Today, the Fischer Skis U.S. Nordic Division announced its Fischer Select Athlete of the Month for February. The series continues with 28-year-old Matt Liebsch, who grew up in Orono, Minnesota. The 2009 American Birkebeiner champion is having a successful year, with second-place finishes in both the 2012 Birkie and the 15km Freestyle race at the 2012 U.S. National Championships.
Matt is very involved in the cross-country skiing community in the Twin Cities. He works full time at Gear West and is the leader of a new club team, Team Strong Heart/Team Birkie. Fischer caught up with Matt after the Birkie last week. Read on for more insights into Matt’s training, lifestyle, inspiration and plans.
Fischer Skis Select Athlete of the Month, February 2012: Matt Liebsch
Hometown: Orono, Minnesota
Team: Team Strong Heart/Team Birkie
Years skiing: 11
Years with Fischer: This is my first year as a Fisher sponsored athlete. However, my first pair of skis was a Fischer SC combi and my first racing ski was a Fischer RCS.
Q: Cross country ski racing is about hours and training. Where is your favorite place to train and why?
ML: My favorite place to train is Elm Creek, Minn. It is close to my home and I can always find a training partner. I also enjoy the Hayward, Wis., area and the Birkie trail.
Q: What training workout do you do that you think anyone trying to get fit should or could do?
ML: It is not the most fun, but specific strength workouts. Single sticking, double poling uphill or skiing with no poles will make anybody stronger.
Q: What’s the toughest workout you’ve ever done?
ML: A few years ago I skinned and climbed Mount Rainier with some teammates and friends. I was out of shape; therefore it is the hardest thing I have ever done.
Q: Outside of skiing, who are your athletic idols and why?
ML: Nadal! I love high-level tennis. I played the sport for two years and got just good enough to appreciate what I am watching. Nadal brings a passion and energy to the sporting arena that is hard to find. Also, I have great admiration for top-level athletes that juggle the responsibility of being a spouse and parent while enduring the rigors of high-level athletics.
Q: When you travel what do you never leave behind?
ML: I have many traveling staples! Some include: boot dryer, favorite pillow, lots of socks, foam roller, tennis ball, running shoes and flip flops.
Q: If you weren’t a cross country skier, how would you spend your time?
ML: Many people may not know this but I have a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. However, I fell in love with skiing and the ski industry and work at Gear West as Director of Race Services. Also, being a husband and father of two young children keeps me busy!
Q: What do you think the largest misconception about cross country skiing is outside of the community?
ML: I think many people view cross country skiing as an American pastime and not the competitive sport it is. Additionally, many people think they would be too cold to enjoy it. However, it keeps you warm; it is a great workout and a great way to stay in shape in the winter.
Q: In your mind, where is the best place in the U.S. to be a cross country skier?
ML: Right here in the Twin Cities. It has tons of great trails, five of which have snowmaking and the biggest cross country ski community in the United States.
Q: What’s your favorite event of the year?
ML: The American Birkie. I love the atmosphere, the trail and I get to ski with 10,000 of my friends.
Q: How did you get started in the sport?
ML: I missed hockey tryouts in high school and was cut from the team. My high school biology teacher talked me into joining the high school xc ski team.
Q: Skiing is a small community throughout the world. What are the unsaid rules of being a cross country skier in your mind?
ML: Be polite, nice, and fair and always support the community as best you can. It is a small sport and we all need to work together to grow and continue. It is a sport you can enjoy for a lifetime so the friends you meet in the sport will be with you forever. Also, never skip a chance to inspire a child.
Q: What’s the best workout you did to prepare for the season and why?
ML: My favorite workouts that get me ready for the season are any threshold-based workouts. I love going medium hard for a long period of time.
Q: Who are your heroes in the ski community? Who do you look up to?
ML: As for athletes, Dario. He is so smooth and technically very good. Petter, because he can do things on skis that nobody has seen before and nobody can copy; at times, it is as if he is playing a different sport than the rest of us. And Tad Elliot and Brian Gregg – I was so pumped to share the American Birkie podium with great friends and training partners!
Q: What are your goals for this season?
ML: It has been my best season of my career to date so I hope I can hang on for some great end-of-season results. I hope to race well at the Engadin and the 50 km U.S. National Championship race.
Q: What are your favorite conditions and technique to race in?
ML: I am a better skate technician but I still love classic skiing. Conditions I like for skate are a firm base with soft/loose snow on top. For classic I love warm dry-wax conditions with a slight broken down track set.
Q: In ten years, what story will you be telling about your skiing history?
ML: In ten years, I will have my Birchleggings (and a special purple bib) and I hope I can still be fit enough to throw down with the young guns in the American Birkie! My kids will be 13 and 15 and will be forced into racing the Korte.
Q: What is the toughest part of being a ski racer?
ML: For me, finding balance! I am a husband, dad, own a home and work at Gear West. Trying to juggle everything can be difficult! I am so fortunate to have great sponsors and a great support network.
Q: You could potentially ski for any manufacturer; why did you choose Fischer?
ML: As director of race services at Gear West Ski and Run, I have had a chance to try many brands and many flexes. I love the feel and speed of Fischer skis; it was an easy choice for me. Also, the boots are incredibly comfortable.