In our analysis of Nordic's new normal, we look at how ski centers, retailers and brands managed the pandemic-driven surge in interest and what benefits it might bring to all skiers in the long run. Inspiring stories range from the skier who has competed in the Birkie more times than anyone else to how residents of Homer, Alaska, rely on skiing to raise their spirits during the long winters. And learn why McCall, Idaho—a small, scenic town with lots of Nordic trails—should be on your travel radar. Peggy Shinn describes the ridiculously epic workouts that some U.S. Ski Teamers undertake, while John Dostal muses over an unexpected consignment store find. Also inside: how one para Nordic coach uses the outdoors as a source of healing; the perfect gloves to keep hands warm and nimble; how to best adapt your technique in different snow conditions; and reviews of three new books that highlight the U.S. women's cross country team, an Antarctic expedition and skiing's long history in the upper Midwest.
On the cover: Last winter, cross country skiers got out more frequently, and remote work and online schooling, especially, resulted in more family time on the trails. Here, a family takes in the views and their time spent together on the Top of the World trail at Whistler Olympic Park, British Columbia. [Photo] Justa Jeskova
Ernie St. Germaine didn't plan to ski in the first American Birkebeiner. In fact, he'd never put on cross country skis until a week before the inaugural race on February 24, 1973. And while he's skied every single Birkie over the last 47 years—more times than anyone else—the race is a beacon and a stronghold in his life for reasons the average skier may never have considered.
Nordic's New Normal
We've all heard that the pandemic motivated many first-time skiers to take up cross country and existing enthusiasts to spend more time out on the trails and tracks. But what's the story behind the bump? How have Nordic centers, retailers and brands managed the surge in interest? And what benefits might it bring to skiers in the long term?
Getting Past Nordork
Ellen Hollinshead recalibrates her mojo, Trina Ortega opens a door to a new world, and Megan Mulligan returns to snow with her daughter.
Every summer, Jessie Diggins does what she calls a "Big Stupid"—an adventure that's way outside of her normal training routine—to push her boundaries, feed her soul and realize her need for adventure. She's hardly the only U.S. Ski Teamer who enjoys tackling challenges both epic and absurd.
The rise of the U.S. women's team, a history of Midwestern skiing and the story of an Antarctic expedition are showcased in three new cross country books.
Overland: Homer, Alaska
Winter in Alaska is very dark. But the elaborate network of trails around the coastal town of Homer offers plenty of opportunities for laughter, light and skiing, whether by headlamp, on tiki torch–lit full-moon nights or when the sun cracks the horizon come spring.
Cruising Crust and Finding Community
While Sun Valley is easily Idaho's best known Nordic hotbed, a much smaller town 200 miles to the north holds big appeal for skiers. McCall, population 3,000, has produced Olympians for decades, thanks in part to its abundant trails and low skier density. With five networks and plentiful crust skiing, it's the go-to XC destination for Idahoans.
The Final Stretch
Adapt your technique to different snow conditions, and you'll be able to ski everything from soft powder to bulletproof hardpack.
Gloves to cover you no matter what the weather hands out.
Wilson Dippo, head of para Nordic programming for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, taps into the healing that's found on snow.
A ski from Russia with love. Actually the USSR. Estonia, specifically.
Takin' it to the streets in Kingfield, Maine.