Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Once-in-a-Lifetime American Medal

This amazing story, written by Stuart Stevens, was posted on the Daily Beast website.  Thanks to Dave for sending it along.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty



A Once-in-a-Lifetime American Medal

Zero American cross-country skiers have medaled in a major distance event in 33 years. That was until yesterday, at least, when Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg did just that.
For many Americans, cross-country ski racing is the race walking of winter sports, that odd endeavor that looks difficult but not fun. For others it’s that thing those who can’t downhill ski do while the real skiers are having fun on the mountain.
But in Europe and Scandinavia, it’s a major sport—if not a pastime—followed by millions with rewards for the top racers of fame and fortune. For decades, a dedicated group of Americans have worked their hearts out to compete with the world’s best on their turf. With no big races in the U.S., Americans leave home in November and don’t return until April. But no American had won a medal at the World Championship in a cross-country distance race for the last 33 years.
That was until yesterday, when two women from Minnesota, Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg, pulled off one of the epic upsets in winter sports history, winning silver and bronze medals in the 10-kilometer race at the 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden. Another U.S. woman, Liz Stephans, was 10th.
To have three American women in the top 10 at the World Championship is like a Swede being named MVP of the Super Bowl, closely followed by a Norwegian and a Finn. They’re the first American medals since Vermonter Bill Koch won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics, followed by a 1982 bronze medal in the World Championship.
Tuesday, February 24 will go down as the greatest day in the history of the cross-country U.S Ski Team. That these medals were won by U.S. female athletes makes it sweeter, given the nation’s focus on male-dominated sports.
I saw Joe Frazier put Muhammad Ali on the canvas in their first bout and it was that kind of moment—when something stirs inside a battered athlete and they somehow find another level.
I’ve been in Falun since the opening of the World Championships and it’s a wild scene. Tens of thousands of fans line some of the world’s toughest courses, screaming for their country’s racers. National flags are big with the spectators. For every 100 flag of a traditional powerhouse like Sweden or Norway, there may be one decked with stars and stripes.
That’s why it takes unimaginable focus for an American to walk into that ski stadium, line up with the world’s best in front of their rabid fans, knowing almost no one believes you have a chance, and medal anyway. But there is something special about this closely knit American team, a bond forged living together every year for five months on the road far from family and friends. And in a snowy Falun, they seized their moment.
There’s a hill on the Falun course so long and steep the racers call it Murder Hill; the women skied it twice on the 10-kilometer course. By the second loop, every racer was exhausted and it is at that point in a race when racers say their bodies are screaming to drop the pace just a bit—anything to make the pain less intense. Minnesotan Jessie Diggins—5’4”, 128 pounds—instead looked around at the sea of Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Germans and Italians for a split second, put her head down and attacked Murder Hill, moving a crowd to cheers.
I saw Joe Frazier put Muhammad Ali on the canvas in their first bout and it was that kind of moment—when something stirs inside a battered athlete and they somehow find another level.
Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
The heart and soul of this U.S. ski team is Alaska’s Kikkan Randall, who, at 33, can remember when she was the only American who could break the top 30 in a World Cup race. She’s a sprint specialist who was heavily favored to medal in the Sochi Olympics, only to miss advancing to the finals by .05 of a second. In 2013 she won the World Cup overall title in the sprint category, giving hope to every American racer. Along with another sprinter, Canada’s Chandra Crawford, a gold medalist in the 2006 Olympics, Randall formed Fast and Female, a nonprofit with the mission “to empower young women to remain in sport” and “dominate the world.”
This season has been a disappointment for Randall as she has struggled to find her form. But today her vision of convincing young women they can realize their dreams and accomplish any goal came alive as two American women stunned the skiing world and took the podium. After today’s race, in which she placed 15th, which not long ago would have been seen as a breakthrough U.S. performance, she rushed to her teammates and lifted them upward in a moment of sheer joy. They had dominated the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

X-Country Ski Club Wearables

For anyone interested in Rexburg XCSKI Club clothing, there are a couple of options available.  The best option would be for you to call or stop by Kettle Embroidery (61 East Main Street, Rexburg; 656-9993) to place and pay for your order.  Ask for the ski club logo under my name, Stephanie Hancock.  I worked with Debbie, so it might be easiest to ask for her help.  I gave Kettle permission for any of you to use the logo on any item (there's a whole catalog of clothing options, and you're welcome to pick something different).  Here are the samples and suggested items I got for you to preview.   I'll add the price list at the bottom of this post.
The other option would be for you to contact me with your order and payment, and I can place the order for you if you can't find a way to get to Kettle.  Just let me know (email me at

Oliver is modeling (somewhat reluctantly) the neck gaiter and the vest in the first picture.  Many thanks to him for designing such a good-looking logo.  I think it turned out great.

