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In just two days, the World Cup season will be kicking off in Ruka, Finland. For the American squad, this means they have left behind the final throes of preparation and made the big trip across the Atlantic for the winter. Of the twenty-one athletes just announced to the Davis U.S. Cross Country team, the majority of the members competing in Ruka at the end of this month are expecting to be away from home until the end of the season in March.
This may include staying and racing in as many as nine different countries with a range of living arrangements. Unlike their European competitors who are able to return home between race weekends or at least over the holidays, the North Americans spend the whole winter on the road.
While there are evidently many important items to pack for such a long duration (ski boots, laundry supplies, toothbrushes, etc.), there are also those that help ease the long months away from home. After reaching out to several members of the U.S. team who spent at least this past winter away, if not many of the seasons before also, they graciously responded with a unique item that somehow makes life on the road easier in some way.
The first category of items could be classified under “comfort” or “familiarity”. For Jessie Diggins, this comes in the form of pictures.
Diggins wrote, “I bring pictures to hang up on the hotel room walls to make it feel just a little more like home everywhere I go!”
For Gus Schumacher it’s a pillowcase that has the picture of his dog on it, though he says it doesn’t fit that many of the big hotel pillows, it still makes a room feel more like home. Hailey Swirbul brings her stuffed manatee but added that she also is looking forward to bringing a Catan board game for some good team bonding.
Thus ushers in the second category of items, which could be called “stimulation” or “engagement.”
Like Swirbul, Kevin Bolger’s item was a game to pull teammates away from Netflix or homework and to hang out as a group. He likes to bring along a deck of cards and a cribbage board saying, “It’s a game I’ve always enjoyed playing with my family back home!”
Katharine Ogden has been teaching herself a new skill over the past few years and brings yarn and a crochet hook to make little animals to give to teammates. Ogden wrote, “It’s a fun way to feel kind of productive in a pretty mindless way, and the little creatures are pretty cute.”
The engineer, Scott Patterson, shared that each year he tries to bring along something that is “portable, self-contained and keeps me mentally stimulated.” This year, that item is an OpenCV AI kit, which is a stereoscopic camera system with powerful resources for computer vision and AI/machine learning.
Patterson wrote, “I backed the project on kickstarter last winter and haven’t had much time to play around with it while I’ve been busy training and working over the non-racing season. Usually I have a little more time in the winter for hobby projects and metal exploration. I’m not sure what the projects will be, but I’m looking forward to playing around with my coding skills and seeing if I can come up with something even slightly useful.”
For Rosie Brennan, it’s about what she can’t find in Europe. Brennan wrote, “I love muffins and use them as training food all year, but muffins are not a common thing in Europe.” To solve this scarcity, she found silicone muffin tin liners and silicone measuring cups that she travels with. Brennan added, “We don’t always have access to an oven but it’s often enough that [bringing them] has been so worth it and it brings me happiness to be able to bake and eat muffins for snacks and post training/racing food. It allows me to use American recipes for a small taste of home and use fuel I’m accustomed to. Someday Europeans will learn just how versatile and delicious a muffin is!”
The item(s) that Julia Kern brings may fall under their own category of “exploration” or “appreciation-of-place”. Kern is an avid photographer who brings her camera and drone along each winter.
She wrote, “I love to go on walks/hikes/jogs and capture all the different places we travel. It’s a way for me to step outside of ski racing and explore and see all of the amazing places we get to travel to. Often it is easy to get sucked into the monotony of traveling on Monday to the next venue, inspecting the course, testing skis during the week, and racing on weekends without stopping to experience the places we travel.”
The World Cup racing begins Friday November 26th with a classic sprint in Ruka and concludes with World Cup finals March 18-20th in Tyumen, Russia. Stay tuned for race reports from FasterSkier on these, an analysis from the colorful Devon Kershaw, and plenty of other articles throughout the season.
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.