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U.S. Takes First in Every Race at New Zealand Nationals

Left to right: Americans Ben Saxton, Andrew Newell and Simi Hamilton along with Korea's Hwang Jun Ho on the start line for the FIS ANC men's sprint classic final on Friday at the Snow Farm ski resort in New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

(Front row, left to right): Americans and SMST2 skiers Ben Saxton, Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton along with South Korea’s Hwang Jun-Ho on the start line for the FIS ANC men’s sprint classic final on Friday, Sept. 9, at the Snow Farm ski resort in New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Three days of elite cross-country ski racing took place this past weekend at the Snow Farm ski resort near Wananka, New Zealand, during New Zealand National Cross-Country Ski Championships, with the U.S. Ski Team (USST) taking first in every race and taking up most of the remaining spots on the podium.

Friday, Sept. 9, saw 22 athletes from Australia, Korea and the U.S. compete in the race series’ first competition, a classic sprint.

Dominating the men’s classic sprint was USST veteran Andy Newell, who qualified first with a time of 3:37.69 and continued to dominate through the rounds for the win. Finishing in second behind Newell was South Korea’s Hwang Jun-Ho, and taking the final podium spot in third was Ben Saxton, Newell’s teammate on the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team.

On the women’s side, all three top spots went to the U.S., with Ida Sargent (USST) edging teammate Jessie Diggins for first and Sophie Caldwell rounding out the podium in third. Caldwell won the qualifier in 3:07.55.

“We love coming down here and getting to race at Snow Farm,” USST Head Coach Chris Grover said, according to a press release. “The timing worked out really well this year because normally we’d be running our own time trials so when a race gets organised and we get to participate in it that’s great.

“It was really nice to have the Korean team here so we had some solid competition,” he added. “It was beautiful weather, beautiful tracks and everyone went out there and had a hard effort so we’re really satisfied.”

International Ski Federation (FIS) points were awarded to the top contenders.

Results: Women’s Qualifier | Men’s Qualifier | Women’s Final | Men’s Final


On Saturday, Sept. 10, athletes returned to the Snow Farm for the 10 and 15 k classic mass starts.

Snow Farm founder and trustee Mary Lee greets winner American Jessie Diggins (center) after she won the women's 10 k classic mass start ahead of teammates Ida Sargent (l) and Sophie Caldwell (r). (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Snow Farm founder and trustee Mary Lee (r) greets Saturday’s 10 k classic mass start winner Jessie Diggins (second from l) after she held off teammates Ida Sargent (l) in second and Sophie Caldwell (r) in third. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

In the women’s 10 k, Diggins crossed the line first in 30:58.4, beating Sargent by 7.4 seconds, while Caldwell took third for the second-straight day, 13.8 seconds after Diggins.

“Normally striding on a really steep hill isn’t a particular strength of mine so it was nice to embrace the climb and say, ‘OK this is where I’m going to try to make a move’ and try to make it stick,’ ” Diggins told race organizers, according to a press release. “It was fun to just try something a little out of my normal range!”

Newell took his second win of the weekend, topping the men’s 15 k in 38:12.2. Saxton followed 11.4 seconds later for second place, just ahead of Noah Hoffman (USST) in third (+13.7).

“With the mass start, everyone got to ski together for most of the race,” Grover told USSA. “It was a great opportunity for athletes to try to make breaks and for others to reel them in. It was also an opportunity for each athlete to measure their relative technique strengths and weaknesses against the bigger group through different technique features — for example, who is skiing the downhills more aggressively, who is stronger in the double pole, who is stronger in the striding.”  

Results: Women | Men


Simi Hamilton racing to first in the men's 10 k freestyle at New Zealand nationals on Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Snow Farm in Wanaka, New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Simi Hamilton racing to first in the men’s 10 k freestyle at New Zealand nationals on Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Snow Farm in Wanaka, New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

The final day of competition for the three-day race series at the Snow Farm included the 5/10 k freestyle interval starts.

In the men’s 10 k, Hamilton took first, completing the course in 26:08. Rounding out the rest of the podium were two South Korean skiers, Yong-Jin Cho, who finished 17 seconds off Hamilton’s time in second, and Hwang Jun-Ho, 38 seconds back in third.

“This time of year it’s important to remind yourself how to prepare for a race mentally and how to attack during it,” Hamilton told race organizers. “So it was great to be out there and think about pacing and hurting really bad. It’s good to revisit that at this time of year so we can be ready for the [Northern Hemisphere] winter.”

The women’s 5 k went to Liz Stephen (USST) who beat her competition by nearly 50 seconds in 13:28. Lee Chae-won of South Korea finished 49 seconds back in second place, and Australian Aimee Watson placed third (+1:18). 

Stephen told organizers that getting back on snow was one of the most positive aspects of their visit.

“We can get as fit as we want in the summer on roller skis, but it doesn’t transfer exactly and the technique work here for me has been really important,” she said.

Results: Men | Women

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Aug. 22 Roundup: Toppidrettsveka Recap; Denmark’s Vasaloppet Qualifier

— While Norway’s nordic superstar Therese Johaug was out sick, her Norwegian teammate Heidi Weng walked away with two victories on the first day of the Toppidrettsveka, a rollerski competition held in Aure and Trondheim, Norway. Weng won the women’s 24-kilometer classic mass start by 3 minutes and 51 seconds over runner-up and fellow Norwegian, Emilie Kristoffersen, and Silje Øyre Slind in third. Weng also won the second race of the day, a classic sprint, out-lunging the prologue winner, Kathrine Harsem of Norway and Polina Kovaleva of Russia in third. Weng’s third and final victory came in the 5 k classic. See complete Toppidrettsveka results here.

— On the men’s side, it was Norway’s Gaute Kvåle who won the men’s 24 k classic mass start on the first day of the Toppidrettsveka. He won by 4.5 seconds over France’s Jean-Marc Gaillard, while Andrey Melnichenko of Russia finished in third, 6.7 seconds back. Kvåle told Langrenn that he took it too easy at the beginning of the race on the steepest part of the course. He found himself around 25th place, but worked his way to the front of the field. The second victory of the day went to Norwegian Pål Trøan Aune, while his Norwegian teammates Emil Iversen and Petter Northug placed second and third, respectively.

— Day 2 of racing saw the men’s freestyle sprint, which went to Norway’s Kasper Stadås. Northug finished in second, while his Norwegian teammate and younger brother Even Northug also finished on the podium in third. The women’s freestyle sprint winner was Barbro Kvåle, also from Norway. Slovenia’s Anamarija Lampic and Vesna Fabjan took second and third, respectively.

— On the final day of the Toppidrettsveka, Northug topped the men’s 15 k pursuit, finishing three seconds ahead of fellow Norwegian Mattis Stenshagen.  Northug told Adressa that he felt like he was in complete control, and his goal is to be “in shape and compete for medals at Lahti World Championships.” Norway’s Mikael Gunnulfsen took third.

— On Sept. 18, Denmark will host a 45 k roller ski competition in Holte, which will also serve as a seeding race for Swede’s Vasaloppet for the first time. Holte Ski Club Organizer Poul Erik Holm told Langd that the course will be completely closed to traffic and is slightly hilly “with nice asphalt.” 

— The Foothills Nordic Ski Club is looking to raise $65,000 dollars by Oct. 15 in hopes of funding a full snowmaking setup. Foothills Nordic is based out of Calgary and it has estimated that the snowmaking equipment would support over 210,000 Calgary cross-country skiers. Donations can be made via GoFundMe.com or by letter.

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Blink Festival Concludes; Nordgren Reaches Biathlon Shootout Final

U.S. Biathlon’s Leif Nordgren competes in the final of the “shooting duels” competition during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen, where he placed 11th. Photo: NRK broadcast

US Biathlon’s Leif Nordgren competes in the final of the “shooting duels” competition during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen, where he placed 11th on Friday, June 29.

(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from American Leif Nordgren.)

Friday’s mass starts

For the third day of the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen on Friday, the small road show of elite Norwegian and international cross-country skiers and biathletes moved to the coastal town of Sandnes in the southwest of Norway with a population of 75,000 to compete in a series of rollerski mass start races.

