Talking about their summer plans, University of New Hampshire (UNH) skiers Annavitte Rand and Silje Wilson suddenly had what they called a crazy idea.
Wilson hails from Hamar, Norway, and Rand from Vermont. They both wanted something new out of this summer: Wilson wanted to train with other college skiers (and not just Norwegian club teammates), and Rand wanted to go somewhere new.
“Given that this is the summer before my senior year, I knew I wanted to make ski training with other racers a big focus in hopes of reaching some new goals during my final year at UNH,” Rand wrote in an email. “I was considering heading west after hearing great things about Bend and Sun Valley from friends and my cousin (a UVM skier). Silje and I had chatted a bit… and then we had a crazy idea of me going to Norway to live in Hamar with her and train together!”
And so she did. The pair have been palling around not only Hamar, but plenty of other places, too.
“I’m so lucky to have one of my American teammates here, Annavitte, to train with and to explore Norway,” Wilson wrote in an email.
As with most training trips to new places, it’s not all about training. Rand took several weeks to go hiking with her sister, and is also considering the general lifestyle in Norway as she contemplates graduate school programs.
“Navigating unfamiliar roads and trying to integrate into a new culture while only having a few people I know in town has been awesome,” Rand said.
Rand is a former top-10 finisher at USSA Junior Nationals who had trained with the Green Mountain Valley School before heading to UNH, where she represented the Wildcats at four carnivals this season.
Wilson finished fourth in the 5 k classic at Dartmouth Carnival this season and anchored the winning 3 x 5 k relay the same weekend. She also won the sprint at the UVM Carnival – a non-NCAA qualifying event – and placed fourth in the 10 k classic there. Wilson was a member of UNH’s NCAA Championships team, which finished ninth.
Wilson and Rand answered a few questions about what it’s like to train in Hamar, just south of Lillehammer, during the summer. The following interviews have been edited and condensed.
FasterSkier: Silje, Where are you based this summer, what part of Norway? Is this the same area you grew up in, or is your training base away from your family home?
Silje Wilson: I am based in Hamar, which is 50 minutes by car from Lillehammer, and 90 minutes by car from Oslo. I grew up in Hamar, so it is very nice to train in a familiar area.
FS: For Americans who maybe only saw Oslo or Lillehammer on TV when watching World Cup races, what is your part of Norway like?
SW: Hamar is very much like Lillehammer. Parts of the Winter Olympics were held in Hamar, for example ice skating in the Vikingship (a huge athletic building that resembles a Viking ship lying upside down). Hamar has lots of farms, fields, a cute but small downtown, and Hamar lies by Norway’s largest lake, Mjøsa.
FS: Do you have a team that you are training with, or are most of your training sessions alone? How well do you know the other athletes and are they at a similar level to you?
SW: As I am the only senior women still competing and skiing on a high level here in Hamar, most of my workouts are by my self or with younger skiers. There are a couple senior boys here, but their level is pretty high, so I am closer to the 16-18 years old girls’ level. This summer I am lucky to have Annavitte here to train with.
Annavitte Rand: So far I have not trained with a specific group here in Hamar, though I am hoping to maybe join Silje’s ski club for some workouts in the future. Mostly I have been training with Silje or by myself (Silje has been a little sick these past few weeks). I actually just got back from a few days in Lillehammer training with former UNH teammate Annika Taylor [ed note: Taylor is now racing for Great Britain and based in Lillehammer]. In comparison to back home, I definitely feel there is more timidness in meeting new people here, so I can imagine that integrating into a new group may be a bit more difficult if I had no previous connections.
FS: How do you design your training – is it based on a plan from Cory at UNH? Are you adapting it at all to be able to match with other people/groups you might have opportunities to join?
SW: For the most part I follow the UNH ski team’s summer training plan, but I make some adjustments to make the training fit with how I feel and other summer plans.
AR: I have been following Cory Schwartz’s plan for the most part, though when I was in Lillehammer training with Annika, I joined her workouts. I think it may be hard for me to compare summer training groups, as I have never really been part of a bigger training group during the summer months.
FS: What’s different between American training and Norwegian training – or just between more “junior” and “senior” level training?
AR: I have noticed there is more focus on doing speeds during medium distance workouts. Just in the four days of training I had with Annika, two of our rollerskis included short speed work. And it is very focused speed work, not just a few 10-second pieces here and there. We analyzed how we felt with our technique after each speed. We have done some speedwork during the fall at UNH, but not in this same format, so I am excited to bring this back to the team.
FS: What’s the hardest workout you have done so far this summer?
SW: The hardest workout I’ve done so far this summer is running intervals up the steepest hill in Hamar that we call “Hell hill” among us skiers in the area (hælvetesbakken in Norwegian). It is so steep that it is hard to even walk/jog up the last and steepest part.
FS: Are there any absolute favorite places to run or bike or rollerski? Where were you most excited to show Annavitte?
SW: I was most excited to show Annavitte the beautiful rollerskiing around Furnes and Stange. The asphalt is great, the view over the lake Mjøsa is beautiful, and the peaceful farms and fields everywhere makes the long skis go by so fast.
AR: Yes, one of my favorite training sessions was a long rollerski with Silje from Hamar towards a town called Stange. We did a big loop that took us through many farm fields and along the large lake Mjøsa. It was a super sunny day and the pavement was perfect. It was really nice to stride out, work on technique, take in the views, and explore a surrounding area! Felt like a summer equivalent of an extra-blue day back home!
FS: More generally, how to the training opportunities in Hamar compare to New England?
AR: There definitely seem to be more ski focused training areas here because this sport is so popular in the region. One large racing venue is just a short drive from Hamar, and in the summer it is a great spot for mountain biking, bounding, and running in the bog. While in Lillehammer, I saw so many people rollerskiing each day, most of them on the roads leading to the rollerski track. I have heard of several rollerski races that happened this summer in other parts of the country, and it seems that many people go to ski on Sognefjellet during May and June, and maybe even now! So definitely more training opportunities overall, but I think that is mainly due to the fact that the nordic racing community is significantly larger here than in New England. And because so many professionals in the sport are training in this area – we saw Martin Sundby and his family at the rollerski track the other day! So awesome!
FS: Silje, what do you do when you are not training? Do you need to have a job?
SW: I did two summer classes online this summer. My plan was to get ahead by getting some discovery classes done. I will also work as a ski coach at Hamar Summer Ski Camp, and after that I will be a camp leader at a mountain camp for children.
FS: Annavitte, what about you? How are you funding this trip?
AR: In the first month of summer before I came here, I was lucky enough to continue work for a local photographer. Helping shoot at a wedding and assistant editing during that month has definitely helped fund this trip. But overall, it is important to be frugal and just take in all that is around you. We have been training out of Silje’s backdoor, using longer workouts on rollerskis and bike to explore the surrounding area, and then taking walks downtown after training to get to know Hamar.
FS: Norway is expensive.
AR: So much of training and traveling in a new place does not need to require big expenses. Food is quite expensive here though. It has been very special to enjoy several traditional meals with Silje’s family. But it is very possible to still eat healthy meals for less. A few items I have been feasting on include Wasa cracker bread, oats and some simpler muesli mixes, and something called Stabur-Makrell (mackerel fillet in tomato sauce). These are all quite inexpensive. Also, there are often student discounts on many activities and transportations. I think student train tickets are about 2/3 of the regular price.
FS: What is the best part of Norwegian summer, aside from training?
SW: I love the long daylight. It never gets totally dark at night during the summer here in Norway. I also love going out on boat trips at both Mjøsa and the beautiful fjords south in Norway.
AR: One afternoon last week Silje had a friend visiting, and the three of us took their motor boat across the lake to and island called Helgøya. At the southern tip is a beautiful old farmstead and small cafe. It is a really special place! There was beautiful afternoon light across the fields, and we walked around for a bit before setting up a game called “kubb” on a small lawn. I think it is an old viking game, and though rudimentary, it is great entertainment!
FS: Silje, Annavitte has been to Norway now – do you plan to spend a summer training in the U.S. at any time?
SW: I would love to stay in the states one summer to train with U.S. skiers. I have many great teammates at UNH who live out west, and I am very curious to explore that part of the U.S.!