As many of you know, I was living in France this winter to train and race on the Skimo world cup circuit. I call it my European Skimo Boot Camp.
Beginning in December I lived and trained in France with local teammate Grace Staberg, and the legendary Laetitia Roux. “Laeti” we called her is the most decorated Skimo athlete of all time, so it was a privilege to work with her. But with great reward also comes great risk. Going “all-in” in a sport like this takes sacrifice and a level of commitment; I feel I could only scratch the surface. It was a time of growth on many fronts.
There were times in the journey where I felt highs and experienced some lows, asking myself if this was something I could really sustain in the long term. I knew that I wanted to maximize this season of singleness and pursue this passion to its fullest degree.
Our Training and Routine
Our routine was quite simple, and simple is sometimes hard. We all lived in a chalet deep in the woods of the beautiful French Alps. There are pluses and minuses to this level of remoteness and training. Being so removed from civilization has its perks, no distractions and better recovery. However, as an extrovert who is fueled by social community, I found it hard to completely turn off. It forced me to get creative, find ways to get connected, and incorporate social outings where possible. It’s the butterfly in me. Finding independence in the midst of a strict schedule like this was a challenge. When we weren’t traveling to races, we trained, ate, slept, worked on gear, then repeated every day.
Grace and I went to Europe with the goal of racing for 5 months. We came home 2 months early. It wasn’t until our China World Cup got canceled in late January due to Corona virus did our plans start to get disrupted. China informed us that the cancelation of our World Cup was “due to extreme organizational issues,” but we soon knew it was because of the virus. Although Grace and I couldn’t get refunded on our airfare and race fees, we were happy to not go to China, given the growing pandemic.
In the 3 months I was there I gained a lot of experience, and a new perspective about sport. We traveled by car close to 10,000 kilometers around Europe. Laeti said this was more travel than she had ever done during her World Cup days. Although she wasn’t racing, she felt the fatigue as much as we did.
In those 3 months I was fortunate to compete in 13 races, 7 of which were World Cups. Our time got cut short just shy of Grand Course racing season. These are the races that are the marathons of Skimo. Pierra Menta and the Patrouille des Glaciers (PDG) were on my bucket list this season. Sadly, they will have to wait. Races were getting canceled right and left, and when I saw Italy was on lockdown I immediately got on the next flight home.
Some photo snaps from the second half of our journey in Europe:
I partnered with Valentine Fabre (a French athlete and a great partner). It was a pretty cool adventure, and one I’ll look back on as a highlight of this European “racecation.” This was a 3-day stage race with two short and tense stages and a final stage that combined all the classic aspects of skimo. We even had a 60 degree very technical via ferrata crampon section (see photo at beginning of newsletter). It was challenging and rewarding, and despite the lack of snow this season, the last stage was quite enjoyable.My partner and I took 2nd in the 1st stage but overall ended with a well fought 3rd-place finish.
(Little did we know at the time this was the epicenter of where COVID-19 was in Italy.)
We drove back to Andorra for another race, this time a stage race.. To celebrate almost 3 months of working with Laetitia, the three of us joined forces in the Andorra SKIMO10 race for 70 kilometers and over 6,000 meters of climbing our way through the Pyrenees 🏔😅
Thanks to having a French coach we were able to get ourselves a French license…something required in order to compete in this particular race. Grace and I competed in separate races since she is still in the youth division. I have no doubt though she would have given some of us seniors a run for our money. She did amazing. She took the lead in her race from the get go. At the finish, the timing officials kept asking her if she was in the wrong category because she swooped the field by a large margin. It was awesome to see an American girl be the “French” Champion of the French Championships. Haha, I don’t think they knew what to call her. Irregardless, she’s a champion, and I was super proud to see her on that top step.
My vertical race was solid and a good start to the season, finishing 7th overall right behind Marianna. The vertical race has never been my favorite, so to feel good and strong in one was a nice boost. We had a high caliber field of senior women, most of whom I remember from last years World Cups. It’s cool to recognize familiar faces. Marianna Jagercikova from Slovakia is living in France now and stayed with us during our stay. I remember her crushing the sprint race at Madonna Di Campiglio last season. Thanks to her and Laetitia being friends I’ve been able to foster a friendship with her, too and aside from the racing have already been fortunate to share in some trainings with her. Maybe some partner races to come!