On a one-kilometer loop through the city that included two short climbs over ramps and bridges, the women’s 10 k freestyle mass start race was won by Norway’s Kathrine Harsem in a time of 22:14.1 after creating a small gap to a group of 10 athletes on the final lap. Just 2.7 seconds behind, her teammate Barbro Kvåle beat Germany’s Sandra Ringwald, who was able to secure the third place on the podium (+2.8) in a close sprint.

In rainy conditions, Norway’s Martine Ek Hagen had a pretty nasty fall on the wet asphalt over a small bridge and received attention from medical personnel, but later could be seen walking on her own.

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. (far right) celebrates as he crosses the line first in the men’s mass start on Friday during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen in Sandnes, Norway. Photo: NRK broadcast

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. (far right) celebrates as he crosses the line first in the men’s mass start on Friday during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen in Sandnes, Norway.

In the men’s 15 k freestyle mass start, local favorite Petter Northug Jr. was victorious in a close finishing sprint in a time of 31:10.3, after already winning the long-distance 60 k “Blink Classics” race earlier in the week. Behind him, Italy’s Francesco de Fabiani placed second (+0.8), and Northug’s teammate Pål Golberg came in third (+0.9).

Northug remained near the top of the field and tried to break away with 5 laps to go, but could not create a significant gap with no other athlete willing or able to help him in the lead.

A field of about 30 athletes stayed close together until the final lap, despite a number of broken poles. On the last pass over a bridge there was a tangle between a few athletes including Switzerland’s former overall World Cup champion Dario Cologna and Finland’s Matti Heikkinen, the winner of the Lysebotn Opp uphill race on Thursday. The rest of the field approached the finish in a mass sprint, with Northug defending his position at the front to the line.

Still, Northug was not completely satisfied with his performance. “I feel like I can be better,” he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, according to a translation. “I am angered by my own technique, and I know I can go much faster.”

Also on Friday, the spectators attending the Blink festival saw a number of biathlon competitions, both for various junior age groups and the “elite” senior fields.

In a fun pre-race “shooting duels” competition with target practice still in sneakers, Sweden’s Mona Brorsson took the win for the women, while Norway’s Markus Haugum placed first for the men.

American Leif Nordgren reached the men’s final, where he placed 11th after cleaning his targets 16 seconds slower than the winner. His US Biathlon teammate Sean Doherty made it to the quarterfinals.

In the men’s biathlon mass start that followed, both Nordgren and Doherty missed the final, with Nordgren placing 28th (+1:23.6, with one miss) and Doherty 30th  (+1:29.0, with three misses) in the qualifier.

In a mix up, the Blink organizers and NRK labeled Nordgren as starting for Sweden in on-screen graphics and results lists during the events on Friday.

“I feel that I let my new country down today, I will have to try harder tomorrow!!” Nordgren joked on Twitter after the race.

“For both the shooting duel and the supersprint competitions on Friday the organizers made a mistake and labeled me as a Swedish athlete,” Nordgren explained in an email to FasterSkier. “No harm in it and I had a good laugh with the Swedes about it!  Because my name is Swedish anyway there was talk of free agency and signing fees!”

The final with 12 athletes was won by Norway’s Tarjei Bø in a time of 18:02.6 (with two misses), who beat out France’s Simon Desthieux by 1.4 seconds (one miss) and Norway’s Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen in third (+11.2, four misses).

In the women’s biathlon mass start, with a time of 18:17.0 and three missed shots, France’s Anais Chevalier bested her world-famous teammate Marie Dorin-Habert (+3.6, four misses) and Italy’s Dorothea Wierer (+7.6, two misses), who placed second and third, respectively.

The locals missed a few too many targets, especially fan-favorite and star of the last world championships Tiril Eckhoff with nine (11th place, +1:26.8).

“It’s good to win here,” Chevalier told broadcaster NRK in an interview after the race. “It’s a nice race. It was hard, but it’s sunny so that’s good. I am glad to win today. I felt good on skis, pretty much good in shooting, so it’s OK.”

Saturday’s sprints

On the last day of Blink, the athletes stayed in Sandnes to compete in a series of sprints, with some well-known athletes who had already started in multiple events during the week skipping that final challenge.

Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla, the reigning Sprint World Cup champion, made up for missing the podium in Friday’s mass start by taking the top spot in the women’s sprint final with a time of 3:51.3, narrowly beating out Ringwald, of Germany, in the finish by 0.3 seconds. Just behind them, another German Denise Herrmann secured third place (+1.5) in an even closer three-way sprint against Norway’s Tiril Udnes Weng (also +1.5) and Slovenia’s Katja Visnar (+1.6). Herrmann announced in April that she was making the switch from cross-country to biathlon, but demonstrated that she still possesses strong sprinting skills.

France’s Richard Jouve was the lone non-Norwegians to reach the men’s sprint final, then managed to make the most of it by beating out his five opponents in a time of 3:27.2. Just as surprising, Kasper Stadaas beat out his more well-known teammates to secure the second place 0.1 seconds behind, with Eirik Brandsdal coming in third place (+0.8), edging Golberg in fourth (+1.0).

In the final biathlon race of the weekend, the sprint final, France went 1-2 with Dorin-Habert taking the win in 7:44.2 (after coming in second a day before). She beat her teammate Anais Bescond by 2 seconds, and Norway’s Marthe Olsbu placed third (+3.6).

Asked if she loves competing in Norway in her winner’s interview, Dorin-Habert nodded. “It was very exciting. There was a lot of people. I think it’s a game.”

Norway’s Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen won the biathlon men’s sprint final in a time of 12:08.3 after placing third on Friday, ahead of his teammate Tore Leren (+2.9) and Sweden’s Frederik Lindström (+3.1).

The Blink festival was a nice comeback for Christiansen, who could not compete with the 2015/2016 Norwegian World Cup team due to a lingering infection. A fourth place in the pursuit at the 2016 European Championships in Tyumen, Russia, stood as his best result.

Doherty placed 12th in his quarterfinal (+2:28.6) and did not advance, while Nordgren narrowly missed the cut placing sixth in his quarterfinal (+42.4) behind the eventual runner-up Leren (who was fifth in that heat).

“It’s been a tough week in the rain at Blink. I think both Sean and I are quite disappointed in the results that we’ve had here,” Nordgren wrote. “The plan all along was just to use these races as training, but even with that as the purpose it’s pretty disheartening to perform how we did.  It’s only July though so there is still so much training to be done this year.

“For myself, the racing scenarios here are totally different from the type of training that I’ve done up to this point,” he continued. “I’ve done a lot of long slow distance training so far, its always been the plan for me to switch to a more high intensity type training starting with these races.  The atmosphere here in Blink is crazy, Norwegians love their biathlon and nordic racing!  Even heavy rain every day of racing didn’t stop them from coming out in droves to cheer.  Part of the benefit of these races is also the quality of competition.  Every quality Norwegian as well as members of the national teams from Italy, Germany, France, Sweden and others makes for stiff competition.”

— Harald Zimmer 



Women cross-country mass start

Men cross-country mass start

Women biathlon shootout

Men biathlon shootout

Women biathlon mass start

Men biathlon mass start


Women cross-country sprint

Men cross-country sprint

Women biathlon sprint

Men biathlon sprint

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Johaug, Heikkinen Win Blink ‘Lysebotn Opp’; Kershaw 44th, Doherty 70th

2016 Blink Festival in Norway. Norway's Therese Johaug on the 7.5 k climb. Johaug was chased by young fans and won the day. (Photo: Screenshot NRK live feed)

Young fans run along Norway’s Therese Johaug (1) at the 2016 Blink Festival on Thursday in Norway. Johaug won the 7.5 k climb, known as the “Lysebotn opp”.

Mining the internet for international rollerskiing news? Look no further — it’s that time of year: the Blink Ski Festival in Lysebotn and Sandnes, Norway, is underway. What makes this event a blip on the nordic-sport radar are the scores of top-notch Norwegian talent and World Cup biathletes and cross-country skiers racing. Two days into the four-day festival, from July 27-30, some big names are showing good form.

Day 1 featured a 62-kilometer classic rollerski for senior men and women.

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. placed first in 2:28.13. It was a tight finish for Northug — the top 14 skiers were bunched within nine seconds of one another. Andreas Nygaard (+1.2) and Petter Eliassen (+1.8), also from Norway, placed second and third, respectively.

