Welcome to Round Two of the new Skitrax Roundtable Roundt featuring top Canadian C and American skiers as they talk shop on some interesting, fun topics this Olympic season. Check out their replies to our second question: “What's the craziest/ funniest th
One of the biggest challenges for us on the road is to find access to a washing machine. Some places (Davos, [Switzerland]; Val di Fiemme, [Italy]; Kuusamo, [Finland]), we have hook-ups, it’s super-easy and we can do it ourselves, but some other places, it’s either impossible or just crazy-expensive.
In Oslo, [Norway], you pretty much need to take out a mortgage to get them to wash your clothes at the hotel. So here’s the story. After asking around to many people in Oslo, one morning right after breakfast, I ended up giving a giant bag of dirty laundry to the one-and-only Marit Bjoergen.
I went for a ski, came back to the hotel, had lunch and then, as I walked away from the buffet, I saw Marit walking in the hotel lobby with a giant pile of clean, freshly folded clothes. Not only is Marit the best cross-country skier [who] ever lived, she’s also one of the most generous people I know.
One of the craziest things that ever happened to me was breaking my back in a race called the Flattop Flyer in 1999. Not a typical cross-country-ski course, it began in the mountains above Anchorage, [Alaska] and descended about 1,500 feet into a main Nordic-trail system. An end-of-the-season fun race, it included roller jumps and a prize for the best costume.
I was really letting it fly and unexpectedly encountered a roller jump and lost my balance going off the jump, landing hard on my backside. My back tensed up and I was carried off the course on a backboard and rushed to the emergency room.
The diagnosis showed four compressed vertebrae in my mid-back and a cracked rib. Being 16 at the time, my bones were still growing and I was able to make a full recovery after wearing a full back brace for six weeks. I got really lucky in that the fractures in my vertebrae slid away from my spinal cord and that I didn’t suffer any lasting effects.
They canceled the race after the accident. Regardless, I still like to have fun going fast and taking jumps on my Nordic skis!
There are a lot of stories in the vault, but this one in Italy during the 2013 Tour de Ski sticks out as an especially funny experience.
It was Jan. 3 and Lenny [Valjas], Ivan [Babikov], myself and Alex [Harvey] were all in the top 25 to start that day’s Pursuit race.
We had been staying at one particular hotel for decades – Hotel Dolomiten – and that day began like the rest. In a quiet hush with the Pursuit challenge looming, we sipped our cappuccinos and ate the stale white buns that are the signature of any Italian breakfast
Back in those days, Canadian cross-country-ski racing was flush with funding and we were able to afford some novel things like a “rock and roll” tour bus to aid in our recovery between stages of the Tour de Ski.
It was our third year rolling in style on the Tour, and while others had RVS and the like, we were the only team at the time with a true “Team Bus” – a blacked-out-windowed bus with our white CCC logo popping in stark contrast on the side. It was both a luxury and an advantage.
The plan was simple. Our bus driver would drive to Cortina early in the morning and park the bus as close to the race start as possible. Some hours later, Head Coach Justin [Wadsworth] would drive us in a team van to Cortina from Toblach (25 kilometres or so) – stopping along the race route so we could test skis and warm up on the race course. The plan was to finish our warm-up at the bus about 15 minutes before the race start, change into our racing gear and walk two to three minutes to the starting pen.
A little note about our bus driver, a Brit named Paul. He was a stout, bald, a beer- and football-loving Englishman who mainly drove touring bands around Europe – the world of cross-country-ski racing was new.
All was going according to plan. The ski testing passed without issue, as did our warm-up. Soon we were in front of our bus, parked on a terraced square above the race start. Ivan tried to open the door to the bus, with us standing and chattering behind him. Locked. We tried again, this time with a little more gusto. Nothing. Alex, not believing that this was really happening, gave it a college try. No luck. I started laughing. What else could I do? After some panicked minutes, we realized we weren’t getting into that bus to change into our dry clothing, race bibs, dry toques, gloves, gear, etc., – and the most important Tour de Ski stage was about to start.