For most serious ski racers, the training calendar begins anew somewhere around the first of May. As such, the weeks between the final World Cup races (or Spring Series in a typical year) and the beginning of May is regarded as “off-season”.
The primary goal is not necessarily to remain sedentary, rather to fill up your cup. To enjoy the activities that a full training and racing load might prohibit, to (safely) spend time with the friends and family after months away, and to savor the simple pleasures an unstructured life offers.
Given the energy and capacity required for elite level cross country skiing, as you might expect, they grow no moss. Rather than scenes of vegging out watching Netflix, social media has shown epic backcountry skis, mountain bike rides, crust cruises, late season racing, and logging big kilometers on skinny skis.
To take a closer look, FasterSkier posed the following question to an assortment of other World Cup racers.
Q: How do you fill up your cup and recharge all the batteries physically, mentally, etc., so you’re ready come May to dive back in?
A quick glance at Instagram shows Jessie Diggins diving directly into home renovations with her fiancé in their apartment in the Boston area, followed shortly thereafter by trail running in an undisclosed tropical looking destination. When sent the email for this article, an automatic reply indicated she would not be checking email during her vacation. Enough said, and very well deserved.
Here’s a look into the remainder of the squad. ** Warning: Jaw-dropping photos that leave you jonesing for big days on fat skis or in the saddle below.**
“Oof, what a loaded question for me here! I felt super drained at the end of this season—mentally, emotionally, physically. I have been on a good-old-fashioned soul search a bit this season and into the spring where I am trying to find the right ratio of skiing to normal life that works for me. Because the winter pendulum swings fully to the “ski” side, my April pendulum has swung completely to the “normal life” side, which means packing in a year’s worth of what I would be doing if I wasn’t a Nordic skier into one month! I love the off season because it’s the one time of year where I’m not restricted in my activities. For example, if I want to go backcountry skiing or fish-scale ski tromping through the woods for 8 hours, great! If I want to build a jump in the backyard and learn how to do a 360 on skis, great! If I need to stay at home all day and catch up on the school work I’ve been putting off because of all those other fun things, also great. I don’t have to feel guilty if I don’t follow a strict training plan during this month, and that is something I really cherish.”
“I have been getting outside as much as I can, mostly on fat skis! I have Nordic skied 3 times (not including fish scale adventures), and one of those times was a FIS race on April 10th. It was actually pretty fun to put on a bib in a low pressure setting like that and be in the AK community with my teammates. My favorite adventure of the year so far was a 4 day hut trip glacier traverse called the Eklutna Traverse with my two friends and teammates, Hunter Wonders and Chip Schoff. I can certainly see how a mountaineering lifestyle could be quite addicting! After our recent FIS race weekend, I am actually more recharged than I could have hoped for! It was a great way to end the race season with a race that was FUN, instead of that horrendous 30k at Engadin for me! Yikes! I know I will be ready to add structure again when the season comes around, but that’s only because I have completely gotten rid of it during this off season. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year that I hope to carry with me.”
Scott Patterson: “We have had quite a cold and snowy spring up here in Alaska so I have been doing a lot of skiing both nordic and backcountry. The last few weeks I have really enjoyed the flexibility of going skiing wherever and whenever I want. Sometimes that involves full day excursions in the mountains and others it is more restrained to a lap or two around the groomed trail systems. We even had two FIS races this last weekend out at Kincaid in mid-winter conditions.
“Outside of skiing, I already enjoy the return to cooking my own food and having flexibility with meals. I have also plugged back into my work (engineering) since I have been back to keep my middays occupied. My spring recharge is less lack of activity then more modification, but I will also be dialling things back for the next two weeks to make sure I have good energy and enthusiasm going forward. Now is one of the few times of year where I can sit back and enjoy not being out in nasty weather.”
Hannah Halvorsen: “I’ve been using the off season to enjoy being outside with friends and teammates in a less structured way. Most of the year our training is focused on executing specific workouts so in the spring I love going for a nordic ski, backcountry ski, or a hike with no agenda other than to enjoy the outdoors and time with people I care about.”
“April is always a bit crazy for me. I try to take advantage of the final weeks of groomed trails while also fitting in all the fun activities that aren’t possible while on the road. Right after the season I got three great weeks of mountain biking and touring in New Mexico with Jessica before returning to Anchorage to catch up on work, get vaccinated, and ski a ton until the snow melts.”
“The springtime is my adventure and social season. I recharge in the spring by getting outside on non-cross country ski adventures with friends, such as climbing, backcountry skiing and downhill skiing. It is important for me mentally to connect with friends outside of skiing and do activities I don’t always have time and flexibility for in the training season. I think it is really important for me to get outside and do things only when I feel like, and lay low and do other things such as classes, design work or photography on the days I don’t feel like exercising. The spring is the time for unstructured activities where I can play outside when it is fun, but also make sure to take a step back and not see anything as ‘training’ but for a way to socialize with friends.”
Gus Schumacher: “I’ve been doing a lot of nordic skiing still, actually, because the snow in Anchorage is still so good. It fits into the ‘spring recharge’ goal by being very unstructured skiing, basically just doing whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. We had some races last weekend that were fun to do a little prep for, and I did a 200k ski on Wednesday, so I haven’t shut it down in any sense. Just doing what makes me feel happy and have fun. I’ve also been doing other things like backcountry skiing and some hockey, but more nordic than anything. Once the snow gets a little worse, I’ll chill out more and take some time, but for now it’s been fun to just keep the ball rolling!”
“This past season was one of the toughest seasons mentally I’ve gone through. By mid-season, I was already feeling burnt out and in need of a break. That being said, this spring I’ve been bouncing around out west, living out of my car and visiting friends and family. I would say it’s the first time I’ve really been able to appreciate springtime in the west and have been loving the sunshine and mountains. I recently invested in a backcountry ski setup and have absolutely loved getting outside to skin up a resort, adventure through the woods, and explore some new terrain. I also had my first experience going to Moab for some fun mountain biking, hiking, and spring skiing. All of these activities are refueling my ski tank and making me fall back in love with cross country skiing. Can’t wait to get the next season started!”
Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646