In the women’s classic rollerski race, also 62 k, only four women contested the elite women’s race. Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren won in a time of 2:56.21. Astrid Øyre Slinde, of Norway, was second (+3:45.2), and Japanese skiers Masako Ishida and Yuki Kobayashi placed third (+19:17.5) and fourth (+25:15), respectively.

Day 2 of the festival, featured an event with a bit more pizazz and World Cup depth: a mass start, 7.5 k uphill skate rollerski. For the women, Norwegian dynamo Therese Johaug set the standard, winning in 33:03. Her teammate Heidi Weng (the hill climb’s 2015 champion) placed second, finishing 1:55 back. Germany’s Nicole Fessel was third (+3:41). The race included 66 competitors. No North American women started.

The men raced the same 7.5 k hill-climb course. Finnish cross-country skier Matti Heikkinen defended his 2015 title in 28:02 — 9.5 seconds slower than his winning time last year. Norwegian biathlete Tarjei Bø skied to second, 53 seconds behind Heikkinen. Norway’s Simen Andreas Sveen rounded out the podium in third (+1:02). Russia’s Alexander Legkov was fourth (+1:14), followed in fifth by Swiss star Dario Cologna (+1:21).

Two North Americans contested the uphill race. Canada’s Devon Kershaw placed 44th (+3:55) and US Biathlon’s Sean Doherty placed 70th (+5:14). Day 1 winner, Northug finished 77th (+5:52) of 90 men.


Day 1 (Blink classic): Men | Women

Day 2 (Lysebotn opp): Men | Women

2016 Blink Festival in Norway. Matti Heikkinen on the 7.5 k climb and on his way to the win. (Photo: Screenshot NRK live feed)

Finland’s Matti Heikkinen racing to the win in Thursday’s 7.5 k climb at the 2016 Blink Festival in Norway.

— Harald  Zimmer contributed reporting

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Former U.S. Cross-Country Coach, Sven Wiik Dies at 95

Sven Wiik was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1981. (Photo: U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame)

Sven Wiik was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1981. (Photo: U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame)

A coach of the 1960 U.S. Olympic cross-country team in Squaw Valley, Calif., and 1958 World Championships team, Sven Wiik died of natural causes on Tuesday at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Steamboat Today reported. He was 95.

Among Wiik’s claims to fame — he was a member of the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame as well as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame — he and coach Marty Hall designed the course for the American Birkebeiner, the largest ski marathon in North America.

Wiik was born in Solleftea, Sweden, on Feb. 27, 1921, and competed at the 1948 London Olympics as a gymnast (a demonstration sport at the time). In 1949, he immigrated to the U.S., initially to Chicago, and was offered a coaching position in Lake Placid, N.Y.

According to Steamboat Today, Gerry Groswold (who would later become the president of Winter Park Ski Area) urged the 28-year-old Wiik to contact Western State College in Gunnison, Colo.

He did and spent the next 19 years as Western State’s ski coach and an assistant professor of health and physical education. Wiik and his wife Birthe (Bitte) moved from Gunnison to Steamboat following the 1960 Winter Olympics. They built the Scandinavian Lodge, and their daughter Birgitta Lindgren and granddaughter Kajsa Lindgren run the touring center today.

In addition to coaching the U.S. championship teams in 1958 and 1960, Wiik also served on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) committees and received the 1974 Julius Blegen Award — USSA’s highest honor. He was a chief steward for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

“Our country was blessed to have him bring his passion for skiing to America and to give so much back to the sport he loved,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw wrote in an email to Steamboat Today. “I was proud to ski on some of the trails he developed for the Slumberland American Birkebeiner this past season.”

According to the article, at the age of 87, Wiik returned from the 2008 Masters World Cup cross-country ski championships in Idaho “barely hiding his disappointment” with two silver medals rather than gold in the men’s 85-99 age group. “Never mind that he had been competing in the championships for 28 years and had a chest full of medals, many of them gold.”

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June 26 Roundup: Russian Paralympic Skier Polukhin DQed for Meldonium; Bjørgen Misses Camp

— Russian visually impaired biathlete Nikolay Polukhin was to found to have committed an Anti-Doping Violation this past February, but will receive no period of ineligibility. According to a press release from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Polukhin was found to have trace amounts of meldonium in a urine sample he provided after winning the IPC World Cup men’s visually impaired 15-kilometer biathlon event on Feb. 26, 2016, in Finsterau, Germany. The 33 year old’s result was disqualified, making Ukraine’s Anatolii Kovalevskyi the new winner, Russian Iurii Utkin the silver medalist and Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev the bronze medalist. Though meldonium is a substance included on the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) 2016 Prohibited List and is not permitted at any time — in or out of competition — the IPC Anti-Doping Hearing Body found “no fault or negligence” on the part of Polukhin and decided there would be no period of ineligibility.

— Norwegian superstar Marit Bjørgen will sit out a national-team training camp (she missed the Olso Ski Show, which took place this year on June 10 due to a stress injury) and will once again not join her teammates as they head to Svarstad, Norway, this week. “The best thing for me now is to stay home and train alternatively when I can not participate in all training activities we carry on gathering,” Bjørgen said to adressa.no, according to a translation. American Jessie Diggins will, however, be making a guest appearance as she continues to train with the Norwegian women’s national team at their camp.

Sjur Ole Svarstad is Norway’s newest coaching addition as women’s national team assistant for the upcoming 2016/2017 ski season. Svarstad, 34, has spent five seasons coaching national-team recruits and now looks forward to working with full-time national team members. “It has been five unforgettable years in rookie team. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with highly motivated cross-country youth. The off-season they have shown in training and in competitions is a setting I have learned a lot and that I take with me. As part of the coaching staff at the women’s national team, I will meet new challenges, and will have new athletes to challenge. It is with great humility that I will now be part of such a strong performance group. I’m looking forward to taking on this task,” Svarstad told skiforbundet.no, according to a translation.

Turnagain Arm as seen from partway up Bird Ridge, outside Anchorage, Alaska, in April. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

Turnagain Arm as seen from partway up Bird Ridge, outside Anchorage, Alaska, in April. Bird Ridge in Chugach State Park was the site of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb on June 19. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

— A bevy of elite skiers from Alaska Pacific University (APU) showcased their uphill running at the Robert Spurr Memorial (Bird Ridge) Hill Climb on Sunday, June 19, at Chugach State Park, outside Anchorage, Alaska. The grueling hill climb ascends from sea level, on the shores of Turnagain Arm, to 3,500 feet above sea level in less than three miles. As originally reported by the Alaska Dispatch News, APU skiers David NorrisScott Patterson and Lex Treinen took the top three spots in this year’s race.  Norris broke the course record, and took precisely one minute off his time from last year. Patterson, who finished less than a second behind Norris, improved by a remarkable 2:16 from last year’s race. Jessica Yeaton, who trains with APU but is a member of the Australian National Team, was second among the women, 1:40 faster than last year. APU skier Becca Rorabaugh was fourth.

— Like watching nordic freestyle videos? Check out the latest from Team Valoche with Part II of their series One of Those Nordic Days,” created by French biathlete Baptiste Jouty and his friend Alexis Boeuf.

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June 12 Roundup: Norway’s Quota Decreased; 2021 World Champs in Oberstdorf

With reduced quotas, Norway may never again see an all Norwegian relay podium sweep, as shown above,  during the men's 4 x 10 k relays in  Lillehammer, Norway. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

With reduced quotas, Norway won’t be able to pull off an all-Norwegian relay podium sweep, as seen above during the men’s 4 x 10 k relay in Lillehammer, Norway. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

–The International Ski Federation (FIS) released the competition calendar for the 2016/2017 ski season. Nordic will open in Ruka, Finland, followed by three events in Lillehammer, Norway and one competition in Davos, Switzerland prior to the new year. World Championships will be held in Lahti, Finland. For the complete schedule, click here.