World Cup, Aussois
First World Cup is under our belt and I feel we all took away from it some valuable lessons and things to work on. Mountaineering, as in rain or shine, we go. We kicked off the Individual race in challenging conditions, wet and rainy below and high wind and low visibility on top.
We were all required to start the race with our wind parkas on because of conditions up high. At 5 minutes before the start Laetitia let me know they took the boot pack out because conditions were so bad up high. The field was STACKED and competition heated. About 28 fast women lined up and fired up. The first climb was a bit congested. By the second climb we got a little more spread out. Marianna Jagercikova (from Slovakia), Ekaterina Osichkina (from Russia) and I spent most of that second climb together pacing each other up through the snowy abyss, where rain transitioned to actual snow.
Laetitia told me not to go full send on the downhills due to higher risk because they were quite technical and visibility wasn’t great. It was a risky descent to go full send, but I knew this was where I could make up some time, so I think I skied on the edge of full gas with some reserve still. After the 3rd descent, I came into the final transition in 9th place. My double rip (see video of what that means) lead me to mix my messy ball of skins with my clean and in tact ball of skins. While I was dealing with my sticky disaster of a mess at that final transition, Arina Riatsch of Switzerland came ripping by me to the finish.
Nontheless, I came in top 10. So grateful to have a coach here to help me grow in the many areas needing improvement. She was everywhere on course. Sometimes causing me to wonder how she got there so fast. She was cheering us on the whole way and that was super cool.
Grace crushed it in the junior category. She executed her race well leaning into her strengths by getting ahead of the field on the climbs and in the end gave it a podium finish with a 3rd place in her first World Cup. Super cool to see an American girl take the podium, and it inspires me all the more.
The Sprint the next day was a bit of a mess for both Grace and I. She crashed coming in to the finish, and I dropped my pole at the top.
Courchevel Night Vertical
Local races here are always so fun and lively. You never know what competition is going to show up, but the field was large of mostly recreational competitors. No world cup seniors, but Grace and I had each other to fight against 😉 This was a local night vertical race where we start at the bottom of Courchevel and make our way to the top of the pass. This race included some short little downhill segments skiing on skins which was fun.
Grace and I have been learning more about each other, and how to light the fire under one another in competitive ways. It’s fun that we can joke with one another about duking it out on the race course and still be tight at the end of the day. I cherish our dynamic. She thrives on being chased and I prefer to chase. So since this was a time trial start we were able to more or less choose our start time. Grace started 10 seconds ahead of me and kudos to her because she put up a good fight. I stayed with her until about 17 minutes in when I made the pass. She was hot on my heels finishing a mere 28 seconds behind me. Phew!
As much as this is new for Grace and I, this is also very new for our “coach,” Laetitia. For those of you who don’t know, Laetitia Roux is a legend. She is the most decorated skimo athlete (not just as a female) of all time and was recently named the “best female of the decade” by skimostats.com. She has more championships to her name than any other skimo athlete in the world. She is truly a champion, and now we have the honor of being coached by her.
So how did we do this?
After returning from Europe last season, Grace contacted me and said that if I go back to Europe, she wanted to join me. So I started putting my goals out there to our USSMA leadership. Laetitia was traveling through Colorado this past summer during her 3 month USA road trip and she happened to be in Breckenridge during part of her stay. Ram Mikkulus, the president of USSMA knew my goals of wanting to go back to Europe but seeking a mentor and teammate to do it with this time.
It was early September, and I had just gotten back from Alaska and was able to have her over for dinner the same day I returned, and just before she headed off to California. Talk about perfect timing! She actually delayed her trip a few days so we could meet. I couldn’t believe how all the chips were starting to fall in to place. It really was the perfect introduction at the perfect time in both of our lives. Laeti recently retired from the World Cup and was interested in coaching and mentoring an athlete or two. And I was looking for exactly that.
