Craftsbury Opener Queen’s Court

The Craftsbury Opener did not disappoint!

Competitive racing and a surprise snow storm made the day of skate sprinting feel like mid-winter. Sadly, Craftsbury was only able to host one of the two planned Opener races, but the Ford Sayre crew made sure to make the one day count. All athletes raced a qualifier and were then assigned a heat based on their time. Within each heat, the top two finishers moved up and the bottom two finishers moved down. All Ford Sayre athletes put in a total of four hard efforts and sharpened their sprinting tactics. Thanks to Craftsbury for running such a professional event!

As we drove home from the Northeast Kingdom, we prompted the athletes with these options:

1) Describe your day today in five words or fewer

2) Tell us which heat was your favorite, and why

3) Tell us what your looking forward to during the first Eastern Cup weekend

Their answers — thoughtful reflections, unexpected creativity, and everything in between — are below:

  • Jacob: Strength gainz are paying off!
  • Hannah: My first heat was magical. I didn’t feel like I was working ridiculously hard but I took all the right lines and openings and worked up from 5th to finish 2nd, perfect for moving up a round with minimal effort. I might actually be able to do sprints now.
  • Sarah: 2: My favorite race was the qualifier I felt very good and I was in control and I felt fast and light on the big uphill.
  • Justice: 3: I look forward to putting this weekends work into play next weekend and learn form today.
  • Keelan: I had a good last heat my skis were much faster and I felt good. I was able to get a good gap going into the downhill and was able to lead the entire race
  • Wyethe: My favorite heat was the last one because I was exited to finish, I was not dead, and I got to race against Julia and Hannah.
  • Ann: My favorite heat was my first because I was able to get ahead at the beginning and successfully control the race, but it was also my hardest race.
  • Spencer: ow. oof. ahhh. yay. J.

  • Dirk: My first heat was by far the best because it was very fun to race against Keelan Jack and Sam. My skis were very fast and I came in third.
  • Luke: FAST, freshies, four efforts, fabulous!


Early Season Training and Dublin Sprints!

Affectionately known as Stick Season, November and early December keep New England skiers guessing. Will we rollerski until Thanksgiving? Will there be three feet of snow on December 1st, and none on December 5th? Ten below one day, forty-five the next? This year, the answer has effectively been: yes. But we are hearty New Englanders after all, and this doesn’t truly faze us.

Here’s a brief photo-diary that hits on some major early-season happenings and captures our cyclical weather experience.

Thanksgiving Camp at Forêt

Spencer, Elsa, Hannah and Keelan reflect on an excellent Thanksgiving Camp. We are incredibly proud of all the work they put in over the course of five days and their willingness to cap it all off with a time-trial with most of the Eastern collegiate teams. When not skiing, we kept busy with games, endless meals in the dining hall, and a trip into Quebec City. Read on for the highlights!

On Foret and skiing:

Spencer – The conditions were great! Sooooo beautiful! Also a good combination of flats and hills, so I felt like it had it all!

Hannah – Forêt Montmorency has amazing snow, beautiful scenery and gorgeous sunsets. The room keys really liked to get locked in the rooms, though. Spencer locked himself and Keelan out once, and Elsa and I locked ourselves out twice. When I went the second time, to tell the very nice lady at the desk “Désolé, mais nous avons renfermé notre clé dans notre chambre encore une fois” she seemed rather amused, but went down with me and unlocked the door. Merci mille fois, nice lady at the desk.

Elsa– Skiing here has been amazing– I can’t think of much else to say that hasn’t already been mentioned, besides that the deafening quiet of a boreal forest draped in snow and brushed with low evening light is unlike much else that I’ve ever experienced.

Keelan – The trails were absolutely incredible. It was like the Greens on steroids in November. Around every corner of every trail was a view more amazing than the last. The highlight of all the skis however was our Saturday evening sunset ski. The absolutely spectacular views coupled with one of the best sunsets I have seen in a while made for one of the most beautiful skies of my life, one which you wish would never end.

On Quebec City:

Elsa – Going into the city on Thanksgiving was a great way to both stay in touch with the culture of the region in which we were living for the week (which was easy to forget in the tree-filled silence of Forêt) and celebrate the holiday with warm lights, eloquent decorations, lots of food, and smiling faces.