— Norwegians cut down the number of World Cup skiers they field? Although not by choice, Norway and other nordic powerhouse countries must decrease the quota of athletes they are permitted to enter in an individual competition during the upcoming race season. To level the playing field, the International Ski Federation (FIS) decided to limit the number of athletes each nation can field per race to six, according to a decision made last Wednesday at the FIS Congress in Cancun, Mexico. Previously, nations such as Norway were allowed to enter up to eight athletes for individual competitions (and more for relays). With the Norwegian men’s podium sweep at the Lillehammer, Norway relays, each country will also only be allowed to enter a maximum of two relay teams. The purpose of making these changes, according to a press release by neveitalia.it, is to level the playing field for countries still developing their cross-country ski programs and to promote more international participation in the sport.

— With the wrap up of the 50th International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress on Saturday, June 11, the location for 2021 Nordic World Championships has been announced. Oberstdorf, Germany was unveiled as the winner; the last time the town hosted the event was in 2005. Oberstdorf won by an 11-count vote over Trondheim, Norway, and Planica, Slovenia. “Oberstdorf has put its heart into securing the 2021 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. We have an Organizer with massive experience hosting both annual World Cup events and previous editions of the World Championships and there is not a doubt in my mind that they will do an excellent job in 2021,” FIS president Gian Franco Kasper said according to an FIS press release.

— Even with summer well under way, ticket sales for the 2017 Nordic World Championships in Lahti, Finland, have already reached 40,000 sold. The 2015 World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden sold 50,000 tickets, which is the current benchmark for this season’s upcoming event. “It seems that the grandstand will be sold by the end of the race several days in each case already during the autumn. So, if you want to see the ski end solutions in prime locations, you may want to act speedily,” the 2017 Lahti Director of Sales, Mikko Saarinen told kestavyysurheilu.fi, according to a translation.

— A little help goes a long way. Small nations competing at Nordic World Championships in Lahti, Finland, can expect help with waxing, as FIS will provide free wax service to nations who need it. “It is difficult for developing nations to compete with countries with large budgets for their technical teams, but this service can reduce the gap to participants without expertise waxing,” Chair of the FIS Cross Country Committee, Finn Marsland, high-performance manager of the Australian national team, told ski-nordique.net. “This service will be offered again in Lahti in 2017,” Marsland added, referring to the free wax service that was also provided at the 2015 Nordic World Championships in Falun, Sweden. 

— You’ve heard of the world-famous Holmenkollen ski race. But what about the Holmenkollen Stair Race? Last Monday, June 8, a few Norwegian skiers got their stair-climbing competition on in an event formerly known as “Stairway Oslo”, by ascending the 600-steps as quickly as they could. The fastest woman was Synnøve Haaland clocking in at around 3:00 minutes and Ferdinand Bohne won the men’s side in a time of 2:36. University of Colorado Boulder skier Petter Reistad competed in the event and finished fifth in a time of 2:44.6.

— Though debates over “no double-pole zones” — sections on course where skiers wouldn’t be permitted to double pole — will continue, the FIS decided that they will not be implemented into this year’s World Cup season. National level competitions may implement the change if they so choose, while international levels of racing will remain the same.

— A debut race series will begin this year for youth involved in Nordic Combined skiing. FIS recently approved a proposal to implement Nordic Combined Youth Cups for the 2016/2017 season. Racing will kick-off in Vuokatti, Finland, in August. For the first time, women of all ages will also be permitted to compete in Nordic Combined Youth Cup weekends. Nordic combined is still the only sport in the Olympic Games that is male only.

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June 5 Roundup: Norwegians Weigh In on No-DP Zones; No Poker for Northug

Norwegian women’s sprint coach Roar Hjelmeset (l) calls out to Therese Johaug as she races to bronze in the 10 k classic at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Norwegian women’s sprint coach Roar Hjelmeset (l) calls out to Therese Johaug as she races to bronze in the 10 k classic at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

— With the resignation of Egil Kristiansen from the head coaching position for the women’s Norwegian National Team in late April, Roar Hjelmeset has signed on as the new women’s head coach as of Tuesday, May 31. Hjelmeset previously served as the Norwegian women’s sprint coach since 2011, working with athletes such as Marit Bjørgen, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Maiken Caspersen Falla, among others. “He burns for his job and is a born coach,” Bjørgen said to Sporten.com, according to a translation. The 38-year-old Hjelmeset has signed on for next season, as well as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeong Chang, South Korea.

— Snorkeling and beach lounging is not the only thing going on in Cancun, Mexico, this year. The 50th International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress is set to take place in the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula, starting this Sunday, June 5, and running until Saturday, June 11. It is estimated that over 900 representatives from 82 different member ski associations will be present. Topics discussed regarding nordic skiing include various proposals aimed at developing the sport of cross country skiing and finalizing the 2016/2017 season schedule.

— One of the proposals discussed at the 50th FIS Congress regards the idea of having ‘no double poling’ zones in certain classic World Cup races. The purpose would be to preserve the classical style and maintain the use of the diagonal stride. While some are supportive of the idea, including Norwegians Marit Bjørgen and Therese Johaug, their male teammates Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Petter Northug are not.

“The motive of the FIS rules committee is obviously slowing the huge development in making,” Northug said to Dagbladet, according to a translation. “More and more of today’s cross-country skiers have put an enormous amount of training to be better at stake. More and more of them are able to stake through classic trails on shiny ski.”

Norwegian Olympic legend Thomas Alsgaard is also critical of the no-double-pole zones proposal. “It’s like we’re back in the ’80s here,” Alsgaard told Dagbladet, according to a translation. “Unfortunately it is not surprising that the proposal came, but it is yet another example that it is high time that cross country open for people who are thinking innovatively.” Meanwhile, Johaug saw the opposite side of the argument. “I think it is positive that the FIS puts that kind of rules,” Johaug told NRK, according to a translation. We must take care of classic in the future and it gives a signal to young people; it’s good they take hold.” 

— While nordic skiing may not be seen by many as the most lucrative professional sport, the racers at the top at least, are bringing home the bacon. According to calculations released by FIS, both Sundby and Johaug took home a six-figure salary in overall winnings from the 2015/2016 ski season. However, their financial gains represent only one-fourth of the total winnings taken home by World Cup athletes. The real races to win are the Tour events. Athletes who emerge victorious during those competitions can earn upwards of 100,000 Swiss francs (about $102,500 dollars). Check out men’s and women’s prize money listings provided by FIS.

— Despite her original intention to compete in the Oslo Ski Show rollerski race on Saturday, a nagging hip strain has left Norwegian Marit Bjørgen standing on the sidelines, while watching her teammates compete. “I had been looking forward to competing with the girls in Holmenkollen Oslo ski show,” Bjørgen told Langrenn, according to a translation. “It’s a bit boring when I do not get done what I should, but I have to relate to reality.”

 Northug’s poker playing days are over — for now — after one of his sponsors Coop, told him to quit. “I don’t play poker any longer,” Northug told Adresseavisen, according to a translation.“That will have to wait until after my (skiing) career.” Coop, a grocery store chain, saw his poker playing habits as bad for his image, especially in relation to his drunk-driving incident two years ago.

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May 29 Roundup: Kershaw with Team Telemark, Østberg in Ethopia, and Ski Classics Calendar

— Canadian World Cup A-Team member Devon Kershaw has a few training transitions in line this season, one of them being his decision to work with Team Telemark. A newly founded Norwegian cross-country training group, Team Telemark lists 10 other members beyond Kershaw, including the U23 bronze medalist, Mikael Gunnulfsen. “I’ve trained a lot with Norwegian runners, but never been on such a team. It’s going to be exciting,” Kershaw told Telemarksavisa, according to a translation.

— Team Telemark’s claim to fame doesn’t end there. Former Norwegian skiing superstar, Kristin Størmer Steira plans to coach the women’s team, while her husband, Kershaw, races for the men. She plans to work with several Norwegian up-and-comers, including Mari Eide, Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, and Silje Øyre Slinde. She will work alongside former Norwegian national athlete, Ella Gjømle Berg. “There are girls here who can compete in the world. I want to help them to get out their maximum potential,” Berg told NRK, according to a translation.

— The Visma Ski Classics 2016/2017 calendar was released last Thursday. These races include the infamous Vasaloppet and Marcialonga. Five new destination races have been added to this season’s schedule in Switzerland, Austria, Norway, and China. For more information, check out the video presented by Visma Ski Classics in Stockholm, Sweden.

