CANMORE, Alberta: We’re three days into a six-race series of World Cup racing in North America and I’m just one guy, which means there hasn’t been time to share all the fun little stories and subplots that have been filling my notebook.
I’m summarizing a few of the better ones here. Stay tuned for more notes and some feature stories after Tuesday’s final race in Canmore. If you have ideas for stories, tips or feedback for us, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canmore mayor says thanks but no thanks to nearly-naked Krüger
Canmore is situated in the spectacular Canadian Rockies, but Alberta’s prairies start just down the highway to the east, and the events here celebrate the province’s cowboy culture with branded 10-gallon hats awarded to the podium finishers.
Simen Hegstad Krüger of Norway won the first men’s race in Canmore in spectacular fashion Friday, and swiftly proceeded to defile the prize: In an Instagram post from the Norwegian team’s account later that day, he posed for a photo, naked, with only the cowboy hat preserving the image’s PG rating.
“Dear Mayor Sean Krausert,” the post said, tagging the mayor of Canmore. “There is no need for you to come to work on Monday. This guy rules your city until he leaves on Tuesday. Have a good and peaceful long weekend.”
The next day, the post had been deleted. But after Norway swept the podium in Sunday’s men’s race, they published a new photoshopped image with five team members all posing naked with tastefully-placed hats and another offer that Krausert and his staff could have “two more days off, if you want.”
Reached Sunday, Krausert said he was not aware of the posts, then, after I sent them to him, responded with a laugh-crying emoji.
“Really…what can I say!!” he said. I said that he could, in fact, say whatever he wanted, to which he responded: “While I appreciate the offer, I’ll be at work on Monday so these incredible athletes can focus on skiing and enjoying Canmore.”
Krüger said the idea for the original post came from his teammate Didrik Tønseth. “We had some fun about it, but then I figured in the morning that it is enough — maybe we can take it down,” he said, adding that no one instructed him to remove it.
Tønseth told me, cheekily, that the Norwegian men had been failed by their “back-up crew, back in Norway,” which includes their “oldest and wisest” teammate, Sjur Røthe. The crew, Tønseth explained, is supposed to review all posts from the team’s Instagram account but didn’t because of the eight-hour time difference between Alberta and Europe.
“It’s a lot of things we post that stop in the committee back in Norway,” Tønseth said. “Sjur is the athlete representative, but he was asleep, so it was his mistake, I think. Not ours.”
Unfortunately for Røthe, it was too late in Norway for me to reach him for comment.
A car crash derailed Jortberg last month. She’s back now.
U.S. skier Lauren Jortberg is racing in Canmore just two weeks after a crash that left her with “pretty bad” whiplash and totaled the car she was driving — and she nonetheless placed 19th in Saturday’s skate sprint.
“Honestly, I think it was for the better, looking back on it,” she said after the sprint. “I was having kind of a tough season and kind of just needed to have a little gratitude for life and everything — and have a scary situation that makes you appreciate everything more.”
She added: “I wouldn’t recommend it, definitely. But it definitely gave me some perspective that skiing isn’t everything.”
Jortberg, who races with the SMS T2 team in Vermont, said she was leaving a race in Craftsbury late last month and was driving on a dirt road in freezing rain when she had a head-on collision. Her car had gotten caught in a rut while she was driving around a turn.
“It was pretty traumatic and scary,” she said.
An ambulance came to the scene, and while Jortberg didn’t go to the hospital, she said she was suffering some “pretty bad symptoms” that stopped her from training for the next week.
“But I feel a lot better now,” she said. “And we have a great staff here, and they’re really taking care of me.”
Skistad fans the flames of a feud that…may not actually be much of a feud
One of the fun ongoing subplots of the past year of racing on the World Cup has been the up-and-coming Norwegian sprinter, Kristine Stavås Skistad, poking at her Swedish rivals.
