It’s easy to get caught up in busy work. Torin Koos has plenty between taking two summer courses toward his master’s at Westminster College, fitting in workouts and writing features for a ski website he and seven others took over June 1.
The three-time Olympian has website-usability tests to prepare for, professional and technical writing work to do. His site, skierpost.com, requires that he compose one story a week, and Koos said he’s been interviewing several other subjects in the meantime.
Someday, he hopes to be an investigative journalist, perhaps for The New York Times. That’s his dream job anyway. For now, the 31-year-old is fully committed to preparing for the next ski season and aiming for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Amid the projects and tasks, he’s taken time to reflect. After more than a dozen years in the game, Koos knows the life of a professional skier is a journey. That’s why he spent three months in Norway last season training with the Strindheim Idrettslag ski club in Trondheim.
“When you look at your ski career or whatever, it’s a little bit kind of like a story,” Koos said in a phone interview from Salt Lake City. “That was a chapter of it that I will definitely remember.”
The way it ended was something he would certainly hold onto. In his blog, Koos reflected on two notable races at Norwegian nationals in March. First, he had what he considered one of his best races of the season in the freestyle team sprint in Fauske.
Racing on Strindheim’s second team, Koos clocked the fastest times of the day on three of six legs, besting favorites like Petter Northug, Anders Gløersen, Kent Ove Clausen, and Niklas Dyrhaug.
“The weather and the rain turned the ski tracks into mashed potatoes, making for a pretty epic sprint relay,” Koos wrote. “On my final lap of the final I caught back up to the leaders with 400 meters to go, then soon preceded to take about the hardest fall I’ve ever had on cross-country skis. Poles were broken, my suit was torn, I lost skin, but fortunately my surgically repaired shoulder held up.”
Last spring, Koos had shoulder operation after dislocating it before 2011 World Championships. He couldn’t use his right arm until August, yet was in racing shape by the winter. At the 2012 U.S. nationals in Rumford, Maine, he won his fifth national title and nearly swept both sprints, but was disqualified in the classic A-final after committing two infractions.
He appealed the decision, which was ultimately unsuccessful, and made his overseas trip to Norway. A few months before in October, he trained with his longtime Norwegian friends from Team Sjusjoen on the Dachstein glacier in Ramsau, Austria.
He kept his close ties with Sjusjoen head coach Petter Hagen, who collaborates with Bridger Ski Foundation coach Dragan Danevski on Koos’ training plan, while continuing to learn the Norwegian way with Strindheim. One day after the Norwegian nationals team sprint, Koos ended his season in Strindheim’s blue and yellow with a memorable 50 k.
The morning of the race on March 31, he woke up to a sore shoulder, snowflakes and temperatures nearing 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The classic course climbed about 820 feet from sea level, and Koos could tell it wasn’t going to be easy. At the top, the wet snow turned dry. He had no glide, but plenty of kick, and was one of the lucky ones to finish the Norwegian nationals mass start in 33rd.
“After a while, though, I really had this feeling of how much fun it was to be a ski racer,” Koos wrote in his blog. “I remember being 37 kilometers in and I kept thinking several times over, ‘How cool is this?’ It really made me appreciate the opportunity I had that day to compete.
“The first thing Petter Hagen did when he saw me was give a firm handshake and say, ‘Good job. You had fun out there today.’ He knew exactly how I felt,” Koos continued. “I’ve had better races. There have been competitions where I’ve dug down deeper into the pain cave and came out on top because of it. But I’ve had fewer good feelings after finishing a season than I had in Fauske. I’m keeping this feeling for a long time.”
A couple of weeks later, Koos returned to the U.S. and started helping out at his junior-high school in Leavenworth, Wash. For the last five years, he has visited his former track coach, Greg Peck, also a fifth-grade teacher. Together, they take students on a wildflower hike up Ski Hill, a 7 ½-kilometer loop Koos has skied thousands of times.
Koos also helped out Peck’s track team for two weeks. Rather than coach runners, Koos filled in at the high jump and long jump, which weren’t exactly his forte. The former mid-distance runner watched several technique videos from the University of Oregon to bring him up to speed.
“I had to go brush up on my skills in those areas,” Koos said with a laugh. “I guess in junior high I did do the long jump so that was my only saving grace.”
Before resuming classes May 1 in Salt Lake City, Koos spent some time on the West Coast, participating in a 91-mile Ski to Sea relay with seven others. Koos did the alpine portion called the downhill ski, but it was mostly a grinding ascent.
In the six times he’s done the race, Koos said he alpine skied three of them. This year, his Barron Heating team assigned Central Cross Country (CXC) skier Brian Gregg to the nordic leg. Koos wasn’t going to argue with that.
“He did a really great job,” Koos said, after Gregg won the nordic race. “It’s also a fun challenge to do something you do once every seven hundred days or something, put on alpine boots and run up a mountain.”
He finished eighth in 19:52, estimating at least 16 minutes of that was uphill. At the end of the day, Barron Heating won the event.
“You start at mid mountain and then you run to the top of the mountain in your ski boots carrying your skis,” Koos said. “I was running in alpine boots and some of the people had some tricky, NASA-like alpine touring boots. … [Then] you’re just letting it rip on the way down.”
The next weekend, Koos tested himself in a 5 k road race in Salt Lake City. A year earlier, he couldn’t run. He had also been set back by mononucleosis, but on June 2, he was healthy and decided to go for it. Shooting for a 16:30, he ran a 16:13 and won the race.
“It’s not setting any world records or anything; it’s probably three minutes behind what Ben True can run it in,” Koos said, referring to the 2011 USA Running Circuit series national champion.
“I’m just excited to feel strong and have the body responding the way I remember some days in the past,” he added.
As for the upcoming ski season, he would first focus on making it to the Canadian World Cups in Québec and Canmore, Alberta, in December.
“That’s a big opportunity for all skiers in North America,” he said. “I probably think about that most every day.”
Then, he’ll see where his racing and results take him, hopefully to world championships at the end of February.
“I think there’s a lot of people that are thinking Sochi and Val di Fiemme,” the former U.S. Ski Team member said. “I went to Val di Fiemme in 2003 so it would be interesting to come back a decade later. … I just want to go into this season and every day just really think of it of playing with supreme confidence. I just want to ski better than ever, for sure. I definitely have some motivation for that.”
In his second year with the Bridger Ski Foundation, Koos said he would join them in Bend, Ore., for a junior camp next week. After living in Bend for two years, Koos said this would be his first time back since leaving in 2010, and he was excited to see old friends and train on snow.
Now living in downtown Salt Lake City, he’ll finish classes at the end of July and complete 90 percent of his workouts there in the meantime. With school three nights a week, Koos occasionally runs after 9 p.m. or logs late hours in the gym.
“Sometimes I’m burning the midnight oil, but otherwise it’s pretty good,” he said.
By next summer, he hopes to have completed all his courses and be close to graduating with a master’s degree in professional communication. At that point, he’ll likely be training for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“There’s still opportunities out there and there’s still some things I want to accomplish in skiing,” Koos said. “The best days on the race trails or training with guys are some of my best memories so I want to keep making some more.”
Related stories: Recovered from Surgery, Koos Ready to Throw Down