Just over a week ago, five U.S. Ski Team women and one Canadian packed their bags in various parts of the world and set off to meet in Sweden. Usually faced with the task of preparing for months of overseas travel, some might have scratched their heads.
What do you bring for just two weeks?
Americans Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen had already been in Europe for nearly a month, first competing in the Blink rollerski festival in Norway in July and later meeting their good friend, Anna Haag, at her home in Orsa, Sweden.
There, the two U.S. Ski Team (USST) veterans previously trained with Haag and the rest of the Swedish women’s ski team last summer. Things went so well that Haag invited Randall, Stephen and their North American counterparts back.
Of the newcomers – Holly Brooks, Jessie Diggins, Ida Sargent and Canadian Chandra Crawford – most found themselves in awe of the situation. Here they were, at their first joint camp with Sweden for 10 days of dryland and on-snow training in Sälen and Torsby, Sweden, respectively.
Halfway through, Brooks wrote in an email that they were still grasping the length of the trip.
“We keep talking about how it’s funny that we traveled thousands of miles for a short, two week trip,” she wrote. “Many of us are used to flying to Europe and staying in Europe.
“I think coming over for a short summer trip is a great experience,” Brooks added. “For me specifically, it reinforces that I can adapt to the travel & ten-hour time change. The more I do it, the better I get at it. I think it will help guide my travel plans for the upcoming winter.”
The accommodations aren’t too shabby, either. Most are staying at mountainside cottages during their dryland portion in Sälen – home of the 90-kilometer Vasaloppet. They wrap up training there on Friday with four or five 10-minute classic intervals, then drive down to the Torsby ski tunnel for four days on snow.
“In a lot of ways the climate and terrain reminds me of Alaska,” wrote Brooks, who lives in Anchorage. “It’s fairly mild – sometimes raining, sometimes sunny, often a mix. It’s really mild and never too hot to train. They have the same kind of flowers including Fireweed, which is a signature in the summertime in Alaska.”
In a blog post, Stephen wrote that Orsa was her favorite place on earth, especially while staying with the Haag family.
“Ok, maybe being home in Vermont with my own family is pretty high up there too, but this is about as good as it gets,” she added.
Up in Sälen, Stephen wrote in an email that training was going really well and she enjoyed participating in the dryland part of camp this year after experiencing Torsby last summer.
“Everyone is making new friends, learning from one another, pushing one another and relaxing well together when the session is over,” she wrote. “We are training hard, but it is not too different than we do when we are home, which is good to see. To be a great nordic skier you have to train a lot, rest really well, eat a ton, and know how to hurt a lot.”
Brooks described what it’s like to share two workouts and three meals per day with the Swedish women’s team. They talk about everything from racing plans, altitude training, music videos and significant others, she wrote.
“It’s great to see that these girls aren’t doing anything ‘special’ or secret … [and] de-mystify the Scandinavian ski tradition,” Brooks added. “They are regular girls, just like us. We’re all fit, and we’re all motivated. I’m excited to have more international friends on the World Cup for the upcoming season!”
The all-around fitness has been a driving factor at the camp. On Thursday, Crawford tweeted about trail running with the group: “Anytime I run in the general vicinity of [Stephen], [Randall], [Brooks], [Haag] and the gang, it’s a zone 3 frolic!”
In an email, she wrote they’ve been training hard and soaking up the “novel elements,” which add to the fun.
“For example, [Thursday] we did the run all off the trails,” Crawford wrote. “Crazy stuff! We would cross trails occasionally but stuck to the sometimes knee-deep bogs and moss.”
One day, they did intensity in a race format; the fastest in each heat moved up, the slowest moved down and the middle two stayed put. Crawford explained that made for great action between four heats and created the thrill of racing.
“The local ski club came out and cheered,” she wrote. “We are all enjoying making new friends.”
For more photos from the camp, visit USSA Nordic’s Facebook page.
Note: Anna Haag posted a new blog on Friday with a shout out to her North American friends. Read it here.
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.