Hannah – I enjoy just being surrounded by people speaking French, and getting to speak it a little myself. Also, it was quite fun watching Keelan frolic/try to stay warm after dinner.

Keelan – Quebec definitely knows how to do Christmas!

Spencer – The Christmas market was really cool to just wander around (as was the rest of the city). I found it funny that the two restaurants we had planned on eating at were closed J. The restaurant we ended up eating at had very good food, so I was happy!

On downtime and games:

Keelan – Table climbing was fun and something that should be introduced to the wider JNT community!

Hannah – in our second game of Catan, the coaches team was threatening to win, and so Spencer, Keelan and I teamed up to try and stop them. Our efforts included placing trade sanctions, and cooperatively funding my road building so I could thwart Hilary and Luke’s plot to get the longest road and win. They won anyway, but we held them off for a bit. Next time.

On food:

Elsa – The quality and diversity of options at meals was a positive surprise! There was always enough of everything in each meal– protein, carbs, veggies, etc. The servers were so kind and generous too, which made the whole dining experience even better!

Spencer – Yum.

Hannah – I very much appreciated that the cooks prepared me a special vegetarian meal for lunch and dinner each day (since the main options were always meat).

On the weird new assistant coach:

Spencer – Fun and definitely energetic. I’m just thinking of him “whipping” through Quebec City…

Hannah – Pulling a Luke has been affectionately defined (by the athletes) as overfilling your cup with a beverage and then spilling it as you walk to the table. His only serious flaw that we have discovered so far is that he likes Christmas music. Keelan declared that Luke is not allowed to play any of his holiday tunes until after Keelan’s (18th!!!!!) birthday on December 15. So basically, he’s great.

Until next year, Forêt!

Back on the Blog!

Hello, blogosphere! Hello, Upper Valley ski fanatics! The JNT blog is back up and running. We’re excited to share updates throughout the winter and get insights from our athletes. Please follow along for all things Ford Sayre!

We’ve got a backlog of posts from November and December lined up and ready to go, so hang tight, and we’ll get you all up to speed.

Junior Nationals Recap

Greta, Evan, Sam, Jack, Kennedy, Keelan, Elsa at JNs in Anchorage

Junior Nationals has been my goal since before I even understood what it was or how to qualify. I remember writing it under the “long term goal” space on the goal setting papers during the BKL goal setting activities. Not only did I finally accomplish this goal, but I got to travel to Anchorage, Alaska to race alongside some of my closest friends, and against some of the fastest people in the country.

I arrived a day early with my mom (Heidi), Heather Rowland, Jack, and Sam, so we spent the first day being tourists before we connected with the NE team and focused on our race preparations. We drove down Turnagain Arm to take pictures of the beautiful mountains (and moose!) and visit a wildlife conservation center. Both were pretty amazing, and we got to see elk, wolves, grizzly bears, caribou, musk oxen, and many other interesting animals.


Anchorage, Alaska is a long way away from Lyme, NH, and flying there made me realize how vastly dispersed the nordic community is across the United States. Once united in Anchorage, all of the U.S. Junior National nordic teams (Far West, Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Intermountain, Rocky Mountains, Mid-Atlantic, High Plains, Great Lakes, and New England) prepared for an intense week of competition on a skiing landscape unlike anything I’d experienced before going to Alaska.

Skiing at Kincaid Park was an unbelievable and almost alien experience. I’ve never skied in such proximity to the ocean. The course rolled through what felt like sand dunes (which were historically piles of loess that blew off the glacier). The vegetation was very old and marine-esque and it almost seemed like some of the trees came out of a Dr. Seuss book. The smell of mudflats would occasionally drift through the ski trails, since the ocean was only about a mile away. On multiple sections of the course and warm-up loop there were beautiful views of the ocean and the Denali range across the ocean inlet. The mountains were snow-covered and jutted up from the ocean. Wind spun the wind turbine blades on Fire Island, a small island right off the coast of Kincaid Park that is only accessible during low tide via a mudflat. To add to the dramatic landscape, the lodge for the athletes was an old bunker, which was part of a fortress housing missiles as recently as thirty years ago. The concrete structures added a formality and intensity to the week of championships, which was reinforced by the powerful energy of the ocean nearby.

