As a cross country skier, it’s tough to turn down a free trip to World Cups in Estonia, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Unless, of course, you’ve got a shot at racing at World Championships in Norway later on in the winter.
That’s the case for Alaska Pacific University’s (APU’s) Holly Brooks, the current women’s SuperTour leader. Along with her teammate Lars Flora, Brooks’s finishes at the November races in West Yellowstone earned her start spots and free room, board, and travel for the second block of World Cups in eastern Europe in January and early February—though she’s not sure she’s going to go.
“From both a training standpoint and logistical standpoint, it’s pretty complicated,” she said last week. “For the experience, I’d love to [go], but for training, I’m not quite sure yet if it’s the best thing.”
Flora hasn’t made a decision yet, either. While he also said he would love to race at all three World Cups, his health is his primary concern. Flora’s sinuses—which have caused him problems in the past few seasons—can’t handle air travel on three consecutive weekends, he said.
A second hurdle for the two to overcome is a lack of support. With the U.S. Ski Team’s (USST’s) athletes flying home from Europe after the first weekend of racing, in the Czech Republic, the coaching staff is departing as well—leaving Brooks and Flora without anyone to wax their skis.
“We’re not planning to be [in Estonia], nor are we planning to be in Russia,” said John Farra, who oversees the USST in his job at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “It’s…not because we don’t want to be, but it just doesn’t make sense.”
Both athletes said that they would be interested in leaning on the Canadian squad for support, if possible, but neither was counting on it.
Brooks said that her primary focus for the year was on qualifying for World Championships, and in order to do that, “you have to come out firing really hard for U.S. Nationals,” which are in early January in Rumford, ME.
“If I do make the World Championships team, then if I go to Czech and Estonia and Russia…it’s just hard to tell, at this point, if that would be too much,” she said.
Flora, on the other hand, was excited about the two classic races in Estonia—a 15 k and a sprint—which he said suit his strengths.
If he can find a way to get support at those events, Flora said he would like to go—though he also said that he could “pull a Swenson,” referring to the exploits of former USST member Carl Swenson. In 2005, Swenson waxed his own skis at early-season World Cup races in Kuusamo, Finland, finishing a respectable 11th and 12th.
Contacted last week, Brooks wasn’t sure when she would make her decision, though she said she would like to put it off for as long as possible. Flora said Monday that he hoped to have his mind made up within the next week.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.