Ski racers have to get creative to enjoy the holidays
The holidays are one of my favorite times of the year. I love the snow and the decorations all around. I love Christmas music playing in the background everywhere you go. I love getting together with family and friends to celebrate long-held traditions. There are so many delicious holiday treats and drinks to enjoy. There are just so many good things going on at once!
For most people, the holidays are a sort of mini vacation. It usually means some time off work, an excuse to eat and drink whatever you want, and a free pass to stay up late. For a ski racer, however, Thanksgiving and Christmas both fall within days of important races in the heart of the racing season and therefore we have to approach the season with a little different routine.
For the last 15 years, my holiday seasons have been all about striking a balance between enjoying the holidays and still staying in top shape to perform at the important races just afterward. Early in my career, this meant spending Christmas at home with my family, but staying disciplined enough to get in bed at a decent hour and not letting my nutrition veer too much off course with all the goodies around. Later on, as I began racing full time on the World Cup, the holiday seasons have mostly been spent in Europe away from family.
Since I don’t get to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas these days, I’ve adopted a few strategies to still enjoy the magic and energy of the holiday season while maintaining the focus on my race preparation. Before I leave for the race season in early November for example, my family and I usually cook an early Thanksgiving dinner. I usually do the turkey, which is quite comical when I realize the day before that I haven’t given myself enough time to thaw a turkey and have to go track down an unfrozen bird. And then the awkward dance of preparing it and trying to remember how to cook the thing! While I’m definitely better at skiing than cooking, it’s so great to get some quality time with my family before I hit the road.
For Christmas I am usually in Europe, so I have collected a small box of decorations that we put up in whatever hotel we’re staying in. My teammates and I do a little secret Santa gift exchange and I carry a little speaker in my drink belt that blasts Christmas tunes on the ski trails. I once had my coach so confused when he could hear “Jingle Bells” every time I passed by. I like to wear cheesy reindeer antlers over my hat, even if I’m doing intervals, and pull my Christmas socks up over my ski tights. It’s all a little goofy but it puts me in the holiday spirit. And thanks to Skype I still get to virtually participate in some of the family holiday traditions and gatherings.
While I’m definitely looking forward to spending the holidays back home again at some point, Christmas on the World Cup has provided some unique experiences. I’ve gotten to participate in a few holiday traditions from other countries and go for some amazing Christmas Day ski adventures. It’s also been nice to have a reason to keep active, stay rested and maintain a good base of nutrition, so that when the holidays are over, I get to start the new year with positive energy and good health.
This year my husband and I will be spending Christmas in Switzerland. We’re hoping for lots of snow and good cheer. I wish you the very best holiday season as well!
Cheers, Kikkan ☺
Anchorage’s Kikkan Randall is a three-time Olympian and is preparing for the winter Olympics in Sochi. She also is president of Fast and Female USA.