January Nordic Newsletter
Welcome to the January edition of JHSC Nordic Newsletter.
Coach Kathy (pictured above) is anxiously waiting for the start of the season on January 6th. She and the rest of the Lollipopper coaches are all fired up to get our little ones (usually kindergarteners and first graders) up and skiing. It’s always fun to see their tracks on the trails!
Coach Kathy Neily
Lollipopper Head Coach
The Teewinots are gearing up for their first practice on January 6th and, with all the new snow, we are sure to have a blast out at Trail Creek! We have many returning athletes this year, as well as some new additions to the team, with a total of 22 kids! The Teewinot coaching staff is looking forward to another great season of Nordic skiing!
Teewinot Head Coach
The Development (DEVO) Team has had a fantastic December! In a switch from some previous years, we were able to ski on snow the whole month. Low snow did limit our off-trail adventures for a while; however, with the new snow we can now go wherever our travels lead. We have concentrated on technique and fitness and will continue to work on our classic striding, double pole, V-1, and V-2 in the coming months.
Exploring, hills, jumps, and lots of games will round out our next month. Games focus on a skill on which we have concentrated that week. For example, one-ski soccer helps us understand the importance of maximizing glide, and two-ski no-pole sharks and minnows help us practice agility and sprinting (speed) while having fun.
In January we will begin to organize and prepare for the New Moose Chase team relay, a fun new event on February 8. Coach Pipa Blau now rounds out our staff and with 30 athletes we have quite a strong team.
Rob, Mark, Will, Pipa
Development Team Head Coach
Since our West Yellowstone trip the Junior Team has been busy working on technique and efficiency in skate and classic. We have been ecstatic with the conditions at Trail Creek so far this winter, with bountiful snow and prime grooming conditions. The Betty Woolsey Classic was the first real race of the season outside of time trials and our juniors all put in some outstanding efforts and performances of which they all should be very proud. The next few weeks we will be honing in on our race fitness for the first IMD JNQ of the year hosted at home at Trail Creek.
Junior Nordic Team Head Coach
The Comp/Prep Teams have enjoyed balancing winter time fun while completing their final solid block of training over the holiday break. We have been skiing all around the Valley, taking advantage of the variety of trails we have, including skiing in Grand Teton National Park, up Cache Creek, and at the Pines, and we will all be heading to Turpin Meadow Ranch for a fun day on Sunday. Wrapping up the break, we will begin to shift towards the full race season focus. The teams will be kicking off the race season with a bang at our home Junior National Qualifier on Jan 17-18.
Elijah Weenig just kicked off his race season with US Nationals in Houghton, MI. The first day of racing at Nationals happened Thursday, Jan 2 with a Freestyle Sprint. Elijah did a great job handling a large, strong field of Juniors and looks to have finished as the 6th U18 boy for the day. (Results are a tad tricky to follow on a Sprint day.) But that is a solid start to his Nationals racing adventure. The races continue with a 15km Freestyle on Jan 3, a 10km Classic on Jan 5, and Classic Spring on Jan 7. Event details can be found at the event page and results can be found at the results page.
Here's the 'Nordic Program Update'
With the recent series of snow storms hitting Trail Creek, a professional and stacked coaching staff, and pre-season home and regional races in the books, the JHSC Nordic program couldn't be in a better position to tackle an exciting and eventful January. The Lollipopper and Teewinot Teams will begin their season at Trail Creek on Monday the 6th, joining the Development, Junior, Prep and Comp teams on every Monday and Wednesday through the end of the season. If you're interested in observing controlled chaos of over 125 athletes and how the progression of the Nordic program functions, come out to Trail Creek on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.
With 125 athletes at one venue, there's work that goes on behind the scenes to be sure that every athlete is getting the most out of their experience. To be sure all the coaches are speaking the same language, understand lesson plans, the correct pedagogy for each phase of development, and the complete progression from Lollipoppers to the Comp team, the coaches held an annual on-snow technique clinic and discussion at Trail Creek. As the technical side of the sport continues to evolve and as we encounter new challenges and opportunities to share our passion for the sport, it's important that we take the time to communicate and discuss an effective and coherent teaching methodology every season. Thanks to all of the coaches for their attention to detail in their lesson plans, and for taking time out of their weekend to attend this clinic.