Working with Laetitia has been a dream! Laetitia has a curiosity about everything which makes learning from her equally as fun. She is super detail oriented and very disciplined. From the moment we arrived at our Challet, she went right to work, customizing our packs to fit us better and helping us get sorted with all our gear and teaching us about proper maintenance. Skimo is very gear intensive, and there are a lot of moving parts. Skins being most important. Grace and I both brought our old skins from last season, and she took one look at them and said, “Nope, these are all shit.” Good thing we had new skins on hand and now have a better grasp on how to take care of them. No shitty skins allowed here. Ha!
Aside from her detail oriented side, she also has this spontaneous laid back side to her that’s made it entertaining and adventurous for Grace and I to be a part of. Like on new years eve she comes to us and says there’s a fire works show happening tonight, want to go”. We said, sure when do we leave? “Now!” she says. We always have to be ready for anything here.
Our coach Joe Howdyshell continues to give us our workouts and Laetitia helps train us in technique and tactical work. I feel like I’ve absorbed more in this month with her than I have in 2 years of skimo!
It’s been interesting to hear and observe some of her experience in this new chapter. This is the first time for her to show up at races where she is the one taking care of the athlete.
Not often do the best athletes make the best coaches. Laetitia, however is the type to put all her heart into whatever she pursues. She has fully invested and dove into this experience with us, to which I am eternally thankful for that and her belief in us and this journey we are both on. We are her athletes, and proud to be! She is also the only female coach in attendance at the race meetings which she has found interesting.
After traveling around by myself to races last year, I have to say having her has been a game-changer. I’m grateful to have the extra support in getting from A to B. It lowers my stress as an athlete and helps me to focus on what I need to do and more time to recover and be still.
I have been living in France now for almost a month. In our first few days of arriving, it was quite an adjustment. Grace and I were both feeling a bit loopy. We arrived on a Tuesday, and it took up until race day on Saturday to feel half normal again and actually be able to sleep a full night. We kicked off the season at the French Championships.
First thing Grace and I both noticed was the air. We could BREATH here! Life at 10,000 feet has it’s pro’s and con’s. Oxygen is not one of them. Ha! But how nice it feels to go fast and not run out of air in the tank so quickly. The downside we’ve noticed is our muscles get tired quicker. All in all though I feel like my sleep and recovery is better.
I feel so much more settled in to our cozy chalet in the Alps. We are settling into what feels like more of a rhythm every day. Mind you, it’s quite simple…and that in itself feels like a luxury not to be taken for granted. Grace and I have spoken a lot about the aspect of living simply and what we want to learn from this time and bring back home with us. Back home it’s easy to get so over stimulated we lose sight of focus. Our routine and life here revolves around our goals, mainly training and racing. It keeps us focused and clear, but allows for some sweet and spontaneous surprises in between.
Here are a few of my highlights so far…
Sleeping in. So nice to not have to start workouts at 4:30am! We can uphill all day here and there are countless places to explore right out the backdoor.
Simplicity. Less is so much more. Contradictory to our American habits of filling our every minute with tasks, our days or should I say life is quite simple and consist of about 4 things…training, sleeping, eating, and gear maintenance. Now that we found a local coffee shop about 2 miles from our chalet, make that a total of 5 things.
Racing. I love the intensity of the racing over here. It’s so fast, and fun to be sharpened by this level of intensity and the athletes commitment to racing is inspiring.
Sisterhood- Every day I wake up grateful to share in this experience with these gals. The dynamic that the three of us share is pretty priceless. I appreciate the ways we are learning to live and work together.
Chasing Laetitia – Just being in the mountains with Laeti is pretty awesome. Chasing her on the downhills is on another level, like riding a thrilling roller coaster. Hang on for dear life because it’s “full gas”. I’ve never had more fun or been more scared trying to keep up with someone on skinny skis. You thought I was fast on downhills? Forget it.
Laughing – We laugh a lot, it’s the one language we understand when we don’t understand, or in the words of Grace “it’s unclear”. We use those words A-lot. ha!
Driving – Actually the driving has a bitter sweetness to it. As much as I dislike the roads and driving because I get car sick, I’m growing to really appreciate and value this time together. So much good conversation and forced time to get to know one another. It’s tight but sweet.
Vertical Race – racing neck and neck with Grace during the vertical was really cool and a great opportunity to really sharpen each of us as competitors.
Training- Training is always the best when shared with others, and I cherish every day with these girls.
