Kelli Sanders took the following shot during a Thursday morning ski on the Rendezvous Ski Trails:

Corduroy in West Yellowstone, Mont., the site of the upcoming West Yellowstone Ski Festival and SuperTour season-opener. (Photo: WYSEF)

Corduroy on the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, Mont., the site of the upcoming West Yellowstone Ski Festival and SuperTour season opener. (Photo: Melissa Alder/Kelli Sanders)

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Pre-Race Wax Recommendations from US Nationals

Blue skies and cold temperatures welcomed racers to Soldier Hollow this morning.  Here is some info on wax for the skate distance races.

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Bozeman Classic Sprint Predictions

BOZEMAN, Mont. — One down, two to go. We were woefully off base with our freestyle sprint predictions on Thursday (ignoring exact places, we went six-for-twelve in guessing the A-final lineups), but Saturday brings another day and another race. Not to be discouraged, we bring you another round of predictions for the classic sprint.

Some factors to consider:

There are a few athletes whose say their skate sprint and classic sprint ability differ significantly, but the better skiers at the top of the field tend to be faster relative to the competition no matter what the discipline. The only problem is, from a predictions standpoint, is that the fields are so stacked (particularly with the men) that the tiniest mistake amongst the best skiers could drastically affect both the heats and who even qualifies. Less than seven seconds separated first from thirtieth in the men’s skate prelim. Everyone here badly wants to do well. There are a few obvious standouts, but really it could be anybody’s game.

Secondly, the season so far has shown that the most recent college graduating class (and some current student-athletes) has released a lot of wild cards onto the table. After Thursday, apparently we have to start looking back at old Junior Olympic results for the most recent side-by-side sprint comparisons. Good lord.

And, most unfortunately, conditions could play a role in the final outcome. It rained at Bohart Ranch on Friday, and the “it’s the same for everybody” maxim starts to break down right about when the course does. Organizers decided by early Friday afternoon that the original course was no longer usable and moved the venue up to the meadow, which is a few meters higher and more sheltered than the stadium. With highs in the 40s predicted for Saturday, waxing will be difficult. The tracks are already soaked can only hold up for so long. Strong double-polers are rumored to be considering skate skis. The Bridger Ski Foundation, Bohart course crew and volunteers have worked tirelessly to make the next two races possible, but in the end there’s only so much shoveling you can do to combat the forces of nature.

So! With all that in mind here are our picks for the A-final. If we’re way off again we can just blame it on the conditions.



1. Ryan Scott (SSCV Team HomeGrown)
2. Erik Bjornsen (Alaska Pacific University/U.S. Ski Team)
3. Skyler Davis (SMS T2/USST)
4. Mike Sinnott (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation)
5. Eric Packer (SMS T2)
6. Reid Pletcher (SVSEF)


1. Sophie Caldwell (SMS T2)
2. Sadie Bjornsen (APU/USST)
3. Caitlin Gregg (Central Cross Country)
4. Kate Fitzgerald (APU)
5 .Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Green Racing Project)
6. Rosie Brennan (APU)

Finally, regarding Quebec World Cup selection: the team won’t be announced until after the conclusion of the distance race on Sunday at the earliest. We’ll know SuperTour sprint rankings by Saturday, but until the Americans currently in Europe turn in their final pre-Canada World Cup performances in Kuusamo, Finland, we won’t know how deep into those standings USSA will have to go to fill those additional quota spots. Nordic Manager Joey Caterinichio says she could be able to make the announcement at Bohart directly after the distance classic race on Sunday, but since U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover has the final say in selection, and he’s not in Bozeman, it might not be until the Monday deadline.


(Cell reception is virtually non-existent at Bohart, so eager fans will have to sit tight until after the conclusion of the races to find out what happened. FasterSkier will blog unofficial results as soon as possible; official results will eventually become available here.)



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Bozeman SuperTour Predictions: Freestyle Sprint Edition

BOZEMAN, Mont. — We now have half an idea of who will end up going to the World Cup in Canmore, Canada. The freestyle sprint in Bozeman, Mont., on Thursday is the SuperTour field’s first chance to draw blood for the coveted Quebec spots. With the possibility of the big show one step closer, the sprint racing at Bohart Ranch will be fast and furious.

FasterSkier’s top five picks:


1. Sadie Bjornsen (APU/USST). This was a tough call. She was sick last weekend, but with a few days to get healthy since Saturday’s prologue (which she skipped), we wager she’ll be back and tough as nails through the rounds. The infectiousness of success (i.e. the US women in Gallivare) is now a quantifiable thing, too. Perhaps it will reach across continents and spur Bjornsen on for the win.

2. Rosie Brennan (APU): She didn’t do as well as expected in the West Yellowstone prologue, but that was a flat course and it was basically only a time trial. The brand new Bohart Ranch sprint loop has a quick, challenging climb halfway through and Brennan demonstrated last week she’s in good climbing form.

3. Sophie Caldwell (SMST2): Dominated the West prologue, but Bjornsen and Brennan just have more experience when it comes to the heats.

4. Corey Stock (Dartmouth): Only a freshman, but as proven at U.S. Nationals the limitations of age don’t seem to apply to her. A tough competitor with another year’s worth of confidence under her belt.