We rely heavily on the wider JHSC staff and board to keep our program running effectively and efficiently. Any support to JHSC will assist in the growth of the Nordic program, but there are also a several ways you can directly support the Nordic Program—through financial contributions, volunteering, and spreading the word of our ever growing Nordic culture in the valley. If you're using the trails at Trial Creek please purchase a pass; if you're looking to fulfill your volunteer credits don't forget about the Johnny Curtis Memorial Junior National Qualifier coming up on January 17th and 18th. We also have JHSC Nordic supporter sweatshirts and hats available for purchase at the Trail Creek Cabin. If you have kids in the program we encourage a low pressure, fun and easy approach to their involvement. As we prepare for the upcoming JHSC Nordic Carnival, it's our hope that every kid in the program is inclined to participate at their own will.
Happy New Year!
Head Coach and Nordic Program Director
A really good bit of news in the past year for the JHSC Nordic program was that one of the bright spots in our past was willing to return to the organization once again, providing her talents for our mission of making our youth the best they can be. It’s awesome to have Ali Sehnert with us again! Here is what she had to say . . .
Where did you grow up and where did you ski growing up?
I grew up in Alaska, first on Adak Island, and then we moved to Fairbanks. I started skiing at Birch Hill Ski Area in Fairbanks, AK. I came to Nordic skiing and sport in general because my friends were doing it. We were not a Nordic or skiing family really.
At what age did you start skiing?
I started skiing in middle school and started racing in HS. I absolutely fell in love with the sport as a freshman in HS. I do remember my folks waking me up as a child and taking us skiing on full moon nights out on Adak, which was certainly a memorable experience - but not very impactful in terms of the actual skiing.
What is your history of Nordic skiing up to this point in your life?
I competed in HS and was an AK State Champion, an AK Besh cup winner, had multiple top 10 at JNs, along with a few podium relay teams at JNs. I was included in the (then) US Development team after my second year as a J2 (U16.) I received a scholarship to ski for University of Colorado Boulder, raced for four years and went to one NCAA Championships. After college, I was ready for a break from racing - moved to Winter Park, CO and started coaching, working with the local HS Program. I was in Winter Park about 8 months. I then moved to Sun Valley, ID to coach and worked their as the Asst Nordic Program Director for four years, after which I moved to Jackson and became the Nordic Director for JHSC. I was the Nordic Director for nine years and then it was time to take a break from it and we were able to start a family. During my time away from JHSC, I helped open and get Turpin Meadow Ranch going as the first General Manager.
Who is in your family and does your family ski?
We are a skiing family. My husband (Sam) and our two boys (Seppi - 4.5 and Stanley 3) all enjoy skiing, both Alpine and Nordic. My husband worked at JHMR as an instructor and a backcountry guide, and worked as a heli ski guide up in AK with Alaska Rendezvous Guides. My grandmother would be happy to include that I am Scandinavian - so of course we ski. ;)
Do you have any memorable races from your high school or college days?
Turns out I was pretty competitive once I started racing, so I loved most race days. Relays were certainly a favorite, as I like to help my teammates and crush the other team. My senior year in HS we won the AK State Championship by a record amount of time.
Where do you like to ski when you aren’t at Trail Creek?
My absolute favorite place to ski is where I really learned - Birch Hill in Fairbanks, AK. But in town here, I also love a good slog up Cache Creek since we live right near there, and skiing out at Turpin Meadow Ranch is always a fun adventure!
Have you ever coached before working for JHSC?
Yes - I have coached for Middle Park High School, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, and done some volunteer work with Intermountain Nordic Team and the US Ski Team.
You are a return JHSC employee. What was your first stint like?
I feel fortunate to be returning to JHSC as a coach. I initially came to Jackson to run the Nordic Program, and it is wonderful to see how the program has evolved over the past 15 years or so. There are still some similar hurdles to the ones that I was dealing with 6 years ago when I left - but there have also been some tremendous changes and growth and it is wonderful to see. I have worked with a lot of the current coaching staff before, whether coaching side by side with them, or working as a coach/athlete with each other. It is wonderful to see such great people working with the kids - the future of the program.
What is your educational background?
I received my bachelors from the University of Colorado Boulder with a double major in Kinesiology and Fine Arts.
Do you have other work for the off season?
I also work part time as a bookkeeper for a family in town.
How often do you ski now?
Now that I am coaching again, I hope to be skiing 5 days a week, with a mix between Nordic and Alpine. The past few years, when I haven't been coaching and had really little kids, I was lucky to ski 2-3 times a week.
What age group are you coaching now?
I am primarily working with the Comp and Prep Teams.
What or who turned you onto skiing in your youth?