French Championships – Seeing Grace take the top step at her first race in Europe this season. More podiums to come for this girl!
The Mountains – we can climb and climb and climb for miles here before having to turn around. The peaks here are big. Having fun on the off piste adventures with Laeti is a blast too. Sometimes I get a little nervous with the exposure but I am learning to be honest with myself and with her on what I am capable of out there.
And here’s another capture of my Insta Stories as a quick snapshot of my first month here:
LR Skimo, party of 3
I feel like I am at Camp. Girls camp. We are learning a lot about “team,” how to work together, be mindful of our personal needs and the needs of each other. We each are different, and I’ve already seen how those differences have helped sharpen us in different ways. Communication being one important key. We can always count on Grace for providing the humor to situations. She has a lot of sayings, a few of which I’ve dubbed her own. If Laetitia says something I don’t understand I immediately look at Grace, she either interprets it for me, or responds with “It’s unclear.” No matter what, we laugh.
We also have different strengths as athletes. Grace loves the vertical race and longer distance training. I am more keen for short fast “sprinterval” type workouts. I believe we have already made each other better competitors through working together, and that’s been super rewarding. Having Laetitia by our side training us in the skills and pushing us has already paid huge dividends and every day I wake up grateful to be here.
Christmas with the Rouxs
Following the first World Cup we went to Savine Le Lac and spent about a week there training and skiing in the mountains near Laetitia’s home. We were also able to link up with Marianna Jagercikova for some skills training which was awesome.
This was my first Christmas ever away from my family, and I missed them very much. Thankfully, we got to spend it with Laetitia’s family. Christmas with the Rouxs was a cultural experience to be sure. We celebrated on the 27th when the whole family could be together.
It was the longest meal I think I have ever been a part of. Her family doesn’t speak English, but aside from Laeti’s translations, we found ways to creatively communicate, and I made my effort using Google translate to share in the conversation and have some good laughs. Lunch nearly turned into dinner since we were sitting there for almost 4 hours! Traditional French way of doing it is one dish after another. Just when I thought we were done, her mom kept bringing more and more out. I think our eyes said it all.
New smells, sounds and routine
There is a river near our chalet, and I love hearing it when I go to sleep. It almost sounds like a rain shower outside. Yet is so quiet in this little village, and the smells are ever changing. There is a little stable near us, and when we walk outside sometimes the smell of cows are nearby and STRONG. Grace will say, “mmm smells pungent.” The mountains shoot up right outside my bedroom window making for a sweet morning view. We love easing into our day with reading and journaling before hitting the mountain with training typically around 9. Sure beats the 5am starts back home.
We’ve also recently discovered a cool coffee shop made out of an old garage called Lo Garajo. These people better get used to us because we are already making a habit of this place.
Join POWDER for the first of six POWDER events this season! POWDER’s event series is about creating dialogue, learning and connections.
Speaker: Sierra Anderson is a World Cup athlete, professional skier, Alaskan commercial fisherwoman, and motivational speaker in the areas of strengthening the bonds between women in the workplace and on the slopes. She resides in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Event Overview: 5:00pm – Registration 5:30pm – Program Begins Guest Speaker with World Cup Athlete & Professional Skier Sierra Anderson Group Discussion 6:45pm – Social Networking 7:30pm – Event Conclusion
Keystone Lodge in the Arapahoe Room
22101 US-6, Keystone, CO 80435
POWDER | Providing Opportunity for Women through Diversity, Equality and Respect is a Vail Resorts program that aims to foster an inclusive culture that attracts and retains a broad range of exceptional talent and promotes diverse leadership growth opportunities. Our goal is to create a platform of inclusion for all forms of diversity.
Sisters of Skimo debuted this last week on Wednesday, November 6th at 10 Mile Music Hall in Frisco, Colorado. It was a huge success in every aspect. I was humbled and overwhelmed by the support and turnout. I couldn’t have been more pleased or honored to have this story captured of my family – my biological family and my skimo family.
Leading up to the premier, I was pretty nervous. This has been a passion project shared between myself and Howard Head for over a year now. To expose it to my community and now the world was an exciting, but a little nerve-wracking experience.
