Canada’s Dahria Beatty closed out her World Cup season with the rest of her international-racing peers on March 18 in Falun, Sweden. After three straight days of races, the 24-year-old Whitehorse, Yukon, native finished World Cup Finals in 54th overall.
Five days later, she endured a three-day 160-kilometer classic race in Greenland, 65 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. And Beatty didn’t just survive the 22nd-annual epic adventure, she won it.
In her first Arctic Circle Race, Beatty was the first woman to complete all 160 k in the backcountry near Sisimiut, Greenland, spending two nights in tents with temperatures below -28 degrees Celsius (-18 Fahrenheit) and fueling herself with dehydrated meals and a jar of peanut butter.
The first woman and fifth overall across the line, she finished on March 25 with a total ski time of 14:19:15 hours. Her dad Craig Beatty completed the race as well, finishing 18th overall and second in his 50+ age group.
“In 2005, my dad went with some of his friends to do this race and he just loved it,” Beatty told FasterSkier in a phone interview earlier this month. “At the time I was 11 years old and he came back and just thought Greenland was an amazing place, and a place that I should experience.”
They decided that they would do the race together when she was old enough to compete, 18 or older by the race’s standards. When she looked at her race schedule this year, which kept her in Europe until late March, Beatty figured a stop in Greenland on the way home to do what organizers dubbed “the world’s toughest ski race” was a great opportunity.
She arrived in Greenland two days before the race and spent two days there after, then recovered in Iceland for six days with her dad.
“It was really a great trip, to be able to be with my dad,” Beatty recalled. “We haven’t done a trip like that in a long time, so it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.”
The race itself entailed three back-to-back marathon distances of skiing 50 kilometers or longer, with the longest day being 57 k. Competitors crossed a finish line each day, with Beatty being the first woman on each day, and third overall on Day 1, fifth on Day 2, and finally fifth on Day 3. She noted that her dad, whom she met up with each night at camp, skied a more consistent race.
“His time on the first day and the last day, which were similar distances, were only separated by 15 minutes or so, whereas I was over an hour slower the third day,” Beatty recalled. “I maybe went a little too fast off the gun, but other than that it was a ton of fun. The first day I was skiing in second and third the entire race, men included, and dropped off a little the second two days…
“It’s definitely a totally different event than doing something that’s a one-day event, or something where you can go inside and sleep in the warmth at night,” Beatty added. “It definitely is more a test of survival, which is a cool thing to experience, and we were a little bit unlucky in the fact it was so cold.”
At the same time, racers experienced abundant sun and “bluebird skies”, she said.
“We had amazing views of the mountains, of the fjords, each day we were racing,” she said. “And at night the sky was lit up with northern lights.”
At the end of each day, racers had access to two- or three-person tents with a thermal groundsheet for sleeping, according to the Arctic Circle Race website. They were provided with a saucepan, frying pan and matches to cook their own food, while organizers supplied hot and cold water as well as coffee and tea. Racers had to wax their own skis and use outdoor “earth closet” bathrooms. There were no showers, beds or cell service, but that all made it part of an experience Beatty won’t forget.
“The volunteers in the race were absolutely incredible,” she said. “The second and third day, when I was absolutely exhausted, they were standing out there all day [at the feed stations] while we were racing, making sure we had food and hot beverages to drink, and cheering us on.
“On the second day, we skied down off the mountains onto a fjord, and at the bottom, my hands were so cold that I couldn’t get my gloves off myself,” she continued. “When I made it to the feed station, the volunteers were there and they helped me take off my wet, cold gloves, and grab my warm mitts out of my backpack and help me put them on. There’s just a really amazing atmosphere around the race. The entire community of Sisimiut looks forward to it each year, and it seems like half the community comes out to volunteer for this race … so that was really cool.”
With a population of about 6,000, Sisimiut is both a small fishing town and the second-largest city in Greenland. It’s also the country’s most northern ice-free town in the winter and most southern town for dogsledding. In many ways, Beatty said it felt like home.
“It was really cool to experience their culture and see so many ties to the Canadian North,” she said. “… I would love to go back in the summer. I met some amazing people from there and they were telling me how different it is in the summertime. It’s definitely a place I’d like to explore more…”
Going the Distance
In her career, Beatty has completed four 30 k races, including a third place in the 30 k freestyle mass start at 2015 Canadian Nationals, 34th in the 30 k skate at 2017 World Championships, and 49th in the Holmenkollen 30 k skate at this year’s World Cup in Oslo, Norway.