5. Caitlin Gregg (CXC): A smart all-around competitor, and she seems to be on her way back to her usual contention after a sub-par start in the West distance race.

6. Kate Fitzgerald (APU): She routinely pushes herself further past pain than anyone else on race day. Fitzgerald broke through to the classic sprint podium in Rumford last season; she may be ready for the freestyle final on Thursday.


1. Torin Koos (BSF/Rossignol): It might be playing with fire, picking two athletes recovering from illness for the wins. But that’s a chance we’ll take; Koos’ tenacity in sprinting is unmatched. His margin of victory will just be smaller with the cold this time.

2. Ryan Scott (SSCV Team HomeGrown): Scott’s prologue win last week was impressive, no doubt, but it’s still hard to rank that above almost a decade’s-worth of World Cup experience.

3. Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (Bend Endurance Academy): Sixth last weekend is hardly a setback since the results were so close. He’s done consistently well in a lot of freestyle sprints; this one should be no exception.

4. Skyler Davis (SMS T2): After watching him sprint last weekend, I finally believed it: Davis back up to speed.

5. Mike Sinnott (SMS T2): He didn’t quite look like he’s found the same gear he had at the beginning of last season, but it’s hard to count him out completely.

6. Reese Hanneman (APU): Had a breakthrough freestyle sprint at SuperTour Finals last spring, and should be ready to get back at it on Thursday.

Freestyle Sprint Start List.


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U23 Team Named at U.S. Nationals

RUMFORD, Maine — The U.S. Ski Team selected several athletes to its U23 World Championships squad on Sunday, after the final races of the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Championships concluded at Black Mountain. The U23 Worlds will take place in Erzurum, Turkey, February 19-26. Athletes have yet to accept their invites.

Here are the lists:

U23 Men

1. Eric Bjornsen*

2. Noah Hoffman*

3. Tyler Kornfield

4. David Norris

5. Eric Packer

6. Ryan Scott (first alternate)

7. Patrick Johnson (second alternate)


U23 Women

1. Sadie Bjornsen

2. Jessie Diggins*

3. Sophie Caldwell

4. Amy Glen

5. Becca Rorabaugh

6. Becca Konieczny (first alternate)

7. Caitlin Patterson (second alternate)


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U.S. Nationals: Snow Friday Morning Causes Scramble (with Video)

On Thursday the predicted forecast called for up to half an inch of snow to start later in the day, but Friday morning the snow has already started and is predicted to accumulate to as much as an inch and a half.

For the waxers this definitely changes things, as they were preparing skis for racing on manmade snow, but now it is likely to to be slower on the flats and sugary on the climbs.  This will make each team have to make the tough call as to which is more important; fast skis for the graduals or being able to kick the six or nine times up high school hill.  It sounds like most everyone is hoping to throw the dart somewhere in the middle, sacrificing a little glide for kick.  It will surely be a day for the techs as the wax will play a factor on the result sheet today.


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Day 2 at U.S. Nationals: Course Conditions (Video)

RUMFORD, Maine — Cold overnight temperatures made the artificial snow at Black Mountain even colder than Wednesday, and coaches and wax techs have been out since before dawn retesting skis and getting everything dialed in for the men’s 15 k individual start (starting at 9 a.m. at 15 second intervals). The women’s 10 k starts at 11 a.m.

Guns were blowing snow all night in the field above the stadium, and those piles were used to add additional coverage to the 3.26 k loop being used for the 10/15 k freestyle race.

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The Rumford Scene (Video)

FasterSkier associate editors Alex Matthews and Audrey Mangan made it out to Rumford, Maine, on Saturday — two days before the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Championships kick off at Black Mountain. The Chisholm Ski Club and the mountain’s race organizers have clearly been working hard to get the sprint and distance loops ready for the weeklong event Jan. 2-8, and several racers training at the area on Saturday were pleased with the conditions despite the damp and mild weather (around 35 degrees).

While many will try out the 1.6 and 1.4 k sprint trails for the first time on Sunday during the “official training” at Black Mountain, the video above gives a glimpse of the especially wide trails — the stadium of which is shown being checked for homologation standards — and the completely manmade base.

For more details on U.S. Nationals, including a schedule and course maps, click here.

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Start List for SuperTour 5/10k Classic

The first SuperTour event of the season comes to a close on Saturday with a 5/10km classic in West Yellowstone. The finale of the three race set, the race gets underway at 10AM MST.  Women start first.

Start List

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No Snow Overnight in West, Firm Conditions for SuperTour Freestyle

The predicted 4-5 inches of snow did not fall in West Yellowstone last night, and while a few flurries are descending at this time, the course should be firm and fast for today’s 10/15km freestyle race.

Temperatures remain warm with the thermometer currently reading 28F. An inch of snow could fall throughout the day – if that happens sooner rather than later, it could impact the later starters in the individual start event.

Women head out first at 10AM. Men follow at 11:10AM.

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SuperTour Sprint Showdown – Pre-Race Video Interviews

With just a few hours left before the start of the first SuperTour race of the 2011 season, FasterSkier grabbed USSA Nordic Director John Farra, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team coach Travis Jones, as well as one of the many crucial volunteers for quick interviews.

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