Greta and Kennedy in the relay

The actual event was everything you would imagine: dogsleds, torches, nerves, fun, klister, sweating, happiness, disappointment, grit, new faces, commentating, cheering, and making things work on the fly. It was an unusual experience to be a part of a team that was so dominant at the races. I was impressed by how fast the New England racers are at the national level, and it was so fun to watch on the livestream some of my New England teammates finishing exceptionally well in the sprint heats. Even though I will remember many of the moments from this past week, I will remember one moment the most: in the mass start, my pole came off right out of the start after someone skied over the tip. I poled with a single pole until I could see Hillary, my age group coach, who threw me a pole, hoping I would catch it, and I did and surprised myself (and her)!

Also, I kept track of the wildlife that I saw over the course of the week, and here is my final tally: 3 moose, 1 mountain goat, and 1 bald eagle.  

For me, one of the highlights of my season was the 5km skate race. I was one of the last starters and was quite antsy to go. In the warmup I wasn’t feeling 150%. I had taken a fall pretty hard in training a couple days before and hurt a little bit but wasn’t going to let that take me down. Starting off I felt good. The skis were gliding well and I felt pretty strong. The course was quite slushy and chopped up. I had gotten advice from the wise racers before me to stay to the edge where it is harder and I took that advise. Going out of the line I probably looked ridiculous going right to the edge next to the spectators but I didn’t care I was going faster and wasn’t 3m off the marked course.

The Kincaid trails have many good transitions like Oak Hill and I knew I could turn that into an advantage. Hammering around the course everything hurt but I was moving fast and felt good. Up gong hill a notorious hill that decided almost every race at JNs I heard a coach who I later learned to be the split taker mumble 13th 1 second to top ten. I immediately concluded that that wasn’t me probably talking about one of his guys but sure enough a couple minutes later Adam Terko (the Mansfield Nordic Coach) started running along side me and yelling 13th 1 second to top ten. My result goal for the day was top 20 and hearing that made me very excited.

Jack in the 5k skate race

I knew the last 2km were very rolling with lots of downhills and steep hills and decided to work the transitions harder than ever. Feeling good I put out the last of my energy going through the stadium, up a gradual hill, down a long hill that loops around into the stadium and the finish. Crossing the line I felt spent having put it all out on the course. All the New England fans that were nearby came running over yelling (positive) at me. When Terko told me I had gotten fifth I said “wow” in a tired tone not realizing what I had done and walked off to do my cooldown no realizing at all what that meant. About halfway through my cool down it suddenly occurred to me, wow I just got fifth at Junior nationals. I had a smile across my face for the rest of the day. (thank you Cindy for the work you do with the valley news)

During our off days, we had plenty of time to explore Anchorage and the surrounding area. Many of the age groups, including my group of U18 girls, traveled to the Alyeska ski resort to take the tram into the mountains. Having been in awe of their size and beauty, I was looking forward to getting a closer look at them. However, the weather changes very quickly in the Alaskan mountains, so by the time we crested the top of the mountain, we found ourselves standing in a cloud and had very low visibility. The town of Girdwood, at the base of the resort, made the trip worth it with its quaint shops and pretty views of the ocean.

On the last day, Keelan and I (Kennedy) ventured into the downtown area of Anchorage with a friend from CSU (we had to learn to navigate public transportation!) and spent the morning wandering around miscellaneous fur shops, souvenir shops, art galleries, and antique stores. The downtown of the city rests between the base of an incredible chain of mountains and the ocean, and consists of a few tall buildings, a lot of small shops, and the majority of the downtown is a giant mall. The social scene in Anchorage was a little strange as well. We are used to the trusting and safe residents of the East Coast, but in Alaska, we needed to be constantly aware of our surroundings. We first discovered this after our teammates’ laptops, backpacks, running shoes, and Trader Joe’s PB cups were stolen at our hotel.

More racing photos…

The U16 boys had an all-Ford Sayre relay team

Awards ceremonies for the sprint and skate races

And a slideshow of more great photos from the week!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.