— There’s more to life than just cross-country skiing and racing. Even Norwegian nordic standout, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg understands that. The 25-year-old Tour de Ski runner-up recently returned from a trip to Ethopia, as part of an athlete-driven organization, Right to Play, which was established in 2000. The organization’s mission is to ensure that every child, worldwide, understands their right to healthy, active play. In Ethiopia, we met many people who had hardly anything at all,” Østberg told Dagbladet of her trip, according to a translation. “But we saw what  a football, and a playground can mean. The joy of getting run and play unfold physical might what I will remember most.”

— Former University of Utah cross-country skier and Norwegian nordic World Cup racer, Snorri Einarsson, has decided he’s going to the Olympics, but not in the red-and-blue suits of Norway. Instead, Einarsson has decided to change citizenship and compete for Iceland at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The 30 year old plans to train with Norway this year, before making the official jump to “island” training. “There are many deadlines and much paperwork that must be observed and done before I can be Icelandic. Therefore I’m going to go to Norway this year, but next year and up to and including the Olympic Games in 2018,” Einarsson told Langrenn, according to a translation.

— Many only dream of competing at the Olympics. Brazilian athlete, Jaqueline Mourão, has competed five times in three different sports: mountain biking at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Games in Athens, Greece, and Beijing, China, respectively; cross-country skiing at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, and the Vancouver, Canada; and biathlon at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The 40 year old’s most recent Olympic moment was the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay, which Mourão completed on rollerskis.

— After working two years coaching just one athlete, Russian cross country skier, Ilia Chernousov, Norwegian Vegard Bitnes will take on a new responsibility as the head coach for the Austrian women’s biathlon team. “I’ve gone from being the coach of one top athlete, to suddenly be responsible for an entire national team. It is fun to work with such a large group, and I motivated to take the challenges we face,” Bitnes told Langrenn, according to a translation.

— No surprise, Tour de Ski locations depend greatly on the numbers. Numbers of viewers tuning into the broadcasting stations that is. Jürg Capol, the current International Ski Federation (FIS) race director and FIS Marketing AG, indicated that it’s important for cross country skiing to communicate and reach numerous audiences. “It is important that we make the cross-country skiing more — communicate the sport better and: it needs to transfer stories around the sport,” Capol said to nordic-online, according to a translation.

— If the interest was high enough, who’s to say a FIS Cross-Country World Cup wouldn’t show up in New York or even London? “Decisive for the discharge of such a World Cup event is the National Federation, and here the American Association,” Capol told nordic-online, according to a translation. “Currently running the evaluation phase; there is a concept — I expect a decision before the FIS Congress in Cancun in June 2016. But: If New York is not, why not London?”

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It’s A Boy! Randall and Ellis Welcome Baby Breck

"Overwhelmed with love and happiness to welcome Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into our family last night," Randall tweeted along with the above image of her and Jeff Ellis' son, Breck Stuart Randall Ellis. (Photo: Kikkan Randall Twitter)

“Overwhelmed with love and happiness to welcome Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into our family last night,” Randall tweeted on Friday, April 15. (Photo: Kikkan Randall/Twitter)

Kikkan Randall has broken down a lot of barriers for the U.S. Nordic Ski Team women’s team. Most involved podiums. On Thursday, April 14, she became a first-time parent — another first among her teammates. 

Randall and her husband, Jeff Ellis, celebrated the birth of their baby boy, Breck Stuart Randall Ellis.

“Jeff and I are overwhelmed with love and happiness as we welcomed Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into the world last night,” Randall posted along with a photo of the newborn on Instagram. “8lbs 11oz and 21 [inches]. He’s already a happy, healthy and strong boy!”

When the four-time Olympian announced her pregnancy last October, she also indicated her plan to compete in the 2016/2017 ski season, as well as the 2018 Olympics.

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A Week After Junior Worlds, Kern Reaches Alpen Cup Podium

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women's 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Justin Beckwith)

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women’s 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Justin Beckwith)

There is still racing happening in Europe, and Julia Kern reached the podium last weekend at the Alpen Cup in Germany a very big way.

For starters, she was the third junior woman in the 15-kilometer freestyle mass start — the longest race she had ever done — last Sunday. As U.S. Ski Team Development Coach and trip leader Bryan Fish pointed out, she would have been 15th among the senior women that day in Arber, Germany.

“In the past, long distances have been my weakness and even the thought of a 15km would be daunting, however to my surprise this year I have found most of my best races have been in distance races,” Kern, 18, wrote in an email on Sunday. “I think I had a particularly good race today because I absolutely love mass starts and I was fired up to stick with the leaders for as long as possible.”

Kern is coming off Junior World Championships in Rasnov, Romania, where she posted two individual top 20’s in the freestyle sprint and 5 k classic. A week after her last race in Rasnov, the women’s relay, the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) and U.S. Ski Team (USST) D-team member competed in Arber.

“Coming off of World Juniors I was actually pretty tired. The combination of a lot of running, a compressed race week, and slow snow made more tired than I had expected,” she wrote. “I wasn’t sure what to expect from these races because I wasn’t sure how many people would be there and how I would feel after a few tough last few days in Romania.”

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women's 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women’s 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

In her first race of the Alpen Cup weekend, the 5 k classic, Kern placed fourth, 12.3 seconds off the podium and 42 seconds behind the winner.

“The field was pretty small, only 16 girls in the U20 race,” she wrote of the 5 k. “Many people were recovering from World Juniors and others didn’t get a start spot. Although the field was small, the girls there were strong skiers. I wouldn’t say I had an outstanding race, but I was still generally satisfied with my race.”

The next day, she described having “one of the fastest skis out there.”

“I think the biggest difference was my energy and mindset,” she added. “I often times have higher energy the second day of racing compared to others. Mentally, I didn’t feel quite in the race yesterday, but today in the mass start I was fully focused and out to win. I learned a lot about racing a 15km, as well as mass start tactics since we have so few lately with the lack of snow.”

The second U.S. woman in the junior races, Leah Lange placed 10th on both days. According to Fish, the U.S. brought 20 athletes to Europe — a mixture of U20 and senior skiers — for the last two OPA Cups of the season. Next weekend, they’ll compete at OPA Cup Finals in Toblach, Italy.

Other U.S. results from last weekend include: Becca Rorabaugh (APU) in 13th in the senior women’s 10 k classic last Saturday, followed by Erika Flowers (SMST2) in 17th, Liz Guiney (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 21st, and Heather Mooney in 27th.

Akeo Maifeld-Caucci (Bridger Ski Foundation) leads a German while racing to 26th in the senior men's 30 k freestyle mass start on Sunday. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (Bridger Ski Foundation) leads a German while racing to 26th in the senior men’s 30 k freestyle mass start on Sunday. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

In the senior men’s 15 k classic on Saturday, Ben Saxton (SMST2/USST) placed 25th, Mile Havilick (Sun Valley SEF) in 27th, Logan Hanneman (APU) in 34th, Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (BSF) in 41st, Tyler Kornfield (APU) in 48th, and Lex Treinen (APU) in 56th.

In the junior men’s 15 k classic, Thomas O’Harra (APU) placed 20th, Zak Ketterson (NMU) was 21st, and Leo Hipp (NMU) 31st.

On Day 2, Maifeld-Carucci led the U.S. senior men in the 30 k freestyle mass start in 26th, Treinen was 30th, Havlick 33rd, Kornfield 43rd, Saxton 45th, and Hanneman 48th.

In the junior men’s 20 k freestyle mass start, Ketterson placed 17th, O’Harra was 29th and Hipp 34th.

Next stop: Italy. Fish explained they arrived in Toblach on Tuesday night.

“I am really looking forward to these races because the field will be big and very competitive!” Kern wrote of OPA Cup Finals. “The races [last] weekend has further built my confidence that I am getting faster every race and that I can be just as the fast as the girls here in Europe. I am hoping to carry my momentum from this weekend into OPA finals and I am hoping to put in my best races of the season.”


