How Skiing Saved My Life: Part II

FasterSkierSeptember 27, 2017
Scott “Bjorn” Cummings rollerskiing near his cabin in Cornell, Wisconsin, on the Old Abe State Trail, a 19.5-mile former railroad track, which is now a bike path. (Courtesy photo)

In March of 2016, we published an article penned by Scott “Bjorn” Cummings, a Postbaccalaureate student working towards his Academic Behavorial Strategist K-12 (ABS) Special Education License at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), titled “Why Skiing? How a Sport Saved My Life“. He’s now teaching and even more in love with XC. Here is his update.


As the start of my sophomore year of teaching and summer winds down, I am starting to reflect on my thoughts on skiing. Some readers might recall my FasterSkier article written last year after the conclusion of ski season.

The 2017 ski season did not go well for many others and me as a lack of snow in the Upper Midwest shortened or canceled races. Almost every race I did was shortened, canceled, I had the flu, or my race season ended early when I severely contused my knee rollerskiing in late February.

Scott “Bjorn” Cummings at his favorite place on a Saturday morning, Hyland Park Lake Park Reserve Recreation Area in Bloomington, Minnesota, where there were 5 kilometers of manmade snow on excellent daily grooming. (Courtesy photo)

To access all of the “Big Three” nordic snowmaking loops, I had to fight rush-hour traffic after work to ski and fight traffic after the ski. That was a battle I didn’t have the energy for most days after teaching. Let alone it was my first year teaching, which drains most teachers.

The last Tuesday in February, there was hardly any snow around except for at the “Big Three” snowmaking areas in the Twin Cities. The major parks and their respective miles from my West St. Paul apartment are Elm Creek (33.8 miles), Theodore Wirth Regional Park (19.2 miles) and Hyland Lake Park Reserve (18 miles).

So I decided to rollerski the Morgan Regional Trail right along the Mississippi River and the mini icebergs. I was about to turn around after 10 k when I hit a rock and landed most of weight on the knee. I rollerskied back while the blood dripped down my leg.

The next day, a significant black-and-blue bruising that started at my knee cap and went all the way down to my ankle. I went to urgent care and the X-ray showed nothing was broken. I asked my doctor sheepishly if I could race the Great Pepsi Challenge up in Biwabik, Minnesota, that weekend. “Absolutely not.” And thus that ended my racing season.

Ouch! Sometimes, (roller) skiing hurts.

But I am fine with that because most reasons for a poor race were beyond my control. I did well in the races I did participate in. Nordic skiing teaches you how to carry yourself.

This is the year is different. For one, I am back teaching at the same position as last year and looking forward to the continuity. Our district is having a big start of the school year kickoff where a speaker will stress the importance of personal wellness, balancing life outside of the classroom and taking care of yourself. No doubt my life as a citizen racer will help.

Scott “Bjorn” Cummings on his first podium after racing the 2017 NorthShore Inline Marathon on Sept. 16 in Duluth, Minnesota. With what he described as average-speed Marwe rollerskis, he finished in less than three hours for fifth place in the 29-and-under age group (which became third place since the overall first and second place finishers were removed from his age-group podium). (Photo: Jenna Ruzich)

But this year is different. I joined a local nordic ski club in Endurance United. Since May, I have trained with them once a week. Also with this package comes a supportive and competitive group of nordic skiers who are led a by a highly technical coach. My technique on skate rollerskis has flourished. I am already excited for snow and its September.

This year is different. This is the year I will learn how to classic ski.  Rather than try to fret about wax in what has been unseasonably warm winters, I will buy skin skis. Depending on how fast I pick up the technique, I might even do a race in classic.

But next year is the big one. Next year I will race the Norwegian Birkebeiner. Some might recall from last post that I previously skied in Norway — for one whole kilometer. Time to redeem myself. I have always wanted to ski in Europe but now after my journey into skiing, the goal is to race in Europe.

But to race in Europe, I will need to look fast. Since my skiing nickname is Bjorn, I need a Norwegian race suit and because I have outgrown, both personally and physically, my UMD Bulldog race suit.

Please vote in the comments below on which one you think will make me fastest!


Choice A) Mt. Borah customizable Stride (


Choice B) Mt. Borah customizable Retro (


Choice C) Swix Race 1-Piece Red Suit (2014)(


Choice D) Mt. Borah Pro XC Suit Norway (

I asked my students what they thought. The second Norwegian race suit (choice D) was the big winner!

About the author: Scott “Bjorn” Cummings is a Special Education Resource Teacher at a Twin Cities southeastern metro high school. He mainly teaches 10th grade and has 20 students for case management. When he is not in school or on the ski trail, he enjoys biking, reading, cast-iron cooking, cheering on the Minnesota Twins, the UMTC- Gopher football, the UMD-Bulldogs Men’s Hockey, and Minnesota United FC. He is always up for a good beer, non-hoppy, and a conversation at a brewery. He resides in Inver Grove Heights with his border terrier dog aptly named Babe Ruth.  He can be reached at


Do you have a personal skiing story you’d like to share? Email or get in touch with one of our staff members.


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