News & Stories

West Yellowstone 2014


By Amanda Kautzer and Sarah Bezdicek

Epic 22,032 Meters of elevation
500 Pairs of socks
480 Skis
320 Kick waxes
160 Poles
80 Athletes
8 Coaches
1 Goal

We arrived in West Yellowstone “Dead Dog” tired. The bus ride really blew; a flat tire added a few hours to the trek West. But we were still stoked to be up there. For one amazing week, hundreds of athletes from around the country gathered, and the tiny town became a skier’s paradise. At the first team meeting, it was amazing to see the number of teenage athletes who were willing to sacrifice their Thanksgiving break to train, for most of us upwards of 20 hours in one week. Even more impressive were the highly qualified and excited coaches, who all brought enthusiasm and coaching expertise.

As expected, the first couple of days at altitude were rough, but all of the juniors pushed through it. Competition team member Lewis White, a two-year veteran said, “At first the elevation took all the life out of me. I got back from the first workout, drank about a gallon of water, and laid on the couch, but after a couple days I acclimated.”

The Week in a Word? Endurance

From left to right: Ingrid Thyr, Hannah Rudd, Sarah Bezdicek, and Amanda Kautzer still smiling after 5.5 hours of skiing.
From left to right: Ingrid Thyr, Hannah Rudd, Sarah Bezdicek, and Amanda Kautzer still smiling after 5.5 hours of skiing.
As the training focus was volume, the athletes skied twice every day, usually classic in the morning when wax conditions were better, and skate in the afternoons. The juniors logged over three hours of training a day. Hannah Rudd, another Comp team athlete, accurately described the week in one word: “Endurance.”

Even though the workouts were physically draining, it was common for the athletes to want to ski more, partially because of the beautiful views. Kelsey Sather, an athlete from Armstrong, said the best part of the week was, “Skiing through the beautiful woods and making many new fast friends.” For us from the plains of the Midwest, the mountain views were, in the words of Hayward skier Keely Jackson, “pretty darn picture perfect.”

For Thanksgiving, LNR took the idea of a “Turkey Trot” to a whole new level with our ski into Yellowstone National Park. The main goal of the workout was to push yourself mentally and physically to go farther than you thought possible. In preparation, our fearless leader Piotr said that we needed to bring at least 1,000 calories to fuel ourselves along the way to eliminate bonking. Though the experienced veterans recommended two sticks of butter, most of us opted for some granola, power bars, or goo packets instead. About 80 athletes embarked on the three-to-six-hour ski (depending on the age.) We were incredibly thankful for the fast icy snow, which allowed some groups to go almost a marathon out to see geysers and a herd of bison.

Competition team boys and girls feeling the heat 5 hours into the Yellowstone ski.
Competition team boys and girls feeling the heat 5 hours into the Yellowstone ski.
This ski was by far the most popular among the all athletes, but especially Ingrid Thyr, the Comp team athlete who’s best at directions and who kept the group from getting lost multiple times. She said, “The Yellowstone ski was one of the best skis I have ever been on despite the fact that we double poled for four hours.”

As the juniors were logging in hours, the LNR FAST KIDS were training and improving, too. FAST KIDS Director and Coach Kim Rudd organized fun games including relays, a biathlon toss, slaloms, and agilities for the younger athletes to do. The kids in this group are the future for LNR and are building a solid foundation on which to grow.

Long training, but short week

We had fun (Medium)Even though there was a large focus on long-distance training, the LNR crew found its speed legs in the 2K downhill time trial. While the Supertour kicked off the racing season for elite US skiers, the LNR juniors, FAST KIDS, coaches, and parents started the race season off with fun, fast race on the Rendezvous ski trail. With speeds averaging 25 miles per hour, it felt like flying.

All in all it was an incredible week. Athlete Sam Maret said, “My first time in West Yellowstone was amazing. I loved the atmosphere of intense cross country skiing.” For all of us, the end of the week was bitter sweet. It meant the end of long training days and a chance to recover, but also saying goodbye to our new friends and the beautiful views and trails. The week went too fast for everyone. Keely summed it up, “Like it does every year, the end snuck up so quickly and before I knew it we were driving home. ”

The LNR West Yellowstone Thanksgiving camp really allowed the athletes to recognize how fortunate they are to have this opportunity and reflect on how thankful they are for the beautiful view, good health, amazing friendships, and support from family, friends, and coaches. Without the effort put in by the parents, bus drivers, coaches, and Loppet Foundation as a whole, much of what the athletes take for granted wouldn’t happen. This was a great chance for all to learn, grow, and improve as a skier, and I’d like to thank all the people who have helped along the way on the behalf of the LNR athletes. As Piotr would say, Rock On!