I tried three different combinations of colors.  We have the logo set to handle two colors, so when you talk to the people at Kettle, pick two from black, red, and white.

This one and the black and red one above turned out really well. 

The white skiers with the red lettering didn't turn out as well as the others, probably because the fleece on the neck gaiter is thick.

I am not a photographer, so I apologize for the poor picture quality and orientation. If you tilt your head sideways and look really closely, you can see these items better.

The shirt pictured is a Men's Small  (a good size for Sam and Oliver), and the vest pictured is a Men's Medium.  The Neck Gaiter is one size.

Price List and Item Number of Items Pictured

Fleece Neck Gaiter

Item #FS07 Midnight Heather
Price (includes Embroidery): $11.00, plus tax  (sorry, I quoted you all $5 at practice, but that didn't include embroidery).

Long Sleeved T-Shirt  (is a poly/spandex blend - very nice). 

Item #ST700LS  Heather Grey
Price (includes Embroidery):   $15.98, plus tax.

Fleece Vest

Item #F226 Vest Pearl Grey
Price (includes Embroidery): $23.98, plus tax.

One last option - you can order vinyl lettering on a hoodie/sweatshirt and make the logo much larger (5"x10", for example).  It's about $5 extra for each color of the logo, in addition to the cost of the sweatshirt.  You can make the logo all black (or whatever color) for $5, or go for two colors if you want to pay the extra $10.  The hoodies start at about $20.  You can pick them out at Kettle in their catalogue, along with your colors, if you want.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2014-15 Nordic Club Recap

Thanks to all the kids and parents who joined us for our first ever Rexburg Nordic Club!  Yesterday was the last practice of this season.  We had hoped for another week or two, but the snow vanished prematurely.  The time we did get on snow was fantastic.

At our highest turnout, we had twenty (!!!) 7th-12 graders, a couple of parents and a few younger kids.  We averaged about twelve kids per practice.  This was amazing, especially considering that for the most part we had very poor snow conditions and that we had expected maybe five or six kids for our inaugural year.  It really was a lot of fun and there were major improvements over the season.  Good job, everyone!

Next year we'll be even bigger and better, especially if we have a good winter.  Spread the word.  I think some people aren't aware that cross-country skiing is actually a lot of fun.  Also, I know lack of equipment is always a hindrance.  Don't forget you can rent skis (it's cheaper than downhill skiing by far).  Or shop around (online, yard sales, whatever).  You don't have to be on top-notch equipment to learn to ski.  Contact me at if you need help purchasing equipment.

Many thanks to the City of Rexburg and private individuals for loaning us equipment, and for the ORC for discounted rentals.  Thanks to everyone involved at Teton Lakes Golf Course for letting us hold practices there.  A huge thanks to Randy and Doug for grooming, and many, many thanks to Steve Barrus for coaching. Everything was done on a volunteer basis, and we appreciate you all!

I will post pictures and ordering information for the Club shirt, fleece vest, and neck gaiter as soon as I get them.  It'll probably be late next week or the next.

Meanwhile, winter isn't over yet!  If anyone wants to organize a ski trip to West Yellowstone or Harriman, please feel free to do so. You can contact Steve Barrus at for club members' email addresses.

I'll try to keep information up to date on local skiing options.  We skied at West Yellowstone (wet, soft and slow) Friday and Jeff skied at Harriman (much wetter, softer, and slower) on Saturday.  Steve H. reports that the skiing is still alive and well in Teton Canyon/Alta/Targhee area, and although it's been a little too warm so far this week it should be nice again starting tomorrow.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Nordic Club update

We'll meet today for dry land training.  For those of you who have city skis, boots, and poles will you please bring them today to turn back in?  You may also deliver them to me in person (contact me at 317-1365).  Many thanks to the City of Rexburg for loaning us their equipment this season!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Green Grass - February 8

I snapped some pictures of the golf course this evening. As you can see, we are taking a break from winter. Hopefully it's temporary, but who can say?

Nordic Club On Monday February 8

Please bring your skis, boots and poles as usual, but also bring shoes to run around in. We may be on snow and/or  we may be on dry land. Thanks!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What Happened to Winter in January

(See the next post for last night's update on course conditions as well as the status of next week's Cupid Cup).

Lee Warnick, who teaches media courses at BYU-Idaho (and is a self-proclaimed life-long weather and climate wonk) sends out a detailed weather report at the end of each month.  He kindly gave me permission to let me re-post his report here.  It's nice to see the what and why of the weather.  Our El Nino year explains our troubles with ski conditions.
You can also subscribe to his weather reports  (Rexburg Weather Group/Google Groups).

