Nordic Notes with Noah Hoffman: A long winter season on foreign snow
Special to The Aspen Times
DAVOS, Switzerland — Friday nights are the busiest on the World Cup. You can expect extremely slow internet and long lines at the buffet. Thursdays and Saturdays aren’t far behind, but the local athletes may not have moved into the team hotel yet or the sprint specialists may have gone home before the distance race.
Monday nights are the quietest. Along with our American team, the Canadians will be there, and the Japanese team, a few of the Russians and potentially an athlete or two from Australia or Kazakhstan. Even the technicians that work with our team aren’t around, as they are either at home (three of them are European) or they’re still on the road with the wax truck, stuck driving across Europe while we fly from venue to venue.
The early nights of the week, Mondays, followed closely by Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when the hotel is quiet, the buffet seems to have too much capacity and the internet has ample bandwidth to call home on Skype or Facetime, remind us of how our experience as North Americans (or Asians or Australians) racing on the World Cup differs profoundly from our European counterparts.
The difference between having the World Cup on your home continent versus spending five months eight-time zones from home has an impact that is hard to understate, and I have come to realize that not all of the advantage favors the “local” athletes.
There are the clear disadvantages of being far from home, like the expense of seven nights a week of hotel rooms (as opposed to three), the lack of a home-cooked meal or sleeping in your own bed for months at a time and the inability to get away when you’re sick.
Then there are disadvantages that may not be so obvious. For instance, as an American it is extremely difficult to drop off the World Cup and onto a lower level racing circuit when things aren’t going well, making it hard to gain confidence or ease the pressure for results.
Perhaps the biggest negative impact of having the World Cup almost exclusively in Europe is the inability of athletes racing fast on the U.S. Super Tour circuit (the highest level of racing in the U.S.) to pop onto the World Cup. When a European athlete is racing fast at home, they can earn World Cup starts for the following weekend.
When an American athlete is skiing fast, they may be invited for World Cup races that are over a month away. By the time they get to Europe, they often aren’t skiing as fast as they were when they qualified, not to mention the toll of the travel and time change.
This creates a divide between World Cup and domestic skiers that hurts both groups; the domestic skiers struggle to get World Cup experience and the World Cup athletes take their start rights for granted and don’t have as many fast teammates to push them.
However, there are certain advantages to spending five months on the road with the same group of people. The U.S. is known as the most outgoing and cohesive team on the World Cup. This didn’t happen by chance; as a team we work extremely hard on functioning well as a group.
The Europeans view their teammates as co-workers. I view my teammates as family. We laugh together, we cry together and we strive to succeed together in this European dominated sport.
Editor’s note: Nordic Notes is a weekly column written by Aspen-raised cross-country skiers Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman as they compete on the World Cup circuit ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
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