But 50 k? That’s something she’d like to do more of after completing distances of 52.2, 57.1 and 51 k on three consecutive days in Greenland.
“I had a lot of fun racing this 50 k, and it was definitely slightly different than a 30 k, but I went at it with the same mentality,” said Beatty, who is best known for her World Cup top-30 (and even a top-15) sprint results.
“I mean, I’ve had better results internationally in sprint, but when I was a junior, I was always better at distance skiing,” she pointed out. “Right now I’d say I’m usually stronger in sprinting, but a lot of the times those long-distance races, especially in a loppet-style format lend themselves well to sprint athletes. I think there’s a lot of times you see people that are considered sprinters do well in 50 k and 30 k events, more so than they would in a 15 k. I think they kind of almost lend themselves to each other in a very strange way.”
As she progresses as a skier, Beatty, who made the jump to Canada’s World Cup B-team last spring, said she’s aiming to be more of an “all-around athlete.”
“I’ve scored World Cup points in a distance race once, and I’d definitely want to do it again, many times before my career is over so it’s definitely something that in my training. I’m not trying to train just to be a sprinter. I’d like to have a balance.”
Last season, Beatty spent most of five months on the European World Cup circuit. Pre-selected to the 2018 Olympic squad, she returned to Canada in late December for training and racing in Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec, where she won both sprints at the Canadian NorAm/Olympic trials. In January, she headed back to Europe.
On the World Cup, Beatty achieved her best individual result of the season — 20th — in the freestyle sprint in Seefeld, Austria. She competed in five events at the Olympics, placing 13th with her teammates in the 4 x 5 k relay as well as freestyle team sprint.
Asked about the highlight of her first Olympics, she said it was that team sprint with Emily Nishikawa.
“For me, the team sprint was more than just racing for Canada,” Beatty said. “Emily and I are both from the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club and the Yukon Ski Team so I was racing for the entire country, but also for my hometown, my club, the roots of where I began skiing and that was really special, knowing I was tagging off to my teammate who grew up through the same program as me and we both could get to this point together was absolutely amazing. We had a good race, and for me, individually, I felt the best that day of the Games and was able to carry a lot of motivation through the race and it was really fun to tag off right in the mix.”
Racing in the heats in Seefeld was another season highlight.
“… The course in Seefeld is so much fun; it’s such a beautiful location,” she said. “We had a perfect sunny day and knowing that World Championships will be there next year, it was really fun to kind of prepare to figure out what tactics worked and didn’t, and look forward to the next season.”
Under the guidance of Alberta World Cup Academy Head Coach Chris Jeffries, Beatty has typically spent most of her offseason training in Canmore, Alberta. While she said “there’s lots of change going on right now in Canmore” in terms of her training plans this year, Beatty was confident she’d be training with Nishikawa — as she has for the past five years. She also plans on having a strong training group of women, both national-team and non-national team members, to train with in Canmore.
That group has been gaining momentum and traction on the World Cup scene, with Cendrine Browne scoring her first World Cup points in the last race of the season with the 27th-fastest time of day in Falun’s 10 k freestyle pursuit. Beatty observed that the cohesiveness of the Canadian women’s team has contributed to its growing success.
“Having a belief in your teammates and being able to learn from your teammates and the strengths of you teammates is so important,” she said. “… I definitely think it’s something that all teams should strive for an strive to support and use each other’s strengths to build the most well-rounded team of teammates, and I definitely think the American women are wonderful role models and having the opportunity to get to know all of them very well over the winters and on the World Cup has been an absolute pleasure. I think we can learn a lot from them, and how they’ve built up their team.”
At the moment, Beatty is enjoying some time at home with her family and new dog Ozzy in Whitehorse, where she estimates she spends about two months a year. Between spending about half the year in Canada and half the year on the road, she said she’s grateful for her teammates.
“Having roommates and having teammates to spend time with and just relax with, and support you on the good races and the bad races, and be out there on the race course with you, too, that’s a huge part,” Beatty said. “I haven’t ever experienced having to be there [on the World Cup] alone luckily, but I’m always grateful for my teammates, and we’re such a close group of friends, I can’t imagine it without them.”
— Gerry Furseth and Andrea Potyondy-Smith contributed