Graves on Nordic

SkiTrax - - Con­tents - By Peter Graves

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.

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