Women: Senior 10 k classic | Junior 5 k classic | Senior 15 k freestyle mass start | Junior 15 k freestyle mass start

Men: Senior 15 k classic | Junior 15 k classic | Senior 30 k freestyle mass start | 20 k freestyle mass start

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Appeals Committee Reinstates Four Norwegian Relay Teams from National Championships

After the national championship relay in Tromsø, 15 men’s teams were slapped with three-minute penalties for skating in the classic portion of the race. The race jury published video of the technique infractions and said that they were aiming to be strict in enforcing the rules on classic technique.

Four teams appealed the decision, and the Appeals Committee recently agreed with them, saying that since there was no classic track on the section of the course in question, the skiers were allowed to push off of their skis instead of double-poling. Thus the time penalties were removed for those four teams.

The decision is available (in Norwegian) here.

According to John Aalberg, who was the Technical Delegate for the competitions and had been part of the six-member group who decided to penalize the 15 teams, the decision not to set tracks had been because on a steep uphill, the tracks would have been washed out immediately during warmup as skiers went up the hill using herringbone technique.

The solution that he and other technical experts have come to? Set tracks, even if they get washed out.

“The basic reason is that the current rules (according to the attorneys reviewing the appeals) say that ‘turning technique’ (basically skating with one leg) is allowed where there is no track set – this means also in uphills,” Aalberg wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “Our jury did not have this understanding of the rules and defined the ‘skating’ we observed in the uphill as wrong classical technique (in an uphill). The solution (until the rules are adjusted) is to set a track also in herringbone hills (and make sure it is marked as such).”

The skating by some skiers seemed more blatant than others, and it does not seem that the appeals committee took this into consideration. You can view the video here and check for yourself: the teams which successfully appealed were Heming (bib 12), Kjelsås (bib 5), Rindal (bib 22), and Varden Meråker 2 (bib 32).

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Rottefella Files Suit Against Amer Sport, Claims Illegal Copyright of NNN System

The binding wars continue.

As noted in a FasterSkier article on on Dec. 31, Amer Sports, the holding company for Atomic and Salomon, plans to release NNN-compatible boots and bindings using what they are calling the Prolink system.

Ski-lines.com linked to an article on Jan. 6, originally posted on e24.no, explaining that Rottefella is filing suit against Amer Sport. Rottefella is the original patent holder of the NNN system and the more modern NIS system.

In Ski-Lines.com’s translation of the article, which was originally written in Norwegian, they claim Rottefella believes the Prolink system, “is illegally copying Rottefella, who owns the NNN binding system, which includes everything from the tread of boots to the mounting plate on the skis.”

E24 reports that Rottefella’s lawyer, Halvor Haug Mans, says Amer Sports is violating intellectual property rights and a Marketing Act, “against copied products.” According to E24, Rottefella, in its complaint, has given Amer Sports Norway, “until Friday at 14.30 if they will respond to the letter. The short deadline due according Rottefella that Amer has already completed the launch without any prior notice, and that it is now urgent to intervene in the situation that has arisen.”

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Biathlon WC to Ruhpolding; European Snow Woes Continue, Tour de Ski Still On

* With more than ten days before the World Cup was set to arrive, organizers in Oberhof, Germany, knew that they wouldn’t have enough snow to hold the biathlon competitions in early January. On December 22 they canceled their World Cup, traditionally the first stop of the new year each season. Ruhpolding, Germany, to the southwest has stepped up and will host the fourth weekend of World Cup racing as well as their originally-scheduled hosting duties for the fifth weekend.

World Cup 4 will run from January 8-10 and World Cup 5 from January 13-17.

The FIS Tour de Ski looks set to go off as planned, beginning in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on January 1-3. There’s enough snow on the race trails and alpine resorts but not much elsewhere down in the valley.

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 3.23.55 PM

The Crans-Montana resort a few hours away had no snow on Christmas for just the sixth time since 1966, according to Swiss government meteorologists. And their annual review shows how anomalous the warm winter is: the annual temperature record for 2015 is the warmest ever, breaking the record which had been set in 2014 and before that in 2011. December is where part of that record comes from. By the end of the month it is expected to be the warmest December ever on record in Switzerland, 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average. The previous record was set in 1968.

Oberstdorf, Germany, will host the second batch of races, on January 5-6. The order of the Oberstdorf races will be reversed, with a sprint on January 5 instead of as previously scheduled the next day, in order to give the organizing committee more time to make snow for the 10 and 15 k skiathlons, now to be held on January 6.

“We are very happy that the FIS Tour de Ski is going to take place in Oberstdorf,” FIS Cross Country race director Pierre Mignerey said in a press release. “The LOC has been working hard and showed great courage and commitment to organize both stages of the Tour de Ski. The whole Cross-Country Skiing community appreciates their efforts.”

Out of some 4,000 cubic meters of snow Oberstdorf organizers produced in November and early December, about 2,500 cubic meters remain. The sprint will be held on a 1.2 k course while a new track for the distance races is prepared. Start times are TBD.

At the moment, Oberstdorf looks quite green, but it’s set to begin hosting the 4 Hills Ski Jumping Tournament on Monday.

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Dec. 22 Roundup: Last Day to Win TDS Tix; Biathletes Spread Holiday Cheer

– Today is the last day to enter for a chance to see the Tour de Ski in person. Adidas will award one lucky individual a trip to Lenzerheide, Switzerland, to watch the Tour de Ski races on-site, starting with the men’s 30 k and women’s 15 k classic mass start on Jan 2. To enter, participants must simply enter their contact information here.

– And Adidas isn’t stopping the contests there: Adidas and Rossignol are sponsoring a contest for the chance to win a full ski kit from French skier, Martin Fourcade. The gear includes a long sleeve T-shirt, pants, a pair of Rossignol ski boots, and Rossignol skis.

– US Biathlon’s Lowell Bailey and Clare Egan, accompanied by France’s Jean-Guillaume Béatrix, harmonized for an IBU Christmas video, with Egan leading the vocals for two Christmas songs.

Team United Bakeries spreads some holiday cheer during the holiday season in a unique way. Dressed in Santa and Yeti costumes Team United Bakeries hit the trails to “scare” the competition, and dole out a little holiday fun for their Instagram feed.

– In an award ceremony on Sunday night, sports journalists named Germany’s Nordic Combined relay from the 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden (Edelmann, Rießle, Frenzel, Rydzek) the German “team of the year,” partly because it was the first team title in that discipline in over two decades. That award is considered a huge honor every year, at least like an ESPY, similarly presented at a gala dinner and broadcast live on TV, with some 700 athletes from all kinds of sports disciplines in attendance. Moreover, the German women’s biathlon relay (Hildebrand, Preuss, Hinz, Dahlmeier) from 2015 IBU World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland, ranked second, and the German men’s biathlon relay (Lesser, Böhm, Peiffer, Schempp) in third place. After wrapping up their World Cup weekend in Pokljuka, Slovenia, the German biathletes drove to the awards ceremony, dressed up for the black-tie event.

– Bjørn Dæhlie made an appearance the recent World Cup races in Davos, Switzerland, not as an athlete or part of the audience, but as an advocate for his own clothing line. The Norwegian ski legend passed out hats with his signature brand to close to 400 children during the weekend’s competition.

– With a lack of snow in Europe, Norway’s most decorated biathlon star Ole Einar Bjørndalen may resort to training indoors for much of the holiday break. When he says indoors, Bjørndalen refers to his tour bus/indoor-training facility.

– The biathlon star could also look to train at one of the European venues boasting cool enough temperatures to procure trails of manmade snow. The list of sacred snow holders includes: Balderschwang Germany (5 kilometers), Gsiesertal, Italy (15 k), Val di Femme, Italy (5+ k), Toblach, Italy (5 k), Goms, SwitzerlandGstaad, Switzerland (23 k), Davos, Switzerland (7 k), Lenzerheide, Switzerland (12 k), Andermatt, Switzerland (11 k), Engelberg, Switzerland (10 k), Ramsau Austria (2.5 k), Pitzal Glacier, Austria (5 k), Obertilliach, Austria (4.8 k).

– Areas in Sweden are also looking to let it [artificial] snow. Thanks to a recent grant approval from the Cultural and Leisure Department in Sundbyberg, a couple of municipalities in Stockholm County, Sweden, will collaborate to purchase three new artificial snow canons. Along with the Municipality of Täby and the Municipality of Sundbyberg, the Stockholm Sports Federation will contribute toward the 750,000 SEK ($89,000 U.S. dollars) total investment.

