Trail to Gold Fellowship Wants to Put More Female Coaches on the World Cup

Ella HallAugust 3, 2022

While it’s difficult to get exact numbers, the general distribution of coaches and service staff on the World Cup level is largely male dominated. The recently announced Trail to Gold Fellowship aims to help change that. Following the publication of the Trail to Gold book in November of 2021, members of the book committee began discussing how to use the net proceeds generated by book sales. After bouncing around various proposals, they settled on the idea of a fellowship to help the development of women cross-country coaches in the United States.

Julia Kern and U.S. Ski Team head coach Matt Whitcomb watch the 4 x 5 k mixed relay in Falun from the stadium. (Photo: NordicFocus)

In partnership with the National Nordic Foundation, the Trail to Gold Fellowship will provide funding to the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team (USST)  for the cost of bringing women ski coaches on World Cup trips. Once there, the Fellowship coaches will learn and participate in coaching and ski service internships with mentorship from the U.S. Ski Team staff. Fellowship recipients are also expected to complete a professional development plan for the experience and write a final report upon conclusion, with guidance from the Women Ski Coaches Association (WSCA) and USST mentors. 

A recently adopted proposal by the International Ski Federation (FIS) will aid the process of getting the fellowship coaches out on course, and hopefully incentivize other countries to invest in the development of female staff members. Brought forward by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the proposal adds a number of course access bibs per team for female service staff only. 

The U.S. wax staff in Zhangjiakou China for the 2022 Olympics. From left to right, Patrick Moore, Andrew Morehouse, Bjorn Heimdal, Tim Baucom, Chris Hecker, Jason Cork, and Eli Brown. (Photo courtesy fellow technician, Karel Kruuser)

Current U.S. Ski Team D-Team coach, Kristen Bourne, participated in a similar program to the one proposed by the Trail to Gold Fellowship, though with funding for her trip to the World Cup coming from the Women’s Sports Foundation VanDerveer Fellowship. Bourne spent two weeks as an intern on the World Cup, gaining invaluable international level experience and knowledge. In an email to FasterSkier about Bourne’s time on the World Cup, USST Program Director Chris Grover wrote, “We have a U.S. Ski & Snowboard program-wide goal, and a cross-country specific goal, to drastically improve gender equity in our coaching and technician staff, so this opportunity was perfectly aligned with this mission.” The Trail to Gold Fellowship also fits squarely within that mission and both Grover and WSCA’s Maria Stuber are working to help make the program a successful reality. 

Kristen Bourne (center) joined the U.S. tech team to learn and support the American squad in Davos, SUI. (Courtesy photo)

While initial funding for the Trail to Gold Fellowship will come from the Olympic Women’s Cross-Country Book Project, the committee is working with the National Nordic Foundation (NNF) to expand the size and life of the fellowship. Led by a commitment of NNF Board members Kikkan Randall and Matt Whitcomb, NNF will work to gain donations that add to the Fellowship, increasing both the number of internships that can be awarded and the number of years that the program can exist. 

The Women Ski Coaches Association launched in September 2019 in pursuit of gender equity in coaching.

The Women’s Ski Coaching Association is also involved in this collaboration. Having helped with the funding to send Bourne to the World Cup last winter, the WSCA will have a representative on the Fellowship selection committee. The committee will also have representatives from the Trail to Gold book committee and the U.S. Ski Team. This committee will be in charge of selecting the Fellowship recipients.

Sue Long Wemyss, head of the Trail to Gold book committee, wrote to FasterSkier, “We, the book committee, look forward to more American women ski coaches and ski technicians having a very similar experience [to Bourne’s] of interning with the U.S. Ski Team at the World Cup this winter, and in winters to come. We are incredibly grateful to the USST leadership for their willingness to bring and mentor the selected women with them on a World Cup trip. We are also very appreciative for NNF’s support and help in making this program happen.” 

Applications for the Fellowship are open now and will close September 1st. The application can be found here or on the NNF website

Ella Hall

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.

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