My childhood best friend, Sarah Cook (Applegate), turned me on to skiing in my youth. She and my sister, Karhin Deines (DiGioia), both talked me into running cross country the fall of my freshman year, and I insisted that I wasn't a competitive person. After 2.5 months of running, I realized that maybe in fact I might be the slightest bit .... competitive, and that was the beginning of athletics for me.
What is your favorite memory of skiing for JHSC or at Trail Creek?
That's a toughie - there are a lot of great memories at TC and with JHSC. Moving to Jackson to become the Nordic Director brought me closer to my husband Sam. We grew up together in Fairbanks, and were dating during part of the time I was coaching in Sun Valley. Now we have a great little family together. So I think that that is the best part of my history with JHSC.
What is the biggest challenge of being a coach?
I think that the hardest and the best part about coaching is helping the athlete break down their own mental barriers. We all have self-imposed limits of some kind and it is really wonderful to see an athlete gain the confidence to burst right through those barriers. It is not an easy task, but it sure can be a rewarding one.
Do you have a “coaching philosophy?”
I always have a hard time putting things like this into words. But basically, I really enjoy helping young adults become confident, capable human beings. Yes, skiing is the mode that we work with kids, but it is not about athletic performance; the skills that these kids are learning are applicable to every aspect of their lives. It is pretty amazing to see them implement those lessons. :)
Thanks a million, Ali, for sharing a bit of your history with us!
Looking at a very impressive roster of JHSC Nordic athletes this year, one of our standouts is senior Elijah Weenig. He has been doing big things and is most assuredly going to go far. He agreed to answer some questions about what is going on in his life below:
Do you remember when you started skiing?
I don’t remember the first time I ever skied but I remember I joined the Ski Club in 4th grade as a Teewinot. My best friend, Sam Johnson, had done the year before and encouraged me to join as well. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed making friends in the club, learning from awesome coaches, and challenging myself to grow.
Do your mom and dad Nordic ski?
Yes, but they only ski recreationally, and they cheer me on while I race. They've come to value Nordic skiing a lot and are excited that three of my younger siblings are now following my tracks on Nordic skis.
Assuming you can beat him, do you remember how old you were the first time you beat your dad in a race?
I have always been able to beat him. :) Just kidding. We've usually been on the same team and never raced against one another. Maybe this spring, though, we'll finally compete against each other, 2020 PolePedalPaddle- Men Individual category.
What grade are you in now?
I am 17 and I am a senior at Jackson Hole High School. This is my second year competing as a U18 athlete and fourth year competing Varsity.
How many times have you gone to the national championships?
I have gone to Junior Nationals the last two years. The first for me was 2018 on the Olympic course at Soldier Hollow, UT; the second was 2019, Anchorage, AK.
Have you had any special awards from Intermountain Division Nordic?
Yes. 2018 at Junior Nationals I was named IMD Rookie of the Year, and in 2019 I was awarded IMD Most Improved Skier.
What are your Nordic goals for this year?
I plan to compete at U.S. Nationals in Houghton, MI over 2020 New Year's holiday in hopes of qualifying to race at the U18 Scandinavian Cup in Sweden to represent the U.S. I want to meet several college coaches while I am in Houghton to talk about racing for their schools. I want to podium again at USSA Junior Nationals in March in Truckee CA, and win 2020 Wyoming State Champs with the JHHS team again.
What are your college and career plans for after high school?
I plan to serve a two-year volunteer mission for the Church of Jesus Christ L.D.S., and then go to college somewhere. I am still undecided on a college I will attend, and my major is undecided. I'd consider going anywhere.
Are you planning on participating in Nordic skiing or other athletics in college?
Yes, I want to ski for a college team and hopefully get a scholarship for racing.
What is your favorite memory of skiing for JHSC or at Trail Creek?
For the club I would say going to Park City and Moab last June for a week training camp was one of my favorite times. It was really cool to go somewhere new and explore and have fun and train hard all at the same time.
Trail Creek Nordic Center is an amazing venue; I feel very fortunate to have it as my home course. My favorite trail is Gutflop.
What has been the biggest challenge of your Nordic skiing experiences so far?
Probably learning how to balance a demanding training schedule (4+ days/week, summer and winter) and everything else in life: school, family, friends, work, free skiing, rest/recovery, church service, mountain bike racing.
In a decade from now do you see yourself living in a place where you can Nordic ski?
Definitely. I think growing up in Jackson, I've learned to appreciate this place where I live. I think it would be hard for me to live somewhere I don’t have access to the places we do in the Tetons.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with the Nordic community?
