After a lackluster season last year, Chelsea Holmes, a member of the new Far West Farm Team, had the best results of her career at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival over Thanksgiving weekend, finishing ninth in the classic sprint, fourth in the skate race, and eleventh in the classic race.
Holmes, originally from Alaska, was a three-time NCAA qualifier for the University of Nevada (UNR) and an NCAA All-American in 2008. So she certainly has good credentials. Still, seeing her name atop the West Yellowstone results sheet surprised people – and generated some good press for the new team.
FasterSkier called her up to talk about her changing fortunes as a ski racer and her plans for the rest of the season.
FasterSkier: What were you doing last year, and what about this year do you think has contributed to your jump in results?
Chelsea Holmes: Last year I graduated from UNR in December, and I went to school the entire previous summer. I was just really busy and it was my first year out of school, not racing for the University. I think I thought I could just jump into it when I was done. And then my last semester was really busy – I mean, it was great, but it was just a lot more than I had bargained for. I was super overwhelmed and pulling all-nighters left and right, and then all of a sudden you’re done with school, and you’ve got no money, and no real plans and just…. I ended up just doing a few races, I don’t know how many starts I did, maybe four or five. I was working and I was just overwhelmed. I wanted to ski, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I was flailing a little bit. I just had no plans really.
I guess what spurred my big jump in results is that last year I did not have the time or resources to race. While I had wanted and intended to race, without the resources or the preparedness it was impossible to do.
This year my pool of resources has been crucial, in terms of financing, community and equipment. I’ve been racing and coaching for Sugar Bowl Academy; they’ve been an incredible resource of inspiration and the structure that I was lacking on my own. I am involved with such a great group of kids who are all eager to learn, and it’s really fun for me. The Far West Farm Team is a budding senior team with a great community behind it, giving me awesome support and presenting itself as another resource for me.
With all these resources that I find myself with now, the most important thing which I think I have changed is my commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been committed. There is no one to answer to but myself. As cliché as it may be, I think the only thing more terrifying than fully committing is the thought of finishing the year and wishing I had done more. For me this change means that I’ve become more attentive and willing to take in whatever anyone is willing to teach me.
FS: Do you have a training plan?
CH: Honestly, last spring and summer I made it up as I went along. I mean, I’ve been doing it long enough with school and coaches that I know the idea of periodization cycles and whatnot. But all of a sudden having to work and not having any assistance – I mean, my parents help me out, but not in the same way as when I was at home – and trying to cram things that I like into a day…. it’s wake up at the crack of dawn so I can go biking or running, and try to go climbing and then go to work. I want to play! I chose not to get a standard professional job. I don’t work 40 hours a week. I work at a coffeeshop, and I assistant coach for Sugar Bowl Academy. But this summer I just worked at a coffeeshop. And that was a choice I made because I wasn’t ready to move on with my life I guess. I wanted to play.
So I was just enjoying it. And then this fall, I got some guidance from some friends. Marcus Nash gave me some advice, and Jeff Schloss, especially as the season gets closer because I think I’m at a point where I know I’m capable of pushing myself, I can train and I can work hard, but as it gets close to racing I don’t know what I’m doing. And I know that. I need someone to tell me when I need to rest and when I need to do some more intensity. I need to have structure because that’s the other part of being on your own – it’s really hard to do things you don’t want to do, or you just don’t do them. You have to go do these intervals and it’s like, ‘oh, well, I don’t feel like doing this today, so, I’m not going to do it.’ Which isn’t a good thing.
My training this past summer was somewhat unconventional, but it was food for my soul. I spent a lot of time biking, running and climbing but it was not forced. Maybe I could not fit in the same hours, but I enjoyed every moment that I spent “training”, and I was always who I was doing it for.
FS: Do you have anyone helping you with technique?
CH: When I went to West Yellowstone I went with the Far West team. And this fall I’ve been coaching Sugar Bowl Academy, coaching with Jeff Schloss, and I think that actually helped me because I haven’t had technique advice in a while, and I haven’t been in a group in a long time. And as I’m helping younger kids, it’s so much easier to see in other people what they’re doing wrong and right. And then in West Yellowstone, Glenn Jobe went, and Glenn helped me a ton with classic technique. He is just a really great teacher.
FS: What are your plans for the rest of the season?
CH: I’m going to race. I’m going to go to Canada next week, that’s the plan right now as long as I’m better by then. And then I’ll go to senior nationals.
I think that having… I know that West Yellowstone was only one race series, but I think especially for me because I was very insecure about where I stood with racing before, and especially because last year I didn’t really race – I’m Alaskan, so I did senior nationals because they were at home for me, and they weren’t that great. I was just insecure about what I was doing. When you’re not on a big team, or on a college team, you’re really committed to what you’re doing. So having a good start at West Yellowstone was really nice because now I think I’ve relaxed about it. It got me fired up, really fired up to race. It motivated me to race and I think I’ll go to some of the SuperTours, like in Aspen hopefully, and travel as much as I can circumstances permitting.
FS: What do you see your goals being in the next couple of years?
CH: That’s a good question. That’s something that, well, it’s so tough. Like I said before, I was so insecure, and I didn’t have huge goals. And I think that’s because it’s really scary to commit and by having goals you’re really putting yourself out there. So I think that’s something I’m trying to think about more and more. Right now, I just want to keep racing this year. I don’t think this will be it, but, wow, I don’t know.
FS: That’s part of what it is to be a senior racer, trying to figure that out all the time.
CH: Yeah. Yeah, it is. Sugar Bowl is a high school, so these kids, I am always telling them that you have to have a ton of goals, big and small, and I told them that last year when I didn’t have them, and I didn’t know what I was doing, I fell apart and that was part of it. And now I think I really want to do well. That’s very abstract, but I want to be relaxed and just enjoy it. But yeah, that’s a really tough one.
I’ve learned over the years that if I ski to my potential results will come. My primary goal is to provide myself with every opportunity that I can and to ensure that I have put in all the effort. Mistakes will be made and at times I’ll fail, but I want to have given it my best shot.