January Rexburg Temperatures

High temperatures: 29.9 / 2.0 degrees above normal
Low temperatures: 14.8 / 4.2 degrees above normal

Zero or below days: 4     Normal: 6.6
Highest wind gust: 40 mph on the 5th
Number of windy days: 1     Normal: 3.3

Highest temperature: 44 on the 27th
Lowest temperature: -14 on there 1st
Lowest wind chill: -28 on the 2nd

     • Our post-Christmas cold snap lasted briefly into the new year, but within a few days we were several degrees above freezing, setting a daily record of 40 by the 7th. For the rest of the month we rode temperature roller coasters that peaked in the 40s each time before retreating into the 20s and 30s.

     • What helped keep this from being a near-record-breaking, El Niño-fueled month was the frequent moderate-to-dense fog that seemed to return whenever the few puny storms coming our way weren't clearing things out. By my count, we had at least decent fog on almost half of our days in January. And that fog was thick enough often enough to knock our daytime temps down significantly. This was the year we seemed to have just the perfect test-tube combination of snow on the ground along with just-so temps, humidity and a predominantly stable airmass. Did you notice how the fog many times seemed to almost magically materialize just after the sun went down? 

     • Stable airmass? I'd say so! The barometric pressure was above 30.00 (which is marginally above "neutral" level) on all 31 days at the time I took my morning reading. Most of the time the barometer was well above 30.00. Not a lot of action will be taking place under this kind of high pressure dominance.

January Rexburg Precipitation

Precipitation: 0.72 / 73 percent of normal
Snowfall: 6.2 / 44 percent of normal

2014-15 water year precipitation (4 of 12 months): 3.49 / 85 percent of normal
2014-15 seasonal snowfall: 36.4 / 91 percent of normal

     • With the kind of high pressure dominance we experienced in January (not a surprise in an El Ni ño winter), the relative lack of snow was also not surprising. As you can see above, we got less than half our usual January total. The snow we did receive came in one decent storm on the 16th, a few piddly little things that barely covered the ground, and even some eerie fog-generated stuff that left trees ghostly well into the afternoon on some days. Finally, a third of our January precip came from an all-rain system on the 27th-28th.

     • Rexburg sees lots of snow -- nearly 5 feet per year. But unlike the places you've been hearing about lately that have been dumped on by a single storm with snow measured in feet, we tend to receive our snow in more frequent, lighter doses. In other words, it snows a little a lot in Rexburg. That hasn't been the case this year, however. I've counted four storms so far that have left four inches or more of snow. It hasn't snowed as often as is usual this winter, but when it has, it's tended to be more productive.

     • Our relative lack of January snow is nothing compared to what our neighbors in Utah saw. Salt Lake City got virtually no snow in January -- they usually receive a foot. We were down there last weekend and were amazed to see not just a lack of snow on the ground in the valleys (not even in drifts) but the snow level on the mountains as high as 8,000 feet. That's more like April than January! But really, once you travel just a little ways south of Rexburg, the snow cover largely vanishes. We have more than our share around here and more than could reasonably be expected in this kind of year (we're at 91 percent of normal snowfall so far this season).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Track Report and Cupid Cup is still a Go

Tom just sent a very positive update on the trail conditions for Teton Lakes (the golf course).  He's also the man in charge of the Cupid Cup next week, which, by the way, is a super race with great prizes (and a really cool ski cap/beanie this year).  It really is a fun event for all abilities and ages.  The race is for both classic and skate skiing.  Click here to get more information and register online.  
Here's his report:

Just so you know, I have not given up hope for the race next week. I was out on the trails today and they are still holding on. 

I think if the track melts out we would still be able to put on the kids race at least.  My hope is that we can have both adult and kids races.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Track Conditions February 5, Nordic Club News

While we are losing the track pretty quickly, there is still some life left in it yet.  I was surprised during the Nordic Club practice this evening how I could still get a decent skate glide.  Because the base has been maintained so well by Randy and Doug, it is still holding out for at least another couple of days.  The classic track is touch and go, but there is still snow so skiing is still possible.  Tonight's skiing was remarkably better than yesterday's, at least on the portion to the south of the Club House.  The newer snow has settled into the track base.  I have LF8 with a fast wax of 30 on my skis, which was really good for present conditions.

The Nordic Club will hold practice through next week.  Kids might want to bring running shoes, too, in case we are back to dry land training.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Track Report February 4

As you might imagine, the snow at Teton Lakes Nordic Trails is not very skier-friendly right now. It is very soft and wet, and is thinning down. There's not much glide, if any, on the skate track, and the classic track is beginning to melt away. If you do come ski, expect to be slow, watch for bare spots, and fill in any holes if you fall. We may still be able to reclaim the tracks once the weather cools a bit. I'll keep updates coming as conditions change. As of now, the Cupid Cup is still on for February 14. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Grooming Report - Groundhog Day

Doug groomed the tracks this morning (thank you!). I'm on the skate track right now and it is mighty fine skating. My skis are waxed with LF8 and are responding well to the snow. It's a great day to come ski. The groundhog did say at least six more weeks of winter, right?