Skistad, 25, has been the only woman to consistently puncture the dominance of the Swedish sprinters, who often put as many as three or four women in the six-person final heats on the World Cup. And when she wins, she seems to relish rubbing it in — or trying to, anyway.
Skistad’s ski-related snark appears to date back several years: An informed observer pointed me toward this objectively hilarious Instagram photo she posted from the World Junior Ski Championships in Finland five years ago. In it, Skistad smiles as she wins a gold medal in the sprint, while a clearly enraged Frida Karlsson of Sweden, who’s now a superstar on the World Cup, appears poised to smash her ski pole into the snow. “No caption needed,” Skistad wrote.
In Saturday’s skate sprint, Skistad delivered not just a win but also another provocative gesture—a kiss, blown in the direction of the three Swedes who finished directly behind her.
The Scandinavian media is delighting in what appears to be a budding rivalry: On Saturday, a Swedish television channel that was covering the Canmore races played a clip that analogized Skistad to a villainous character from the horror film “The Ring.”
The Swedes themselves, however, appear generally unperturbed.
“I feel like she sees us more like a rival than we really see her,” Maja Dahlqvist, one of the Swedish sprinters, told me. “We’re kind of friendly to her, and I think that maybe annoys her more. It doesn’t affect us at all—it’s not anger.”
Johanna Hagström, another Swedish sprinter, said it’s a “little bit annoying” that Skistad is such a strong finisher. But she said the team’s read on Skistad is that she’s actually “really shy.”
“She doesn’t speak that much—but on social media, she’s very cocky,” Hagström said. She added: “It’s really fun that she’s doing it. But I would never do that.”
Hagström said she also thinks it’s good for the Swedish women to have other strong sprinters to compete against, and to give them motivation for summer training.
Diggins works on saying ‘no’
Nearly 30,000 tickets have been distributed for next weekend’s World Cup races in Minneapolis, which is setting up to be something of a homecoming celebration for Jessie Diggins, the U.S. star who grew up in Minnesota.
Diggins is adored by fans, but the attention on her is making for an “exceedingly high” level of intensity and pressure, she told reporters after Friday’s race.
“There’s a lot going on in my life right now. That’s the magic of having races at home is, it’s something you wanted and something I have worked for and advocated for for six years,” she said. “But at the same time, it comes with a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations and a lot of obligations for my time.”
She added: “But that’s something I’m trying to role model well, for not just me but my teammates — like, it’s okay to be able to focus on your race, it’s okay to say no to things.”
Saying no to things, however, is not always easy, she said.
“It’s exceedingly difficult, and I struggle with it,” she said. “That’s something that I have to keep reminding myself is, I can’t do everything. Can’t possibly do it—it’s not possible. So we’re going to pick and choose, and kind of shoot for the happy medium.”
I ended the interview by cheerfully pointing out that the Devon Kershaw Show, the FasterSkier podcast, is “ready for a yes” any time.
Breakout Austrian star on doping doubts: “I get it.”
Austrian racer Mika Vermeulen has been having a breakout season, and earned his first podium finish in Friday’s distance race.
But Austrian cross-country racers have been implicated in doping scandals multiple times — most recently during the World Championships in Austria in 2019, where one of the country’s athletes was caught in the middle of a blood transfusion.
Vermeulen was not implicated in that scandal and no evidence has ever emerged to cast doubt on his own performances. But I’d heard him bring up the subject on his own podcast previously, and also heard from one person in Canmore who had doubts about Vermeulen’s results.
So I asked him, gently, what he wants people to think when he performs well, in light of the Austrian team’s history.
“With all the shit that’s been happening on our team, and the last few years, yeah, I get it,” he said. “But the only thing I can do is keep on being good, being on my level. And I can tell you I’m not going to be caught, because I don’t do anything.”
He added: “That’s the only thing I can do: Be on the level not just once but many and many times. And I just keep telling people I believe in myself, and I invite everyone to believe me.”
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.