I would like to give a BIG THANKS to the whole Nordic community for being really supportive, especially my parents, coaches, friends, club staff and volunteers, club sponsors and donors.
Thank you Elijah for being the leader that you have been in the JHSC Nordic program. The future is nothing but bright for you and it will be great to watch your path going forward.
Since the last update the racing season has gotten up and running at full speed.
December 14th and 15th was the Sun Valley Super Tour, basically a warm up to the Super Qualifiers coming up later in the season. JHSC skiers from U14’s (under 14 years old) on up made the journey to Ketchum, ID to ski on their great trails. Results from the event are available here.
Many of the high school skiers, as well as some of the IMD skiers, made the long journey to Happy Jack Nordic Area for the December 21st and 22nd high school race hosted by Laramie. Results of the race can be viewed in this article from the Laramie Boomerang.
The big news in the JHSC world as of late has been the 2019 Betty Woolsey 10K Classic Race which was held on December 28th. A cool, clear day presented ideal conditions for the venerable classic race, with a great crowd of participants ranging in age from 3 to 82. Racers competed in ½, 3, 5, and 10 K races and, while everyone who competed was truly a winner, our very own JHSC athlete, Birch Klomparens, won the 10 K women’s division and Cirque Gammelin won the 10 K men’s division. Adding to the excitement, part of a deer carcass even managed to make its way onto the course sometime during the night.
All of the results are available here.
Finally, as mentioned above in the Comp/Prep report by Coach Ali, our very own Elijah Weenig is, as of press day, racing in the Nordic Nationals in Houghton, MI. Links for more information are in Ali’s report above.
The Big Thanksgiving Storm got us off to a great Pisten Bully start; the Big Christmas Storm brought us universal classic tracks; and the Big New Year’s Day Storm moved our trails into full winter mode with all major trails open and even most of the monsters lurking under the snow well covered. We have been truly blessed so far with good amounts of the magical white stuff that is so important to what we do.
Up to this point the Prep, Comp, Junior, and Devo Teams have been keeping the weekday afternoons busy, while we have had a nice level of citizen skiers throughout the days. Looking ahead to next week we will be joined by the delightful presence of the Lollipoppers and Teewinots, so if your desire is to witness a Nordic spectacle, check out Monday or Wednesday afternoons.
So far this winter our equipment has been running flawlessly and the wildlife sightings have been the usual amazing variety. There have been rodents cruising the trails, weasels cruising the trails with rodents in their mouths, pine martin tracks, foxes and coyotes out nightly looking for rodents or whatever else they can find, white tail and mule deer, elk, and moose along with a good flock of chickadees hanging around the feeder at the cabin.
There was a confirmed deer kill between Olympic and Mug’s Meadow, and the carcass had been dragged onto the trail by a coyote. We were able to track back to the kill zone, but it was not possible to determine what animal had actually made the kill.
Trail Creek is hosting a Sand Bag Race Saturday January 4th at 10:30 AM. The race is a 10K freestyle event with a moderately challenging flow. If you are looking for a fun day with some great people, make sure you head out to Trail Creek this Saturday. The course can be viewed here.
If another road trip sounds like a good idea, make the short trip to Pinedale for the next Wyoming High School Nordic Meet January 10th and 11th.
On January 17th and 18th Trail Creek will be hosting one of the major events of the year, the Intermountain Division Junior National Qualifier, aka the Johnny Curtis Memorial Race. There will be 100s of regional racers and it is sure to be a great spectator event. Check out the link above for all the information.
Thanks so much to the members and sponsors who make this all possible!
David Adams, Keith Austin, Brigham Family, Heather Budge, Curtis/Adams Family, Arielle D’Arge, Mike Evans, Goodrich Family, Roman Goralski, Gordon/Mick Family, Charlotte Gross, Rachael Harrower, Ann Harvey, King Family, Thomas Kohlhardt, Lee/Clegg Family, Leeds Family, Lovett Family, Kristina MacLeod, Maria Mahood, Ann Makley, Clara McGee, Finley Miller, Annika Peacock, Chris Peck, Wayne Petsch, Pruzan Family, Schilling Family, Parker Smith, Springer Family, Stanley Family, Thal Family, Thomas/White Family, Brian VanHatten, Jocelyn Wasson, Olivia Weenig, Bode Welch, Chris Wimberg, and the Wiswell Family.
A special thanks to Jackson Hole Nordic for being a strong supporter of our programs.