As the U.S. Nordic ski team continues competitions on the international stage in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Nordic skiing—like figure skating, luge, and ski jumping—may seem to be an elite, inaccessible sport reserved for the enjoyment of Olympic-level athletes. While the Nordic community and the terms and techniques associated with it may seem esoteric on the surface, in reality the sport embodies versatility and accessibility, with a largely welcoming community from diverse backgrounds.
The Colorado College Nordic ski team exemplifies this welcoming atmosphere. In contrast to Division I varsity ski teams that prioritize details such as waxing practices, proper techniques, and a high level of physical training, the CC Nordic club prioritizes accessibility for skiers of all levels. Due in part to the low average of snow levels in the Colorado Springs area, Nordic training consists primarily of dryland training with races in the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association conference throughout Colorado and Wyoming. In order to fulfill its mission of inclusivity, the team has purchased ski equipment through crowdfunding, making the sport available regardless of ability to purchase expensive personal equipment.
A typical race weekend for the Colorado College team includes one race of each technique, skate and classic, with distances ranging from five to 21 kilometers. Athletes compete against other USCSA Division II schools in the conference, which include Western State Colorado University, the University of Wyoming, Colorado Mesa University, and the Air Force Academy, as well as various Division I schools in some races. So far this year, five CC athletes have qualified for the USCSA National Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., with the potential for more athletes to qualify at the upcoming races this weekend in Laramie, Wyo. Last year, five athletes qualified as well, though all chose to decline the opportunity due to academic commitments.
As CC Nordic enjoys these exciting successes, the U.S. Olympic team is also experiencing unprecedented results. The U.S. women’s team won their first ever gold medal, the first medal either U.S. men’s or women’s team has been awarded in over 40 years. Jessie Diggins, racing in her second Olympics, finished fifth in both the 15 kilometer skiathlon and 10 kilometer freestyle races, with teammates Sadie Bjornsen and Kikkan Randall close behind in the 10 kilometer event.
While the Olympic-level Nordic competitions that most of us witness on television may seem intimidating, the CC Nordic team is successfully bridging the gap between accessibility for all levels and successful competition. In contrast to other Olympic events that do not have their counterpart in recreational and semi-competitive levels, the CC Nordic club exemplifies the versatility of the sport of Nordic skiing.