Many European skiers arrive in the U.S for college and are exhausted from year of trying to “make it” at the international level. While they find success in NCAA skiing, for some it is the last hurrah of a career that’s already lasted twenty years.
Snorri Einarsson was not one of those skiers. For one thing, when the Norwegian arrived at the University of Utah, he was just 20 years old. For another, he was incredibly motivated.
“It is rare to find someone that’s at that high level like Snorri… that realizes the value of having balance in their life, being part of a team, training hard, and using it as a stepping stone,” said Eli Brown, Einarsson’s coach at Utah.
Einarsson spent several years skiing for the Utes; in 2007 he won an NCAA Championship in the 20 k at Jackson, New Hampshire. Then he went back to Norway. If he was like most European college skiers, the U.S. community never would have heard from him again.
But once again, Einarsson was different. Since leaving Utah he has racked up consistently impressive results and climbed ever-higher in the Norwegian ski world. In 2010, he started his first World Cup and finished 32nd in the 50 k at Oslo. Last year, he raced the Tour de Ski and the 15 k in Drammen, where he finished poorly.
“I realized quickly on Saturday’s 15 k that it would not work as it should,” he wrote on his blog at the time. “I was finally almost done with the distance and realized that something is not right today. But as an Icelander and northerner in my throat, I know that it is no use to either quit the race or give up before the season is over.”
This year, the Tromsø resident is off to a good start. He took home the victory in Muonio, Finland last week in some of the first FIS race action of the year. Last year, Einarsson got lucky at the last minute and was added to the roster for the Tour de Ski; if he can keep his form from Muonio, even bigger things might be on his radar this year.
He’s currently ranked 101st on the FIS distance list; only three Americans outrank him (Kris Freeman in 33rd, Tad Elliott in 99th, and Noah Hoffman in 100th). He’s just ahead of the Czech Republic’s Martin Koukal.
FasterSkier caught Einarsson for a quick interview before the season started in earnest.
FasterSkier: What have you been up to since leaving Utah? What team are you training with?
Snorri Einarsson: After leaving Utah, I started studying physiotherapy at University of Tromsø. My first year home I pretty
much used for rehabilitation after having surgery in both my knees before leaving Utah. Since then things have just been going better every year. After coming home it was easier to train as much as the best, and then I started to do progress pretty fast. I train with a regional team here in northern Norway. Here I get to train with positive and strong racers from northern Norway. I love the atmosphere in the team, that is a really important thing for me.
FS: Who are your teammates? Will they get to race on the World Cup this year, do you think?
SE: I train mostly with Erlend Skippervik Sætre, Martin Vatshaug, Morten Eliassen, Andreas Nygaard, Bjørn Thomas Nygaard and Håkon Mikalsen. Of those, Håkon is most likely to get a World Cup start this year.
FS: Did you find it hard to get back into the community in Norway – did you feel like people had forgotten your name when you went to the U.S., or was it just like it had been before?
SE: I didn’t think it was hard to come back. I went to the U.S for the experience, and I trained and had a good time there. After spending two years in the desert I think it was really nice to come home and run in the mountains again. It’s not like anybody really knew my name before I left, so that part was pretty easy. I don’t really care if people know my name or not- if you ski fast enough people learn your name.
FS: What about training – when you came back to Norway, did you feel like you had lost any ground on your competitors, or were you right where you wanted to be?
SE: Training in the U.S gave me valuable experience with altitude, and taught me a lot about racing on a very close team. It was a new setting. It’s almost like you are part of a big family. When I got home I was very much on my own, training alone every day. It was hard in the beginning when you’re used to having your friends around every day, but also a lot more flexible.
I think it’s natural to increase the number of training hours compared to what I was doing in the U.S since I’m not in a time crunch all the time anymore. I went from about 600-650 hrs at Utah to around 900 hours in two years. I think I have found a system that works for me.
FS: You got to race the Tour de Ski last year, that’s pretty cool! How did that come about?
SE: I qualified through good results in the Scandinavian Cup and Norwegian Cup.
The Tour de Ski was a really fun experience- really tough, but fun. I was really nervous in the beginning and I’m not a fast sprinter, so in the beginning it didn’t go too well, but I had some better luck towards the end. After the Tour de Ski I was totally shot and it seemed really hard to ski fast for the rest of the season.
FS: How has your training gone this year?
SE: Training this year has gone very well. I adjusted the training a little, I’m now doing more level 4 intervals. Before I used to do a lot of level 3 and train more hours. Now I cut down on some of the volume and am training a little harder than before. I think it’s important to evaluate and change things up every year and not to train exactly the same thing every year. If your body gets too used to one thing it’s easy to get bored and sloppy. I also did some changes in my strength training turning it to more stabilization and balance exercises. I think this really helped my strength and technique on skis. I’m trying to link my strength training to skiing as much as I can- that keeps me motivated.
FS: Were you surprised to pick up the win in Muonio?
SE: I was really surprised to win in Muonio. I was not sure what to expect, but I was sure that a top 10 would be the best I could do on a good day. A friend of mine gave me splits every lap telling me that I was in the lead, so i just gave it everything and tried to finish strong. I was really glad to win.
FS: What are your plans and goals for the season?
SE: My initial plan was to ski fast in the Scandinvian Cup races and Norwegian championships. I didn’t plan to be in such good shape so early, so I guess I just have to wait and see what Sjusjøen brings and then just go from there. I don’t really plan too much, I wish I was better at that but it just doesn’t work for me. To me it seems kind of pointless to have a plan if you change it every five minutes.