The day of the premier reminded me of an evening race (my least favorite time to race because you have all day to think about it). I decided to head over an hour early to get out of my head and be with the rest of the team at the venue.
Once I got to 10 Mile, I felt like my nerves started to subside, and I could envision everything coming together perfectly. People started showing up at 5:30 pm to be sure to get in. A line snaked around in front of the venue, and the crowd flooded in when the doors opened at 6. Friends started messaging me at 6:20 saying they couldn’t get in because it was sold out! I was bummed that some people were not able to attend, but I was excited for the incredible turnout.
It blew our minds. We had an upwards of 500 people show up to this event and had to turn away close to a hundred. We weren’t expecting half that. Somehow we had enough food, and the intimate and beautiful setting of 10 Mile Music Hall made it a cozy experience all around. Having the hour prior to the film was the perfect ice breaker. This gave everyone the chance to mingle, eat, and it was like a reunion. People from Denver and Vail all came. Even my ski coaches from 20 years ago showed up. It was a dream.
The Making of Sisters of Skimo
Ben Gadberry, our film director, was amazing in piecing this story together. I don’t know how he did it, and I don’t envy his job. This was a beast of a project and one with many layers and possible directions. Part of me was nervous as we were still fine-tuning the film until 2 days before the premier!
But Ben is an awesome story teller. It was a refreshing take as he could see things that I couldn’t see and helped me really hone in on the message of this film in a creative way.
My heart and my mission has always been to create sisterhood wherever I am. Bringing women together is something I’ve always aimed to do. I just didn’t realize how hard it would be in sport, especially a new sport like skimo where geographically we are also a lot more spread out. So the part I enjoyed most about this film was getting to share the message of sisterhood and inspire women in sport, and in all walks of life to come together.
The film was beautifully done. It’s very hard to condense a complex story into a very simple, easy-to-understand narrative that is still rich in depth and relatable to more than just the skimo person. The beauty of this film and story is that I think everyone walked away with something they could relate to in it.
The event was a dream come true. The best part was watching the reactions from the audience – hearing the oooo’s and ahhh’s and laughter was so meaningful to me. I also enjoyed seeing my parents watch it for the first time. They were beaming throughout the whole film! I could just feel their pride and excitement, and that was sweet.
The Future of Sisters of Skimo
Since the premier and even leading up to it, we’ve been contacted by people not just around the country, but around the world. We’ve gotten a ton of interest, so we are working on a tour schedule for the next year.
We are looking at film festivals and private showings at ski shops, ski resorts, and the like. We hope to spread not only the love of skimo, but use the film to strengthen the bonds of sisterhood and the importance of it within competitive sports.
I was running with Grace today, and we had two different women give us a shout out and said they loved the film. It’s heart warming to see how much of a reach this film had in our own community.
I’m a huge fan of Kikkan Randall and credit her to a lot of my inspiration in sport. She is the first medalist and gold medalist in the Olympics for her sport, cross-country. She was a big advocate and influencer of sisterhood and fostering healthy team dynamics amongst women. From not having a women’s team in 2002 to winning the Olympics in 2018….she credits it to the powerhouse team behind her.
She said, I believe I can be at my best when I help those around me be at their best. That is my heart for women in skimo and those of us on the US National Skimo Team. Our sport is headed for the 2026 Olympics, and so it’s critical that we come together as a team to build one another up and thus strengthen our chances of podium finishes not only there, but also on the world cup circuit.
A Huge Thanks
Thank you all for your incredible support! I was truly overwhelmed with gratitude and joy, and I feel like we have an army of supporters as we head into another season, competing around the world as sisters in skimo.
I have grown up most of my entire life in Summit County, Colorado. The local newspaper, Summit Daily is our local go-to source for community updates and highlights. It was an honor to be featured this last week in the paper as they announced the debut of Sisters of Skimo.
They feature a great quote from producer, Ben Gadberry:
Reflecting on the film, Gadberry said what made the filmmaking process unique for him, an avid backcountry skier in the Gore Range, was the reality that “Sisters of Skimo” is a ski film about women for women. Gadberry said it’s rare, even today, for women to feature prominently in ski films, much less star in them. With that, he hopes it will be a film that shines a light on just how special these ski sisters, mothers and daughters are, zeroing in on their lives off the slopes.
