Thursday morning started early, with a 7 am wakeup. At 7:15, we went for a jog to wake ourselves up and get ready for the day. On our jog, we had a task: to locate the loading zones for the buses that would take us to the Birkie on Saturday. We ran, shuffled, and slipped across the icy ground to the nearby Håkons Hall, where we began our search. We looked around and found no signs regarding buses, so we hungrily returned to our rooms to eat breakfast.
After a hearty meal of oatmeal, yogurt and granola, we packed up the vans with our classic ski gear and headed to the Sjusjøen Skisenter, an alpine and Nordic ski area almost directly East of our accommodations in Lillehammer. Upon arrival, we unpacked our gear and waxed our skis. The wax was a thin klister binder covered by VR45, which worked beautifully for me.
We began our ski with 20 minutes of warming up on the race course at the Skisenter, and then we reconvened and set out on our ski. We skied around the base of the alpine ski hill, and then spent half an hour climbing over 100 m in elevation to an open plain dotted with trees. At this point, the group split into two, with one group continuing straight away from the Skisenter for another few kilometers, and the other group opting to turn right and start looping across the open back towards the vans. I was feeling a bit tired following the Pellestova tour, so I chose the shorter route. We skied across the plain for half an hour or so into the wind, which provided a good opportunity for me to work on my striding technique. I found striding to be more efficient than double poling in this section due to the strong headwind which provided extra resistance.
Then, we reached 3k of downhill, during which I only had to double pole a couple of times. This was unlike any of the hills we had skied in New England, and we were all amazed by how long it continued for. This hill took us back to the trail that we had originally climbed up to the plin on, and then we skied the last 4 or 5 kilometers back to the stadium. We were hungry and a bit tired, so we did not wait for the group of skiers on the longer route to return. Dennis drove us back to Lillehammer, and we all enjoyed a well-deserved shower and lunch followed by a restful afternoon of card games, hot chocolate, and homework.