12 year competitive career, 20 years coaching, and 16 years in NBC’s Olympic commentary booth. Host of Threshold with Chad Salmela, on Apple Podcasts.
My best decisions during my competitive career were to not quit when I felt like it at the age of 20, 26 and to quit when I felt like it at the age of 26. These decisions allowed me to experience the world stage and travel, gave me confidence in myself and led me to where I am today at 50 years old still involved in the sport as a coach and with media. Transcript: "I like this question and I want to answer it because I'm 50 years old. Now, looking back on my competitive career which was not illustrious any way shape, or form was a national team of athlete and I actually got there was some persistence, I wasn't the most talented athlete but I really had perseverance. So the first the first best decision I made was to keep going twice. I almost quit at the age of 20 and and just went back to college and thought, you know, I'd overtrained and I Added I ran into a friend at the University. I was attending who ski racing. He said you know, when you feel like quitting the first time don't quit, give it another shot and keep going. And then when you feel like quitting the second time, don't quit that neither and then when you feel like quitting the third time, that's probably the third that's probably the time to quit and he was right because those first two decisions when decided not to quit, actually led me to get to a point where I got on the world stage and I got to race in the world cups in the world championships and I actually had Sense to know what I was talking about when we talk about International level competition and had. I quit early, I would have never gotten those wonderful travel experiences, those wonderful racing experience and those horrible racing experiences to, where you lot or you didn't have. A lot of didn't have a lot of confidence in yourself, but which leads to the third, the third strike, the third time decide to quit. That was one of my best decisions as well. I quit 26 which seems really young, but 26 quitting at 26. Ali, if I go back and look at my town of all the things I've done in the sport and for the sport that I think I've been most valuable to the sports in doing came from that decision. Ultimately quit at 26, and it was a smart decision because I'd been on the World Cup for three years. I saw where I was. I saw my ceiling, I wasn't there yet, but I felt like my singing wasn't quite good enough to continue to pour my life into that Sport. And here I am at 50 years old. Still very much involved in the sport of still coaching running. And I'm working the skiers and I'm doing I'm doing stuff with media. So if I hadn't quit at 26 when I did, I don't think I would be where I am today, so there's always a reason for something, but but those are some of my best decisions and I think they're the best decisions of my career."
My favorite place to ski in the world is Corky Nordic ski area which is located 10 miles south-west of Two Harbors, Minnesota. It is a 10-kilometer trail that has been largely unchanged since the 1950s and is perfect for classic skiing. It offers a unique and awesome experience that cannot be found anywhere else. Transcript: "This is going to sound very parochial, but my favorite place to ski in the entire world is a little place, called Corky Nordic, ski area. And it's about 10 miles, south west of Two. Harbors Minnesota, and about 20 miles about 15 miles Northeast of the city of Duluth is a 10-kilometer ski trail. That is still largely the same Trail. It was back in the 1950s and what a gem it is. It's it gets, it's very narrow, it's see. Eagle Traxxas, only classic skiing. And there really is not another Trail like it. Anywhere that I've come across in this modern day, it was he in the terrain? Even though was designed way back then, works really well with modern Classics. Keys, that kick well and move fast. And it's my favorite place to go. Is always an awesome experience there. So if you're ever even up in northern Minnesota in the arrowhead, the bottom of the arrowhead of the state of Minnesota near to Harper's Corky, Nordic is my favorite place after a lifetime of skiing all over the world, still my favorite place. So go check it out."