SkiMo Stats shared an announcement about the upcoming documentary, Sisters in Skimo, and I shared a little more about the film:
“This is more than just a “ski film”. This is a very personal story about struggle and triumph while following my journey in SkiMo from Alaska to Colorado, and throughout Europe and China in the past year. Ever since I started SkiMo just two years ago I’ve grown a passion and love for the sport that I want to share with others.”
My hope is that this film touches hearts in a positive way (whether they are a SkiMo athlete or not at all, I think it will be relatable to all). I also hope that it builds inclusivity in our tight community by inspiring more women to want to be a part of this incredible sport. And lastly, that this film will be used as a tool to build awareness of what SkiMo actually is in the USA and worldwide.
I had the honor of being interviewed for SkinTrack’s website, sharing about my journey as an athlete in SkiMo and passion for the sport and the camaraderie among women.
Skin Track offers gear reviews, interviews, skimo training and race/trip reports. Their goal is to inspire and educate athletes about all great things related to self-propelled skiing.
“SkinTrack.com was born out of passion for ski mountaineering and ski touring. Over the years, it has become the #1 resource for skimo racing and fast & light ski mountaineering in North America.”
Growing up on a fishing boat in Alaska, Sierra Anderson’s road to World Cup level ski mountaineering racing is an adventurous one, and she still operates her own fishing business in the summers.
Her love for mountains and skiing was always there but falling in love with skimo only a few years ago helped her to find a true passion. Today, she is a strong member of the USA Ski Mountaineering Team and has become involved in the sport beyond what most athletes do.
Her movie “Sisters of Skimo” premiers on November 6 in Frisco, Colorado and dives deep into her personality and value she stands for. You can RSVP for this event on this Facebook page.
A few questions I answer:
Where exactly were you born in Alaska? How was growing up there?
How did you discover skimo racing? What hooked you and keeps you in?
How is skimo different from others sports you’ve competed in?
Why do you think more women are not taking up skimo? How could this change and what do you want to do about it?
Honored. Humbled. Nervous. Excited. Deeply grateful. These are just a few of the big emotions running through me right now.
I have had the privilege of recording a documentary film this year in conjunction with Vail Health and Howard Head Sports Medicine that shares my personal journey as a female athlete in skimo.
Drum roll, please! Join me in celebrating this film and watching this sneak peak which was just released today!
Please share with your friends and join us for the debut.
Sisters of Skimo Debut
Howard Head Sports Medicine presents, “Sisters of Skimo,” the journey of Sierra Anderson and her fellow female competitors in ski mountaineering racing, as they vie to qualify to compete at “the Olympics of Skimo,” the World Championships in Switzerland.
Along the way, Sierra and her “sisters of skimo” will discover what it means when the competition lifestyle goes beyond just who stands on the podium, and becomes a journey about family and camaraderie in sport.
Wednesday, November 6th
10 Mile Music Hall, Frisco CO
Thank you, Michael Holton Ben Gadberry, Vail Health and Howard Head Sports Medicine for giving me this opportunity and for believing in this project, before I even had eyes for it. I overwhelmed with gratitude and look forward to sharing this film with our community and beyond.
Summer 2019 has been a gift to head back to and be able to train around Alaska. It is surreal for me to soak in the unbelievable views of peaks, glaciers, and ocean waves as I train. I try to soak it all in.
I climbed 23K in the past week, which is nothing compared to descending it! It is much better to do this on skis. 😜 I was grateful to have bagged some new peaks, and I even found a friend, Keegan, who was crazier than me to do it with!
Eventually, I had to leave my mountain oasis for boat life. As a 4th generation fisherwoman, my family heads out to sea during the summer months to fish for Wild Alaskan seafood. During this trip, we left from Valdez, and I filled in for my dad’s skiffman.
Growing up between Alaska and Colorado has given me a love for extreme conditions in nature. I am drawn in by the call and challenge to conquer peaks and climb higher. I think this has greatly influenced my natural love of Skimo racing.
“All Good Things Are Wild and Free” – Thoreau
Staying in Shape on the Boat
It was a little more challenging training while on the boat, but I found creative ways to exercise! Check out my “Skiffercise” video below: