Graves on Nordic
by Peter Graves
In a winter that for those of us in the East began late, it has now ended. It always amazes me how fast time flies. This year, the West had abundant snowfall, for which we are all grateful. For many racers and coaches, the season ends in a warm-weather locale with toes stuck in the sand somewhere nice and peaceful to recharge the batteries and get ready for the summer training season.
Despite snow challenges in the East this winter, the season on both sides of our North American border really was a sensational one. With heroic efforts to make snow or to snow-farm at many Nordic centres, skiing and racing happened. Those dedicated folks at the venues who made the impossible happen nearly every week deserve our gratitude and deepest thanks. We are in awe of your dedication to the sport and the money and hours you commit to the task. Despite the lack of snow, few races were actually cancelled – though many were moved – what a tribute to our collective Nordic communities.
The athletes from young Jackrabbits and Koch'ers to our top-tier talent were all presented with a great season, contributing to their development and also keeping the sport alive and growing. Despite being what many term an “off year,” meaning no Olympics or World Championships to stress over, there were awesome and breathtaking events across North America.
I traveled from the USSA Nationals in Houghton, Mich. to Craftsbury, Vt. to Hayward, Wis. for the Slumberland American Birkebeiner, back to Craftsbury and then on to the fabulous epic Ski Tour Canada 2016 and then back to Craftsbury for the USSA Supertour finals. From the racing to the traveling to the announcing and watching, I would call this season a great one.
Super-well-organized events with not only good, but also exemplary leadership. Thanks so much for your efforts and the late nights you endure and the flexibility you show our athletes. And a big shout-out to the Central Cross Country Ski Association folks for pulling off the USSA Junior Nationals under the most challenging of circumstances!
We don't often have World Cups in North America, and the last one on U.S. snows was in 2001 at Soldier Hollow, Utah, which was the mandatory hosting of a pre-olympic Test Event series. Canada has shouldered an amazing load of hosting these events in Canmore, Alta. and Quebec City, Que., and we are deeply indebted to our Canadian friends. While rocketing around this season, I am truly tired and wornout, and my wife, Cami, and I need a break (hello, Florida's west coast), but above all, my heart is smiling. Let us relish the growing success of the sport, including more young junior skiers out there than ever before!
By every standard, the Ski Tour Canada 2016 was a huge success: terrific, well-attended races at every venue, excellent levels of organization, sensational TV ratings around the globe and, above all, a chance for our athletes to ski at home. Thank you organizers, sponsors, the media and to everyone who lent a hand. The world's skiers love skiing in North America, and I hope we can do this on a regular basis. Cross Country Canada should feel very proud of its efforts and the years of planning in making this happen. I also want to acknowledge the absolutely vital role Dave Dyer and his staff played in making the logistics (which were frankly staggering) go so smoothly. You deserve a gold medal, Dave!
I was thrilled with the crowds of fans who attended the races – this is so important in selling the sport to young juniors and motivating them. Many youngsters I spoke with after Canmore told me, “This was awesome; I want to be a World Cup racer,” and that's the key. While we can be, at times, self-critical in this sport, we all must agree that there are many, many good things happening and that we have the magic of momentum on our side on both sides of the border. Next season, the U.S. will be hosting the FIS World Juniors and U23 Championships at Soldier Hollow from Jan. 30-Feb. 7, so we are all excited about that.
We have had the benefit of some truly sensational results this season, making our case that through teamwork and passion we are making huge strides athletically. Congratulations to all the Canadian and American athletes who continue to dazzle us with brilliant results. They are the “doers of deeds.”
We have the tradition of an amazingly dedicated group of coaches, wax techs, parents and family, colleges, loyal sponsors, NGB administrators, TD'S and officials, venue operators and their staffs and fans. I saw this time and again this winter, and it is both real and hugely positive. We already have so many pieces of the puzzle in place!
Finally, this meaningful quote has been my touchstone as both a coach and journalist: “The credit belongs to the man (woman) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly. . . .” Credit those who dare, those who strive and those who risk. Have a great summer and I'll check back in the autumn. Thank you to each of you for the role you play in our sport.