The best way to get comfortable with younger athletes both acrobatically on their skis and in tight quarters is to do more intensity sessions or sprints together. Doing these with your teammates will help encourage competition and create an organic, fun atmosphere. Transcript: "Hi Christy. This is a great question. There are probably lots of answers. Mine's going to be a bit of a more of an organic one. I think the best thing to get comfortable with younger athletes, both acrobatically on their skis. And in tight quarters that experiencing requires is just do more of if you're going to do intensity sessions or short Sprint's or even even longer, Sprint's a minute and a half to three minutes on snow or on roller skis be careful and roller skis but using your teammates. It's to have that proximity with each other and to test each other. In those really powerful Sprint modes, especially at the end of the longer like two and a half three minute interval. I know as a college coach, we've had some real success with sprinting kind of by hook or by crook just by getting together and doing three-minute intervals against each other. In fact, we had a real surprising day at us Nationals one year when we didn't have great snow and Duluth where I coached and we had a camp ground Loop, that was about a kilometer. Little little more than a kilometer. And they were about three-minute intervals. And we spent all of December doing all of our intensity on that 1 km Loop. There's a little bit of a hill and but we're was a lot of proximity and a lot of space for people to spread out and we had an amazing Sprint, Nationals a month later because we didn't have good snow that month and we had a kilometer, all we had was a km Loop to work with, and I asked some of the athletes, what do you think? We're a solo this weekend? And they all said, well, it's a campground Loop in December where we were stuck going around like gerbils. So, um, I think that those things can happen, organically, and in fun ways and just encourage competition when you're doing those high intensity or speed days of people doing it together. I think that that'll help a lot."
I have had a few good friends that are athletes over the years, such as Mikhail Lived, Renault from Sweden and Alexei Kovalev from Russia who I roomed with during my time competing. Paul Shomer and Jake Brown were also good friends of mine when I was coaching skiing at St. Scholastica. More recently, Keegan and Jesse who I knew before but got closer to because of their gold medal call in Pyeongchang. Transcript: "So the question is, are there any athletes over the years that I've become good friends with it? Depends on the eras that you're talking about. When I was a I was an athlete myself back in the 90s, I probably had two really good friends from foreign countries that I got to be good. Friends with Mikhail. Lived, Renault, Sweden actually went and lived and trained with him. My last year competing in 97-98. He was a really good friend, we're not so much in touch anymore. He coached the u.s. bath on to him for a few years. And now it's kind of basically receded from the international scene of biathlon. But he's a very good friend for sure. Among the best not on my team, I'm also Alexei, kovalev from Russia, it was a very good friend, really great sense of humor, is he we didn't mutually, we didn't let our inability to speak each other's language kind of get in the way and he's he's he's a really spectacular guy, actually involved with the so organizing the Sochi Olympics and biathlon my teammates do directing her Schreiner were probably Two of the best friends I had at the time we roomed with either one of them for a number of years, very close friends. Again, we don't see each other too often anymore, but in the modern era Paul shomer, I coached him in college. He's he's on the he was on the Olympic team roster for the u.s. biathlon team and Jake Brown, who skeet against him, also, from went to st. Olaf at the time that I was coaching skiing at st. Scholastica, those two, I consider to be very good friends as far as athletes go. And then, of course, Course Keegan and Jesse just because of the gold medal call in Sochi. I mean or in pyeongchang I knew both of them long before that call. But I think the something about that magical moment, has brought us a stronger, probably Bond and friendship, then we might have had otherwise had that not happened, and had I not serendipitously been on that, call that day, but that those are pretty much the people that that, I know that as far as, like, active athletes or recent athletes that, I, that I am. I am quite good friends with, I don't know a lot of the athletes nowadays because I'm quite a bit older. So and I call my races from the United States. So that the proximity to that, it's a little bit less than it used to be. So that's a little bit of a bummer for me. I'd like to get to know more of the athletes that are currently competing."
