At the end of September, Madshus USA announced that they had hired Lina Hultin as the new Race and Service Manager. According to the press release, “Lina will work towards finding, developing, and retaining the most talented and influential Nordic athletes in every age category. She will also work closely with the rest of the Madshus team to develop, and execute, a club and coach program that supports the brand and its dealers throughout the country.”
Hultin is Swedish and came to the United States in 2014 to pursue a Masters degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition at Montana State University. As part of this academic opportunity, Hultin was awarded a scholarship for racing with MSU Nordic. Faster Skier caught up with Hultin to learn more about her background and what led her to this position at Madshus. The following interview has been edited slightly for clarity.
Faster Skier: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Lina Hultin: It’s a cliché but for me, growing up in Scandinavia meant I started skiing as soon as I could walk. That’s how my family spends time together, we ski, bike, run, and have fika, ( preferably the activity and fika combination). I entered my first ski race was when I was five years old. Nothing intense or competitive, just a snowy field with blueberry soup at the halfway mark. After a few winters of little snowfall, my parents decided to move further north to a little town called Bruksvallarna. It’s a Nordic skiers paradise, and we quickly got involved with the local Nordic team. Shortly after the move, at age seven, I got really serious about racing (yeah, I was that kid). We had a 5k groomed Nordic track outside of the school I attended, so there was no stopping me at that point. I skied all day, every day during the 7+ month winter.
I spent my high school years away from home at a Swedish high school skiing program (like most Swedish Nordic skiers do). I tended to perform best in sprints, I placed 5th in the Swedish Junior National Championships in 2009. I decided very young that I wanted to be the best. In my search for constant improvement, I became passionate about learning how the body reacts to training and how to perform optimally. So, when I heard about an undergraduate program in Meråker, Norway, where a group of world-class Nordic athletes study exercises physiology and sports performance, I had to apply! I got in as the only female athlete that year (together with Emil Iversen, Finn Hågen Krogh, Tomas Northug.. ). After being accepted I moved to the small village of Meråker, a town whose highschool and undergraduate alums have produced 24 Olympic medals in Nordic skiing and biathlon.
In this village, skiing is religion, and successful skiers become gods. However, even if you didn’t quite reach this status, there was a place for everyone who attended. I discovered the magic in the Norwegian success was their ability to share knowledge with one another. I will never forget the rainy fall mornings (when it has already been raining for two weeks straight) at 8am when I would start doubting why I was once again getting ready for an intensity session, only to show up alongside more than one hundred athletes, ready to do the same workout. The athletes ranged from freshmen in high school who just had decided to focus on skiing, to athletes who had podiumed in the previous season’s Olympics. There was room for everyone and it gave me the sense that it was just a matter of putting in the effort and time before I would be able to keep up with the fastest in the group. It felt like there were no secrets, no magic tricks, just smart training in an abundance, and in good company.
To fully submerge myself in the culture, I joined the Norwegian team Henning Skilag. The club is run by Audun Kolstad and his brother Esten. Both in their 70’s with an infinite passion for skiing. Audun coached Petter Northug when he was in high school. Audun is a man of very few words, with a big heart and fitness any 70-year-old could only dream of. No matter how many hours we ran in the Norwegian bog, he was always right there running with us, while Esten was providing the fika. During my time in Norway I was able to produce some top 10 sprint performances in Norwegian cups. In my last race in Norway, I got to ski the sprint relay in the Norwegian National Championships with my teammate Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes. This is another experience I will never forget since I was right there with the best athletes in the world, feeling like I belonged.
After finishing my bachelor’s degree in Sports and Physical Education, I knew I wanted to keep studying (preferably full-time) but my love for racing was still strong. I always knew in the back of my mind that college skiing might be an option but, at age 22 I was starting to run out of time. Luckily, the MSU team had a spot left to fill and they had a Master’s program where I could study human performance in a lab with a roller ski treadmill (I later realized that was rare at the time in the US).
I had never been to the states before, but after seeing the success of the US team and watching them at races in Sweden and Norway I was really curious to learn more about the emerging ski culture that was beginning to be established. I landed in Bozeman, Montana in August of 2014 and had no idea I had arrived in such a special place. The Nordic ski culture might not be apparent at first glance, but this town has more groomed trails and terrain for training than one can cover in years (and lots of sun! the sun is always shining and if it’s not, it’s snowing). Being a part of college sports in the US made me realize how much inspiration and knowledge can be drawn from other sports. I was thrilled at the idea of so many different ways and paths one can take in order to reach the same goal, it’s humbling and opens up a world of possibilities.
FS: What has been your history with the Madshus brand?
LN: Growing up there were really two dominant (go-to) brands for skis in Scandinavia, and Madsus was one of them. Having an older brother, I got to inherit his skis, which happened to always be Madshus skis.
After performing well as a junior I got in contact with Madshus and got my first pair of brand new skis. I always felt a great deal of support from them, both in Sweden and Norway. I have been happy with the company’s products, so I kept skiing on Madshus for my seventeen-year long ski career. I have some favorite’s, including my Madshus klister skis (on which I beat the family record time in the Swedish Vasaloppet) and my Madsus Zero skis (which work in way warmer and way colder temperatures than you would expect from a zero ski).
FS: What about this new position at Madshus excites you the most?
LN: I am looking forward to being able to explore a whole other side of the skiing world. I have been coaching in the US for five years and have done my fair share of wax tech-ing but I have yet to learn about the supplier side of things. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work and learn firsthand from Bryan Cook who has years of experience in the industry. I’m also thrilled that I will be continuing to work closely with athletes, helping them to perform at their best.
FS: What do you think will be one of the more challenging aspects of the job?
LN: It’s always challenging to learn something new, but I have always been curious and eager to learn so I think I have that going for me. I guess I will figure that out as soon as the season starts! Madshus is a forward-thinking brand and I’m stoked that I get to be part of such a great team.
FS: Any other thoughts or comments?
LN: I’m very thankful for my US skiing family and for the warm welcome I have always felt being a part of this great community. I am especially grateful for the support, encouragement, and network I have found through being a part of the Women’s Ski Coaches Association. Go check them out!
Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.