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.

We lived in our Chalet (Manigod, France) for the first 2 months
Even my hair couldn’t handle our intense routine, LOL

Coronavirus Cancellations

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.

Getting organized at Laetitia’s home in Savine le Lac.
After moving out of our chalet we lived out of the van for the last leg of our race travel
Lets just say there wasn’t much stretching room in our little adventure mobile

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:

Transcavello

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.) 

Andorra Skimo10

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 🏔😅

The last 2 weeks of my time in Europe were spent in the beautiful town of Chamonix in this little Mazzot

This was my first actual World Cup race and a good learning experience.

I quickly learned that World Cup races are just as if not more competitive than the World Championships because every woman competing is at the top of the sport.

world cup race disentis switzerland
(Photo by Jesus DYañez).

I finished the Individual race with an 8th place; however, due to an error during the race, I got a 2 minute penalty for my avalanche receiver falling out at a transition. Big no no. When I got in to the race corrall my transiever wasn’t beeping. I took it out to re set it and in my effort to make to the start in time I forgot to zip up my pocket when I put it back in.

Needless to say, it wasn’t my cleanest race, but learning the details is all part of the game. Was in the back but after the first descent I found myself gradually catching up to the front half of the pack. It’s always exciting when you feel like you’re racing the entire length of a sub 2hr length race.

It was also very hot too…almost 60 degrees …polar opposite of temps we get in the Rocky Mountains.

My European “Race-cation” as I would soon dub it, started out at the World Championships in Villars, Switzerland.

The sprint was my first taste of international racing. It feels like the closest thing similar to racing the mile in college. It’s an all out effort, racing neck in neck with the worlds best. One of the advantages, depending on how you look at it, was not knowing my competition. I heard all the stories, I knew these euro ladies were the best, but I wasn’t going to back down with out a fight. It’s like this rookie priviledge you get when you are the newcomer on the scene. I went out fast and during the transitions got eat’n alive but it was one of the coolest races I had ever experienced.

I fumbled my final transition and lost about 4 places in what was some costly seconds. I finished top 20 (and top American) in the Sprint and 18th in Individual (2nd American), and top 10 in Teams and Relay.

usa ski team women

An all out effort up the hill about 4 hundred feet including a boot pack and 3 transition points before descending around giant slalom styled gates to the finish. It was a neck and neck pursuit and the highlight of my Worlds experience.

I crave this level of competition and competing with the best women in the world really lit a fire under me. During the Individual and for the first hour of the race I was back and forth with my rival and rock star teammate, Jessie Young. We were stacked in between about 4 other racers 3 of which were Espoirs. Now when I look back I actually know who these women are that I was racing against. Needless to say Jessie put the pedal down on the last ascent and gained almost 3 minutes

Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy

This race as a whole was one of my top highlights from racing in Europe.

I showed up as a Team of One, sort-of like the theme of this trip.

I was quickly “adopted” by team Andorra.

Sprint Race

I had a thrilling time racing the sprint under the lights on the famous World Cup Alpine FIS run at Madonna di Campiglio. I was happy to have had a clean time trial run with smooth transitions. I made it to semi-finals, but very bad transitions left me hanging on for dear life.

You let up for one second here, and you get swallowed alive. It’s actually quite exciting! Despite my goof-ups, I gave it my all and came in 9th overall. Snow or shine, it’s so cool to be here racing with the likes of these incredibly fast, strong women. I am learning A LOT.

Individual Race

I was proud of this fight. Capped off 5 hard days of racing last week (and the final World Cup of the season) with an 8th place finish in the individual race.

I was grateful for the gift to do this, the people who have helped me get here, and all the valuable lessons I am absorbing in this European journey. And I am thankful, too that my skimo family has officially grown!!

My friend, Cam and I met up with some fellow Americans and some of the Canadian team members for some exploring off the Vallee Blanche Aguille de midi and the Grands Montets on the Argentiere glacier.

The GRANDness and beauty of this place blew my mind. It was like the Disneyland of big mountain, backcountry skiing.

It is a place that taught me a healthy fear and respect for the mountains. I’ll be back for sure.

chamoix france sierra anderson and friends

Tromso, Norway

The sea to summit approaches during this race reminded me of Alaska! The beauty was incredible!

I​t was two back-to-back days of racing the 4,000 meter Tromso Arctic challenge, dubbed also as THE Northernmost Skimo race in the world.​

We raced over 6,000 vertical feet of climbing each day.

I came in 2nd place just behind Norway’s fastest girl.

I was able to explore more of this beautiful place on my final days in Europe. ​ I call it the cherry on top to end my European race-cation.

skittendind skimo race norway

I was one of 6 athletes world wide nominated by ISMF (International Ski Mountaineering Federation) and Chinese Mountain Association for an all expense paid trip to the Quinghai province of China to compete in their Mt. Gangshika race.

It’s two days of high altitude racing (a sprint and a vertical) where we camped at 14,600 feet and raced at close to 16,000 feet….the second highest ski mountaineer race in the world.

I’m p​roud to say, I left it all out there…ending this season on a HIGH note, pun intended!

I topped out over 15k…which racing at that altitude is quite painful.

I brought home 1st place in the sprint and 2nd place in the vertical. Hearing my national anthem on foreign soil was the highlight of my experience.

Crevenia, Italy

This is known as “The Great White Marathon.” It was truly a GRAND adventure….and one of the coolest, wildest and longest efforts of my athletic career. It was over 13,000 feet of climbing on glacial terrain, in minus temps over the course of 26 miles. For 7.5 hrs, all the “feels” were felt – from freezing cold to spicy hot!

The race started at 5​ am running through the cobblestone streets of Crevenia in the dark with 900 other racers.

It’s team race of 3 persons racing and climbing 13,000 vertical feet in over 26 miles through glacial terrain. Out of 300 teams, we were top 50 overall, and we were the first North American women’s team to ever compete in this event. ​

This journey as a whole taught me a lot. Not having had much more than 2 team race experiences under me, I really learned about the power of team in this one.

Macugnaga, Italy.

Cam going head first. 5 duffel bags. 4 ski bags. 3 men. and me! Tight would be an understatement.

Coming right off the heels of the World Championship race, a few of my teammates and I loaded up my rental car…which just so happened to be both BIG (by Euro standards) and RED. Needless to say, it had American written all over it and this was going to be my wheels for the next couple months. Yikes!

Somehow we managed to make this big car feel really small with all of us loaded in. Immediately following the final day of racing at the World Championships, Rory Kelly, Jon Brown, Cam Smith and myself headed for another adventure. We managed to squeeze all of us in the back while Cam and I scored the front It was a long 3 hours to Macugnaga….a cute little Italian village at the end of a long windy mountainous road to the top.

We arrived just in time to register and pick up our goody bags which included these hot looking Rosa Ski Raid CAMP windbreakers.
Snow! But with this sun baked snow came some scary and variable descents
On the way to the start we were wondering where the snow was
It was very hot but also exciting racing on this glacier! There were not as many women at this race so I took the lead from the start but it was fun to be competitive with some of the guys
The Rosa Ski Raid was my first time breaking tape in Europe and a really cool local race experience at that. Spectators lined up and TV crews were at the finish line interviewing. This was my first taste of local racing in Italy and it was exhilarating.

Before leaving we took the tram up….which was right next to the place we stayed and enjoyed some morning coffee and good views at the Macugnaga ski resort

Before leaving town we caught the tram right next to our AirBnB
Cash and more beer than I knew what to do with!
The guys soaking in the incredible view and planning their retirement

We will be back….