BY: Nic Hogan
The Nordic Skiing Team’s first race of the season was cancelled on the 21st, but another race will be taking place this Saturday in Kandersteg.
Two weeks ago, the cross-country skiing team spent time waxing, scraping, and texturing their skis for a 22.5 km race that was going to take place near Einsiedeln. Spirits were high as we prepared for the first race of our season, and then they plummeted dramatically when we received word that the race had been cancelled due to rainy weather and a lack of snow. However, we are continuing the routine of checking temperature reports and preparing our skis to hit snow this weekend, albeit in a less serious race.
It is hard to describe the Kandersteg annual race without making it sound ridiculous. The course is a 3.3 km loop, which athletes ski as many times as they can within a time limit. Then, the total number of laps skied by all of the team members is totaled as the team score. This would be reasonable if each team had the same number of people on it, but as our miniscule team walked to the line last year, we were met by a horde of eighty Smurfs. Yes, Smurfs.
In Kandersteg, there is another category in which a team can become champions, and it is far more competitive than the one that requires physical exertion. Teams are judged on their costumes. And as silly as it may seem, there is something intimidating about going head to head with a person who manages to take themselves completely seriously while skiing in a gnome costume. Not to mention, there are no age divisions in the race, so you need to watch out for the unbalanced skier at the level of your knee as much as the veteran champion pancaking kindergarteners in pursuit of a medal. All in all, it’s one big melting pot of chaos and fun.
So maybe the race is less serious than the Engadin Ski-Marathon, which we also compete in, but that doesn’t mean we are putting any less effort into it. Aside from the usual sessions of meticulously waxing, scraping, and texturing our skis, we are working tirelessly to splatter paint over hooded, white jumpsuits so that they match our headbands that we had made earlier this year. We are going to Kandersteg so that those of us who haven’t raced can feel that experience for the first time, so those of us who have can feel it again, and more than anything so that we can race as a team and look awesome in our newly created costumes.
The Nordic Ski Team, or Cross-Country Ski Team, or Langlauf Team, was created last year. As a largely student run team, the seven of us worked with Mr. Mullens and Kevin Lane to find suitable times to practice, sign up for races, arrange traveling and iron out the various logistics of forming a new team. It wasn’t easy to get things going, but with help from all of the team members, and a lot of planning and scheduling and making things work by Kate Lane, we formed a true team.
This year, when our sign-up sheets were put out, we never could have predicted that our team would double in size. A motley crew of people who were on skis before they could walk and beginners who were just feeling their way around the unfamiliar slide of their skis showed up for the first practice. Since then, everyone has progressed to a proficient level, the vast majority of us skiing fifteen kilometers last Sunday. We have been holding three practices a week (two on snow and one indoors), and the progress made by each team member has been remarkable. Last year, I was baffled by one such athlete who had minimal experience on skis, but nonetheless cleared out a miniature track behind his house, and skied for hours in a circle. Cross-country skiing brings out a fascinating side of people, the side that is willing to exhaust itself time and time again to chase after improvement.
Each Monday, I see team members exercise themselves to the point of injury and exhaustion for rewards that won’t be apparent until days later when they are on snow. When given choices between three distances, I watch as again and again each skier takes the furthest distance regardless of how tired they already are. It is the one team where I don’t hear incessant complaining, see people slacking off, or hear the “I hurt my ankle” line before someone drops out. I have competed on track and cross-country running teams, basketball and soccer teams. I have played baseball, Frisbee, and football, and never in my life have I seen people so dedicated to improvement as I see on the Nordic-Ski team. So to the downhill skiers who were upset to share a yearbook page with us last year, I want you to know that we were upset too, because we deserved two pages after the work we put in to creating and shaping a team of some of the most stubbornly persistent athletes that I have ever seen, and I am happy to be one of them.