News & Stories

Loppet Youth Blaze Trails in West Yellowstone

Thanks to a generous grant from Mayo Clinic, five Loppet youth from the North Minneapolis area received scholarships to attend a November cross-country ski camp in West Yellowstone, MT with Loppet Nordic Racing.

Scholarship recipients Henri Nguyen, Victor Morales, Charlie Grabow, Datelle Straub and Nico Borello were selected based on their commitment to Loppet programs, as well as their personal goals and physical preparedness for the trip.

Charlie was ecstatic when he learned the West Yellowstone scholarship was being offered again this year. “I basically screamed when I found out,” said the high school sophomore, who’s also an alum of the Junior Loppet program at Anwatin Middle School.

The week-long West Yellowstone training camp is an intensive experience. Each day typically included an early morning run, as well as two long ski sessions of about 2 hours each!

Datelle started cross-country skiing with the Loppet last winter, when he was recruited by a friend. He was a Loppet Adventure Camp counselor this past summer, instructing younger kids from all over the Twin Cities in mountain biking, trail running and paddling. The West Yellowstone trip was Datelle’s first time outside of Minnesota. But the high school sophomore likes new experiences – and this one was especially formative.

“Lots of things were challenging, especially the three-hour uphill ski we did,” he grinned. “But I learned I was capable of more than I thought, mentally and physically. I realized if I just stayed with the group, I’d be fine.”

The unique trip setting and daily schedule fostered lots of group interaction and connections. Every one of the five scholarship recipients made friends with new people on the trip.

“It was super fun, meeting new people in the ski community,” said Nico, a high school sophomore and two-time West Yellowstone scholarship recipient. “I loved meeting lots of other skiers my own age.”

Victor, a ninth grader and alum of the Anwatin Middle School Junior Loppet team, thought the trip helped him be more disciplined and a better team player.

“You were motivated to be on time so you didn’t hold up the group. Also, being [in a hotel] together in a small space forced me to be more organized. Other people are relying on you to keep your stuff in order,” he said.

Henri, a high school sophomore and Junior Loppet alum, loved the atmosphere of West Yellowstone and being surrounded by nature for a whole week. He also liked that the coaches really empowered the athletes to be good decision-makers.

“We were given the freedom of being able to explore West Yellowstone. But we were also given structure. So the balance gave us a good sense of responsibility,” he said.

Charlie’s favorite thing about the trip was the camaraderie. “There was a lot of constructive teamwork. We helped each other quite a bit. If someone wasn’t doing something correctly, someone else would come and show them how to do it. We skied together and encouraged each other out on the trail.”

That group camaraderie was evident whenever someone fell while skiing. Datelle recounted a day when he lost his balance on a downhill and made several other people fall in all different directions.

“It was funny, and I was fine, and we all made sure everyone was ok,” he laughed. “All the falls were actually my favorite part of the trip.”

The ability to help each other up when they fall, work through challenges, and yes – even laugh at themselves – will serve the fivesome well as they pursue their future goals, which have been shaped in no small part by the West Yellowstone trip.

Charlie and Henri want to compete in Junior National qualifying ski races this winter. Victor wants to do every ski race he possibly can this winter, in between babysitting his younger siblings. Nico is excited about how much his skiing technique improved, and is eager to use his new skills. Datelle’s not sure if he’ll ski competitively, but he does know that he’s grown to love being outside in winter, and skiing fast.

“This trip really helped me realize that I like skiing in groups,” he said. “I like skiing with people who are better than me because it pushes me. I like that better than being the best skier in a group.”

The crew has a range of future goals, but one thing’s for sure: the West Yellowstone trip expanded their notions of what they’re capable of. Pushed out of their comfort zones, empowered by coaches, and supported by new friends and the larger outdoor community, they feel more connected to one another – and they’re eager to tackle their next adventures.

And, when asked if they’d go on the trip again, the unanimous answer was a resounding, “YES!”

Thanks to Mayo Clinic for making this incredible experience possible!