It’s been a week since World Cup Finals wrapped up in Falun, Sweden, and the dust has more than settled on the season as a whole. Winter began for the circuit in Scandinavia, briefly stopped in Canada, toured around central Europe for a while, reached its high point at World Championship and finally returned to Sweden for a last hurrah. For the U.S. Ski Team, it was a ‘dream season’ by many counts, filled with personal-bests and the achievement of goals set months and years before this one.
The women in particular had a spectacular run: World Championships gold, all six team members in the top 10 at some point in the last five months, and another sprint crystal globe in the bag. When we asked the team to recall their personal season highlights in the minutes that followed the presentation of end-of-year awards in Falun, these were among the moments they pointed out. Before SuperTour Finals and Distance Nationals take up all the attention in Truckee, Calif., this week (where the team has already begun a victory tour of sorts), here are a few season high points from the athletes that were in the middle of them:
“The way we started the season in Gällivare, Sweden, with the team relay and getting our first podium — that was certainly one of my favorite moments of the season. It was early on and everyone kind of started the season off on the right note, and I think we all surprised ourselves. That was a really cool way to start off the season. And of course I think about the fifth at World Championships and skiing in the chase pack for the entire Holmenkollen, until the last couple k. So those three, probably, are the highlights of my season.
“And of course watching Kikkan win the sprint globe again and being third in the overall distance; [Andy] Newell being fifth overall in the sprint. It’s been a dream season for many aspects of this — everyone is working so well together and being part of such an awesome team. These are all season highlights in my year and I’m really looking forward to preparing for next season. And of course a break — a much-needed break.”
— Liz Stephen
“It’s been pretty cool to think back on all the great team performances this year. Every girl on the team had a top 10, all the relay podiums and, yeah, just really cool. I’m super proud of the team.”
— Kikkan Randall
“Ironically enough, one of the big highlights for me was the very first weekend of the season in Gällivare, the first World Cup I was fifth, which was by far my personal best, and then the next day we finished third in the women’s 4×5. It seems like eons ago, but it was still this season even though it was the first weekend.
“Seeing Jessie and Kikkan win the team sprint at world champs, that was a big highlight, and then the skate prologue here [in Falun] … It just felt really nice to have a strong result at the end of the season.
“I think there’s a lot of momentum and lots of interest, and we’re seeing it internationally as well. There are people over here that recognize the USST and are excited for us. So we have some fans overseas as well as back home, and I think every single girl on our team had a top 10 on the World Cup, which is huge, and we had five girls qualify for Finals and I think Sadie [Bjornsen] would have, had she not raced in North America so much early season. And so I just think the depth is really incredible. We have a ton of momentum going and next year will be really exciting. We keep breaking barriers down… We’re really excited and I think Sochi’s going to be here before we know it.”
— Holly Brooks
“I don’t know, there’s just been way too many since we finally met and exceeded so many of our goals, and however many months later. So it’s been a great year with lots of highlights — too many to count.”
— Ida Sargent
“It’s going to sound funny, but I think one of the highlights of the season was making that really goofy Taylor Swift video. When we were just hanging out as a team, training together, living together, just having a really good time. The results are sweet and we definitely had all these results goals, and I think we pretty much met every single one of them, but for me the highlights of the season were more like when we were having fun and being able to enjoy this awesome job that we have, and being really able to appreciate it. Because sometimes the racing can get a little stressful. When you let the stress and expectations get to you it’s not quite as fun anymore, but the awesome times we had made us realize how lucky we are.”
— Jessie Diggins
“The biggest highlight is that we’re finishing the year as we started it. We started it as a team that believed in one another and we’ve made it five months on the road, in most cases, without going home. And everybody finished [Sunday] with a group cool down having had incredible splits… just a really perfect way to finish for us.
“I love ski racing, so it’s bittersweet that I have to wait a long time for more, but I also really enjoy the dryland portion of this career. So I really look forward to the four or five camps that we’ll put together. We have some planning coming up in Park City while the SuperTour Finals are going on and it’s always fun, after about a week of recovery, to start looking forward to the next season — to look around at what didn’t go that well and to acknowledge the things that did go well so we can keep having our successes and keep improving the things that we fell short on.”
— Matt Whitcomb, U.S. Ski Team women’s coach
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.