This week, World Cup cross-country skiers across North America are checking their lists, checking them twice, loading up on supplies and then cutting their luggage in half to prepare for a long season over in Europe.
The Canadian national team is headed over to Sweden next Wednesday on Nov. 7, about 2 ½ weeks before the World Cup opens in Gällivare, Sweden. Meanwhile, several U.S. Ski Team members are flying to Finland within the next week or so.
For the past two seasons, the Canadian World Cup Team has chosen to spend its final prep period in Östersund in central Sweden on the country’s fifth largest lake. Two of the team’s wax techs – Micke Book and Peter Thor – live there, and apparently, the athletes love it.
“We’ve been other places in the past and it seems like they like the atmosphere and the vibe in Östersund,” women’s coach Eric de Nys said on the phone Tuesday. “There’s a good coffee shop that’s always a big hit when you’re trying to adjust to the jet lag and whatnot for the first week anyways.”
Head coach Justin Wadsworth explained in an email they stay on the course at Camp Södergren, which is a group of cabins owned by Anders Södergren and Thomas Alsgaard.
“It’s a lot more south then Muonio [Finland], [Gällivare], Kiruna,” he wrote. “So it’s warmer, lighter and close to some great early season races in Bruksvallarna.”
On Nov. 16-18, the Canadians will compete in FIS races in Bruksvallarna, Sweden, about 200 kilometers southwest of Östersund. De Nys said they’ll pick them individually, with some athletes taking part in the 5/10 k classic, others in the 10/15 k skate, and some in the skate sprint. A few might do them all.
“We’ll just see where everyone’s at when we actually get over there, what kind of form they’re in and do some fine-tuning for the race season,” de Nys said.
Just over three weeks out from start of the World Cup, de Nys said the team’s in good shape following some quality time on snow at Frozen Thunder in Canmore, Alberta. Next Wednesday, the entire team will leave Canada with the exception of Ivan Babikov and Dasha Gaiazova, who will travel to Sweden a week later.
“Ivan has a family; he can’t spend as much time away as the others can,” de Nys said. “Dasha just got into Canmore [Monday] night. She’s been in Quebec area training so she just wants to have a little bit more time to prepare before going overseas.”
An Australian Addition
Also in Canmore, two-time Australian Olympian Esther Bottomley has been spending her preseason at Frozen Thunder. According to de Nys, the 29-year-old World Cup skier is staying with Amanda Ammar, who skis for the Canmore Nordic Centre and trains regularly with the women’s World Cup team. He was happy to invite Bottomley to join them.
“We’ve always had a pretty good standing agreement with Australia/New Zealand just to say, you know, come up here when it fits,” he said. “She’s joined us here for a few workouts and kind of considered her part of the team.”
Bottomley will remain in town for the Canmore NorAm Dec. 1-2, travel to Quebec City for the World Cup sprints the following week, and fly back for the Canmore World Cup Dec. 13-16.
“She has a plan coming from her Australian coach so sometimes she’s [like], ‘I’m joining you guys today,’ or ‘Nope, I’m gonna do this today,’ ” de Nys said. “It works out great as another female to have around and it makes the group a little bigger. That’s always good.”
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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.