– Is there such thing as too many volunteers? The organizers for the Biathlon World Cup in Holmenkollen, Norway, had to actually turn away over 350 individuals who signed up to help out at the championship being held March 3rd-13th of next year. A total 1650 individuals applied for the 1300 available volunteer positions, leaving a few desirous of lending their time to wait until the next all for help.

– After many years serving as the Norwegian Junior National Biathlon Team head coach, Kjell Ove Oftedal plans to resign from the position on Jan. 1, 2016. Though time as head coach will be well remembered by many, Oftedal is ready to head off, according to one translation, “in search of a new challenge.”

– Three years ago, Swedish skier Adam Johansson skied from Falun to Stockholm as a fundraiser event for Musikhjälpen, a collaboration of Swedish radio stations that offer news about global issues. Hoping to prove a point that the lack of snow requires attention and action against climate, Johansson has decided to ski the 20 miles once again, but this year on roller skis. Read more about his and organization Ski Aid on his Facebook page.

– Cross Country Canada (CCC) recently announced its nominations of athletes to compete during Period 2 of racing on the U25 European B-team. The team selections were made based off of athletes’ performances during the 2015 December NorAm selection events and the 2015-2016 selection guidelines set forth by CCC for competition trips. Athletes include, women: Dahria Beatty (Alberta World Cup Academy), Cendrine Browne (CNEPH), Katherine-Stewart-Jones (NDC Thunder Bay), Maya Macisaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers) and men: Knute Johnsgaard (AWCA) and Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay).

– With just over a month to go until the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, Tom Tvedt, the sports president of Youth Olympics, discussed the importance of not only creating athletic endeavors for kids, but also providing the opportunity for youth to learn and further their future development through sport.

– On Dec. 14, Eduard V. Mikhailov lost his life in a car accident while traveling back from a nordic race event in ChusovoyPerm Krai Russia. Mikhailov was a coach for the Russian national cross-country teams as well as the Republic of Udmurtia.

– In other Russian news, NRK attempted to interview former Russian Biathlon coach Vladimir Korolkevich, who now coaches with the Belarusian biathlon team.. Korolkevich denied any knowledge of doping while he worked for the Russian team.



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Dec. 11 Roundup: Johaug in Hot Water Over Pole Straps; Relays Need More Women

– When almost twice as many men’s relay teams as women’s teams competed on Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Cross Country World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, the International Ski Federation (FIS) feels something needs to change. That change may come in the form of mixed relays, which would not only allow more women to participate in the relay races, but more nations as well.

– In a competition for kilometers, FIS has launched a challenge to see which country can ski the most during the first 10 days of January. Officially called the “FIS Tour de Ski Challenge 2016 Powered by Polar,” cross-country skiers of all levels are invited to track their own and others’ kilometers on skis via http://fistourdeski2016.polar.com while using a Polar Flow account and compatible GPS product.

– According to Skisport.ru, Russian athlete and 2015 winner of the Eastern Europe Continental Cup, Andrew Parfenov was not allowed to enter in the World-Cup opening races in Kuusamo, Finland, due to a recent contract he signed with Finnish brand, Yoko. Parfenov was not allowed entry because Yoko is not an approved sponsor of the Russian Ski Federation and this sponsorship conflicted with an agreement made with Fischer.

– In an interview with Skisport.ru, Russian native Ivan Babikov discussed many trending topics including the financing of the Canadian national team, WADA‘s recent report on Russia, and his celebrity status in Canada. Babikov referenced Cross Country Canada’s loss of sponsorship from oil company, Statoil, and its effect on his team’s budget. On the topic of WADA’s recent doping report on Russia, he said, “I believe that in Sochi, the best man won. All of us there were always tested — Russian, and Canadian and Brazilian.” While skiing is popular in Canada, he also said his celebrity status was nil compared to the country’s favorite sport: hockey. A Canadian since his family moved to Toronto when he was young, he has no plans on returning to Russia.

– Some Norwegian ski experts believe the 2015/2016 overall World Cup crown is Therese Johaug’s to lose and a clean sweep in the distance races is within her grasp. “She is totally superior in distance, simply. She will be through the winter, because she is so far ahead. It allows her to win the race even if she is 90 percent,” said Torgeir Bjørn, NRK’s ​​expert commentator and retired Norwegian nordic skier.

– More on Norway’s female star: Sweski.com reports reports drama over Johaug using Swix straps on her Bjørn Dæhlie poles. It seems the smaller-sized Swix straps fit Johaug better than the stock straps on her new poles. After Johaug taped over the Swix logo at the opening races in Kuusamo, Finland, Swix went to FIS and forced her to remove the tape for future races. Until Bjørn Dæhlie makes straps that fit her hands comfortably, she will continue with the Swix straps, which Swix CEO Ulf Bjerknes finds amusing.

– Johaug is also the new face of the Huawei‘s “Make it Possible Campaign,” according to Ski-Nordique. A Chinese company that specializes in smartphones and tablets, Huawei’s ad featuring Johaug can be found here.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby is in contention to rank amongst legendary skiers Bjørn Dæhlie and Gunde Svan for a nordic “hat-trick”, according to Ski-Nordique. If he is able to win another World Cup title this winter he will complete this feat. The title would be Sundby’s third-consecutive crystal globe.

– Norway’s Emil Iversen skied to seventh place in the Lillehammer World Cup skiathlon last weekend — yet he was the seventh Norwegian. His conundrum: how does he proceed with Norway’s wealth of skiers? Limited to six skiers in the distance events, Iversen will watch most of the season’s World Cups on TV. Ragnhild Haga, who is the sixth-best Norwegian woman on World Cup, feels a similar pressure, according to NRK.

– Norwegian biathlete Kristin Hjelstuen started a food blog where individuals can gain insight and find recipes regarding eating habits of elite athletes.

– The Ski Classics marathon series plans to award 389,000 Euros (roughly $427,000 U.S. dollars) in total prize money in 2016, with 200,000 Euros ($219,000) going to “the best general rankings” (top male and female), and 21,000 Euros ($23,000) to be distributed at each of the 10 stops on the circuit

-With the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games kicking off Feb. 12th in Lillehammer, Norway, televised broadcasting of the event will be available through the Norwegian broadcasting network, NRK. Sporting competitions include staples like cross-country skiing, biathlon and nordic combined, as well as cross-country motocross and ski-cross. More than 1,000 athletes ages 15-18 are currently registered from over 70 different nations.

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Noah Hoffman Launches Fantasy League, Trading Closes Nov. 26

Race fans looking for the added incentive of physical prizes have a virtual chance to dominate this winter’s cross-country World Cup season, with the recent relaunch of U.S. Ski Team member Noah Hoffman’s Fantasy Cross Country League.

A project Hoffman debuted last year, “Noah Hoffman Fantasy Cross Country” is aimed at gaining a greater following and support for nordic skiing at the international level. The purpose of the league is to collect the most World Cup points by selecting the best team of athletes for each weekend and tour throughout the season. To join, click this link, create an account and pick your team. The first series of trading closes Nov. 26, 8 p.m. Eastern.


– One account per person; no aliases allowed. Each league participant gets a total of 16 skiers for their league team: eight women, eight men. Trades may be made until 8 p.m. Eastern time the night before the opening race of each weekend or tour. See the website calendar for more details on trading.

– Points are awarded for the top-30 finishers from each weekend or tour. At the conclusion of the World Cup season, a grand prize of a pair of Madshus Nanosonic Skate Skis, Madshus 100 UHM Poles, and a Caldwell Sport Fleet Evaluation (plus Stone Grinding, Heatbox, and Race Hardening for one pair of skis) will be awarded to the individual with the best team over the course of the season.

– Prizes will also be awarded every weekend or tour to the individual with the best performing team. See the website prizes for more information.

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Last Day of WADA Meetings: Russia, Ukraine Declared Noncompliant (Updating)

Note: We’ll try to update this post as the day progresses.

The Compliance Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has declared RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, noncompliant with the WADA Code.

WADA Director General David Howman told the assembly that in countries which are deemed noncompliant, WADA itself will work with other relevant bodies to make sure that athletes are tested for doping violations. He confirmed that the country itself would be on the hook for the expenses of such a plan.

