My name is Liz Stephen and I am a cross-country skier on the US Nordic Ski Team and travel the world from November until mid March chasing World Cups. It is a wonderful life, full of opportunity, challenges, good friends, incredible teammates and engulfed in a love of sport. Here are a few pictures from the season and a few stories from the road.
Racing a World Cup in Davos, Switzerland
Team picture from the start of Tour de Ski in Germany
I was the sole finisher on our team in the Tour de Ski this season (a stage race not unlike the Tour de France, with 7 races in 9 days at 4 different venues in 3 different countries), due to some athletes needing to drop out due to sickness, injury and preparation for the rest of the season. So, the whole staff was working just for me for the last 2 stages!
Me and my team of waxers at the Tour de Ski. To put it in better perspective, my usual wax tech is sitting to my left. All of these guys work together, but each athlete has one wax tech who is in charge of getting our skis ready. We share two athletes to one tech. Once I was the only athlete left racing in the Tour de Ski I had all of these guys working to get the best skis possible, not for the whole team, but for me! It was insanely awesome.
This was one of the highlights of my year. Our women’s alpine team was staying 30 minutes away preparing for their next race, and they heard I was racing and took the time to come down and watch me. It was so moving to realize that everyone who is on the US Ski Team is really just one big team. We all follow one another throughout the season and even come to races on the very rare occasion it works. I skied to one of my best results of the whole season that day and I am sure having these girls yelling their faces off at me helped hugely.
Another racing shot
This was in Russia on the day of the first World Cup podium of my career. I was second to my very good Norwegian friend, Astrid Jacobsen (middle) and just ahead of another friend, Steffi Boehler from Germany (far right). I have been told that your first podium changes who you are as an athlete, as it lets you believe in what you can achieve in the future in a clearer light.
Cold but beautiful. North of Lillehammer, Norway
More beauty, this time sunset in Davos, Switzerland
My birthday is in January right after the Tour de Ski finishes and I celebrated my birthday in Seiser Alm, Italy for the fourth time. Believe me, it is not a bad place to celebrate.
My teammate Sophie Caldwell and me.
The women’s team from World Championships
Me racing in the relay at Worlds. The socks that you can see me sporting we only bust out on relay days and the whole team has them. We wore them when we placed in the top 6 for the first time ever, and we have worn them ever since. They have helped us ski to multiple podium finishes, a 4th at the last 2 World Championships and have made a debut at their first Olympics in Sochi. We are not superstitious, but these socks create a state of mind. If you are wearing these socks, you are racing for more than just yourself that day. You are racing for your team. It’s a different kind of pressure you put on yourself and a feeling of greater responsibility. It’s a feeling of honor, as you were one of those chosen to represent Team USA on that day and that’s something that is not to be taken lightly.
Our two awesome PT’s who volunteer all their time for us when they travel and leave their real jobs to come work on us. We are incredibly lucky to have such generous supporters of us. We really could not be performing at a high enough level to compete with the best in the World without them.
After Jessie and Caitlin won their medals the hotel left this in their room!
Me, Sadie, Jessie and Kikkan.
Yum!!! My fuel for the year is largely made up of these goodies!
After a long season we are all ready for a break. Some people jet to the beach to get warm and relax, others head for the mountains to backcountry ski or alpine ski, and others just go home to see friends and family. I started with heading immediately into the backcountry of the Sawtooth Mountains around Sun Valley, Idaho where our final races of the season were held. I grew up as an alpine skier so I have fallen in love with alpine touring, as you are able to get way out into the mountains where nobody is and satisfy my endurance junky desires and also make some turns on familiar feeling gear from when I was a kid. After spending a week playing around up there, I came back to Utah to see my friends who I hadn’t seen since early November when I left for the season, and I have been soaking it in. Today was the start of the new training year, as we always officially start on the week that May 1st falls in. So, this year that week started today, April 27th. We have about 6 1/2 months to prepare for the 2015/16 season and I am pumped! I busted out my rollerskis for their first training session of the year this afternoon and though it was a bit breezy, the sun was out, so couldn’t have started on a better note, though I am feeling quite out of ski shape!