As a color commentator, I prepare for races by going through the entire start list and making notations on who has done well in the past. This includes looking at World Cup standings, ski speed, shooting percentages, major World Cup victories, and any Junior World Championship titles they have won. I use paper and a rainbow of highlighter markers to organize this data and use it effectively during broadcasts. This process takes an average of two hours per event, and sometimes more if I'm doing multiple events. Transcript: "The question is, what kind of research do I do before a race? So as a color commentator I'm kind of expected to know quite a bit about most of the top competitors. The people were probably going to end up in the show, there's always some surprises. But the number one thing I think with for me I actually go through the entire start list and I get a couple of key items from each athlete where they're standing in the World Cup standings. If it's a World Championships, how they've done the metal standing so far. I look at in bioethanol get shooting percentages ski speed. Ask a skiing. I look at major major Metals one. Major number World Cup victories number of Junior World Championships, maybe they competed at or if they wanted Junior world championship title and I have a little notations. I actually use paper and I lay out the start. Listen, I use notations. And then I use color coordination and I have a rainbow of highlighter markers and they all mean something different to me, and I might change it from day to day. But generally speaking, I get, I have my coded system of what colors I use for what? So that when I'm looking between the screen and I see who's on the screen now, and I want to say something about them at him, speak accurately about their history, I have it at my fingertips, and I'm not guessing the number one thing especially at NBC, is they do not let you guess if you say something wrong in Olympic broadcast, have come to have researchers, check it and then come back and after commercial you're going to correct yourself. So, you try to avoid those Corrections. It's a little easier on cable or streaming, but for the most part, I live by those by those rules because I think, Like with if you do make up stuff it doesn't it doesn't let anything to your credibility as a commentator and you don't want to make stuff up ever. So you want to make sure you're accurate and you're quoted accurately and warmly but it's a lot of prep. I prep for each event. It's probably at least two hours of prep for each event. So if you do two events, it's about four hours of prep, maybe more for five hours. And if you're doing for events, it's a long preparation. And sometimes you just have to go in those, a little less prepare because you just ran out of time to prepare, especially depending on the broadcast schedule. Open. So that's how I prepare."
The best way for a beginner to get into Nordic skiing is to start with simplicity and simple movements. Get some waxed skis, use short enough poles to catch yourself while skiing, and find joy in the movement. Have a supportive pair of ski boots and don't feel intimidated by the sport. Take baby steps and start out in an area where you feel safe. Transcript: "Here's another one that I think is a good one for me to answer, just being a lifelong skier and a commentator and some of you love the sport. The question is, what is the best way for a beginner to get into Nordic skiing and everybody will find it a different way. I think the biggest thing is finding a way to not be intimidated by it because it is a very difficult sport it. If you look at the the things that the physical aspects of what you are required to do to ski like maybe even somewhat similarly to a world-class athlete. You see on TV, it's highly a highly difficult. So I would say start with Simplicity and simple movements, get some wax with skis and try classic skiing in the track first just to get your balance have short enough poles, but long enough to give you some power. But short enough to that, a lot of you to catch yourself while you're skiing and just turn to find the joy in the movement. And from there, I think you can learn whether you have the skill to move up to something like trying skate skiing, but I would definitely start with touring gear or a little, you know, don't start with race skis for most people because I just think it's Little bit of a technical to technical of an ask for somebody who's never tried anything like this. Now, if you are a good ice skater, or you are a good inline skater, or somebody who has changed, who has experience moving with their feet on quickly, you know, rolling quickly on a pair of roller skates or on ice skates. You might have a easier transition over to skiing and you, then you might want to try skate skiing so that you're not bored with something. That's a little simple, little too easy for you but most people, I think Keep it fun. Don't feel like you have to go a long way. Don't feel like you have to ski tough terrain. Maybe you just take a lesson starting out and stay in Asti, Stadium area where you feel safe. I think the biggest thing is anything that you want to do in life that if you feel safe, you're more likely to do it again. So take take baby steps. Start out, start at the basics, maybe run some gear. The first time, don't go all in and buy the stuff but then when you realize you this is something you might like to do that. Maybe then maybe purchase even some secondhand gear. But I would say this if you're going to get into skiing the most Important thing is get a good pair of ski boots, don't get loose floppy boots, don't buy used old boots that won't you won't have a lot of fun primarily. Get a good supportive pair of ski boots and let the rest of everything else could always fall where it does. Good luck."