Besides RUSADA, the committee deemed Ukraine, Andorra, Israel, and Argentina noncompliant, and put Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Mexico, and Spain on a “watch list”. Those on the watch list must come into full compliance by March 18th, 2016.

Ukraine was reportedly deemed noncompliant for using a non accredited laboratory.

Even athletes from those countries already deemed noncompliant will see no effects of the ruling on their ability to compete, as WADA will take over organizing testing, according to sources in the meeting. The exception is Russian track and field, which has been sanctioned by its international federation, the IAAF.

This means that Russian and Ukrainian ski and biathlon stars will be on the trails two weeks from now when the World Cup begins.

Surprisingly, Kenya was not named on either list; in a documentary released by German television station ARD, Kenyan distance running was shown to be riddled with blood doping. The BBC is reporting that Kenya was told it needed to explain its anti-doping process or be added to the list.

Earlier in the day at the WADA Board Meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, today, many within the movement called for further investigation and action into all sports in the wake of a report by the Independent Commission which found systematic and state-sponsored doping in track and field.

Because the violations came from both within track and field, but also from the Russian state anti-doping agency (RUSADA) and a Moscow laboratory, it is clear that more sports besides track and field are affected. However, so far WADA has declined to specify how intently it will follow up outside of track and field.

“We must have the courage to take decisive action,” said Edwin Moses, the chair of WADA’s Education Committee, in an address to the floor. “No more waiting. No more excuses. Justice requires that the sanction for this doping scandal be so strong, and the message of this Board so clear, that no country will ever do this again… There must be a period of successful auditing and testing so that we can give the world’s best athletes the guarantee that an effective and robust anti-doping program is operational in Russia and that all of Russia’s elite athletes in all sports have been subjected to at least a six to nine month period of reliable testing and investigation.”

Other former athletes involved in the WADA movement have echoed that call.

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Beckie Scott, the Canadian cross-country skiing great, also spoke.

“They’re saying, ‘Why not all sports?'” the Associated Press quotes Scott as saying. “I feel that there are a lot of athletes watching and waiting right now. We’re at a crossroads. We urge you to please consider these athletes and consider these sports as a whole.”

According to the AP, WADA President Craig Reedie responded: “it’s quite difficult to agree today, around this table, that we would investigate all sports around the world.”

That response was “a gut kick to clean athletes,” the AP said that USADA head Travis Tygart replied: “Unless we want to be relegated to an impotent bureaucracy, we have to fulfill our promise to clean athletes and take action as requested by them.”

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Nov. 14 Roundup: EU Fluoro Ban Clarified; Harvey and Newell Named Most Beautiful

– “Take it easy, both Birkebeiners and Northug,” Adressa.no began in an article about the European Union banning fluorinated wax. Earlier this week, several media outlets reported the EU would eventually ban such products, which has been the magic behind the fastest, best-gliding skis on the international race circuit. But Adressa stated such reports were “greatly exaggerated.” Currently, the EU doesn’t have any restrictions on fluorinated compounds in wax, but PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is a different story.

Norway already bans the use of PFOA in consumer products such as clothing, and pots and pans, which benefit from the water- and dirt-resistant properties of PFOA. Bottom line: Norway’s leading wax manufacturer, Swix will have to make some tweaks to eliminate PFOA from certain products.

“We have long known that this could come and are well on our way to solving this problem,” Swix Sport CEO Ulf Bjerknes said, adding that the company will work until it develops an equally good glide product.

To ban PFOA’s use in wax, the European Chemicals Agency must make its recommendation to the EU before Dec. 17. The earliest the ban could go into effect would be January 2018 — and that’s when Norway’s head of such matters will be notified.  As a result, the potential PFOA ban won’t affect wax used at the 2017 World Championships or 2018 Olympics.

“It is very much in skiers’ interest to get rid of PFOA under the skis,” the website for the government-run Environment Norway explains. “The substance is dangerous for the environment, degrades slowly in the environment and accumulates in humans and animals. Upon repeated exposure, it may cause fetal damage and it is suspected that it is carcinogenic. Shown is a probable link between PFOA in blood and increased cholesterol, ulcerative colitis and metabolic diseases.”

The head of the Norwegian national team’s waxing staff, Knut Nystad saw no cause for alarm.

“Anything that improves the environment and the [wax technician] I’m for,” he told Aftenposten.


– Skating in classic races: With growing controversy over what techniques should and should not be allowed during classic races, the International Ski Federation (FIS) released a revised set of rules for competitors, coaches and race juries alike, and did so before this weekend’s FIS season openers.


– Bids for the 2021 Nordic Ski World Championships are becoming more competitive with the addition of two more venues to the list of bidders. Following the FIS fall meeting on Nov. 8, Langrenn reported that Trondheim, Norway, now faces competition from Oberstdorf, Germany, and Planica, Slovenia.


Petter Northug is onboard with Bjørn Dæhlie. After some debate, Norway’s favorite bad boy recently signed a three-year contract with the company, which supplies the Norwegian national team’s race uniforms.


Alex Harvey and Andy Newell made a list of the top-10 best-looking skiers published by Russia’s sports.ru. Harvey, of Quebec, was No. 7 and likened to the “Sensational Alex Harvey Band” with his “black curly hair and passion for rock music,” according to a very rough translation. And Newell, who hails from Vermont and is pictured with a kitten, was No. 9.

Both beat out Norway’s Petter Northug in 10th, whom the site wrote was, “Not used to being at the end of [any] rating, but here his place — tenth — and he was lucky that he is on this list…” While he’s not known for being particularly handsome, the Russian site added, “Petter Northug has an incredibly strong charisma, which attracts the attention it deserved.”

Who was No. 1? Sweden’s Teodor Peterson.


– Time to test! On Sunday, Nov. 15, nordic skiers are invited to demo day in Livigno, Italy, where companies such as Fischer, Madshus, Salomon, Ski Trab, MasterWax, and Swix will allow cross-country skiers to try out equipment.


– Gearing up for Gällivare: Many World Cup athletes, including those from the U.S. and Canadian national teams, and Czech Lukáš Bauer, will kick off the racing season next Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21-22 at Sweden’s FIS opening races, according to FIS News.

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FS Live in Geneva: Follow WADA’s Announcements on Russia via Twitter

FasterSkier's Chelsea Little (not shown) awaits a press conference with WADA officials on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

FasterSkier’s Chelsea Little (not shown) awaits a press conference with WADA officials regarding their investigation on Russia on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA — Members from all across the sporting world are watching this Swiss city of just under 200,000 closely today, as a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) panel is set to announce its first findings from an investigation into doping in Russia.

The investigation was spurred by documentaries produced by German journalist Hajo Seppelt. In the first, he talked to former Russian track and field athletes and found that not only was doping widespread within their federation, but that it was covered up.

A second investigation found that positive doping tests by not only by Russians, but also possibly by Kenyans and others were suppressed and that many medalists at World Championships and Olympics had highly abnormal blood profiles which suggested doping.

More recently, the outgoing head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lamine Diack, has been accused of taking bribe money from Russians in order to allow doping athletes to continue competing, including at the 2012 Olympics.

The WADA Independent Commission will not yet report on those allegations, although they are expected to investigate them in the coming months.

Instead, the Commitssion, led by Canadian lawyer and former WADA head Dick Pound, will report on the investigation into Russian track and field.

In reporting on whether their was systematic or state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes, some have speculated that the panel will also touch on whether similar problems exist for other Russian sports, including cross-country skiing and biathlon.

In January 2014, two Russian biathletes, Ekaterina Iourieva and Irina Starykh, had positive tests for recombinant erythropoietin, a blood-doping drug. Another Russian, former Junior World Champion Alexander Loginov, was snagged with a positive test when the International Biathlon Union re-tested old samples using a new and improved method.

In the run-up to the 2014 Olympics – after the two women had tested positive – Starykh’s coach Vladimir Korolkevich was promoted to the head of the Russian women’s team.

To follow FasterSkier’s coverage of the press conference, follow Editor-at-Large Chelsea Little on Twitter at @ChelskiLittle, and check back to our main page in a few hours for a full writeup.

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