Sunday, March 17, 2013

Scenes from the Road: Holmenkollen 50km

At the 2011 World Championships, I finally got the chance to race on the Holmenkollen trails just outside Oslo, Norway. Yesterday, on my first time back since, I got another bucketlist experience - joining Kjell-Erik Kristiansen in announcing the Holmenkollen 50km.  Kjell-Erik is a true pro, and one of those special characters cross-country skiing has - a personality for the sport not unlike Dick Vitale and college basketball.  Kjell-Erik understands skiing in-and-out, and probably has a better grasp on its demands better than most athletes. While announcing, Kjell-Erik switches seamlessly between Finnish to Swedish to German to Norwegian to English. He does this to converse with the international crowds at ski races, and to cheer on the athletes in their native tongue. I was most impressed, though, how he could recognize the athletes. From a country mile away Kjell-Erik could pick out Italy's Dietmar Noeckler or Norway's Snorri Einarsson just by their technique within a pack of competitors. 

If you're up in Holmenkollen, the ski jump acts as the north star. For three days it's nonstop action, both in the air and on the trails. For ski jumpers and nordic combined, these are the concluding competitions of the season.

This jump is far from some of the rickety-old wooden ski jumps I've seen in my day. From Oslo's new opera house to the ski jump, it seems like nordic architecture is enjoying a renaissance.

This man is responsible for mixing the stadium music for every World Cup. Especially distance skiers will talk about how they come through the stadium for another lap of the race and certain songs playing at that time get stuck in their minds for the rest of the race. For better and for worse, this man makes that happen.

As many of you know, skiing is a pretty big deal in Norway. I think this picture captures a sense of this. The King is always in the house when the World Cup comes to Holmenkollen. Next Wednesday, I will race around the King of Sweden's Castle. The Swedish Royal Family will be in attendance. Looking forward to it, Princess Madeleine.

For days on end the woods of Holmenkollen are filled with people camping out alongside the race course. It is quite that party and revelry. Someday I'll have to go back and get this experience from the race. This year, Canada's Dasha Gaiazova couldn't wait. The race organizer gave her a tent. She found a thermorest and a sleeping bag somewhere else. She looked tired when I saw her the next day, though maybe much fresher in the mind.

And Norwegian boller! 

Next stop: Stockholm, Sweden for the World Cup Finals mini-tour. Until the next time. -Torin

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