After spending the first period in North America, I am back on the European side of the World Cup scene. My first stop was in Liberec, Czech Republic- home of World Championships 4 years ago. Things were pretty hectic for the first couple days back on this side of the pond. After finishing a big week of racing at Nationals- I hopped on a plane the day after the skate sprint and traveled over. Then, only a day and a half after arriving, I was back on my skis racing.
The town hall right behind our hotel in the heart of the City of Liberec.
The only way I can describe the feeling of skiing around after that sort of a time adjustment and exhausting week is.... drunk. I felt like I was looking through a pair of goggles where everything was almost delayed by two seconds. It was a wild feeling!! So, after blowing some of those poor feelings out of my system during the individual sprint the first day- I was ready to get back to some good feelings the second day. Since the second day was a team sprint, Ida and I got to combine efforts and put our skills to the test. Even after breaking her pole during the final exchange of the semi-finals, which included her skiing half way up the hill without a pole- we still managed to squeak our way into the finals. After practicing our exchanges a couple more times, and pumping each other up, we headed into the finals. To our surprise, each lap we moved further and further up the group. For the final three laps we were sitting in 3rd position, a place we would have never expected to be. Our our final exchange, again we sort of botched the tag. As Ida took off in the exchange zone full of excitement, it ended with her having to snow plow right before the end of the zone so I could jump out and tag her. With this small little set back, Ida took off in a fury, ready to catch back up to our position. After racing full speed around the loop now her sixth time- her legs struggled to flush out the instant excitement. Coming into the final climb, we slipped back a flew places... but only a few seconds. We ended up finishing in sixth- by far the best result the two of us have ever put together as a team. Even more encouraging, we skied the entire race in medal contention until 200 meters to go- so we are making huge progress! The last time we teamed up for a team sprint we finished 14th, not even advancing on to the finals! So it was a great way to start the year back in Europe!
A view over the city on the low part of the sprint course- FIS Photo
Ida holding a strong position during the team sprint- FIS photo
Following that we headed over to the land of the mountains- La Clusaz, France. When I arrived, I was reminded how much I love Europe and skiing here. We arrived early Monday- so we had a week to do some training in the beautiful Alps. The sunshine managed to bring out all the excitement and joy in all of us as we geared up for a weekend of racing.

Skiing in the Alps
Skiing with buddies in the sunshine! Liz Stephen photo
Saturday was a mass start classic race, and after spending the whole week skiing in clear, beautiful, cold weather- we woke up to a combination of rain and snow. When this happens... things generally get a bit tricky with the waxing. So, saturday brought a stressful day for the wax techs, and a day of racing that tested your patience and determination. As I walked up the hills with stilts, and braced myself for the grabbing on the downhills- I kept reminding myself that the one with the determination on this day is the one that will do well. At that time, I had the feeling I was the only one in this boat, but as I listened in the finish line- we must have looked like a bunch of beginners out there. Scraping our skis sideways and poles and butts out.. waiting for the grabbing snow. Even through all this mess, I was able to score my first European World Cup Distance Points, as I finished 28th- just in the points. So even through all the frustrations, it was a day of success for me.
Spectators lining the fences on the high turn in La Clusaz Mass Start- FIS photo
It was also a special day, because my boyfriend, who is from France, got to finally come watch me race in person. He has been following on TV, but it was nice he finally got to stand on the course and watch!
Alaskan and US cheers from Jo and his roommates
Some of the skiers from Jo's home town who have become my favorite French Fans!!
Sunday was a relay, but I hadn't skied fast enough the day before to make it on to the team- so Ida and I put on our cheering game faces, wrapped ourselves in American flags, and put our lungs to use!
Womans US Team
From there I took a short training break for five days in Meribel where my boyfriend lives and works in the winter. I have been visiting him here or the past three years, so I have started to really learn my way around. I always love this time, because it is a period for me to relax my mind, and enjoy skiing alone. For five days it was just me and the snow and the wild animals. Meribel is the largest alpine ski resort in the world... so you can imagine nordic skiing isn't very popular. With that said, the trails and grooming are great!! I swear, its like the little secret land. But this is the greatest way for me to recharge my battery and get a little personal time before jumping back into a good period of racing.
Running into a few of my ski instructor buddies who have become good fans over the years.
Good skiing and beautiful views!!
Taking advantage of gravity and hitting the slopes... making my legs burn in a new way.
I have also been breaking up my mornings by attending class at 5:30, three mornings a week. This means that most of my free time at the moment is filled with school work, and taking naps trying to catch up on my missed sleep. Fortunately, all my classes are super fun and the professors are so passionate that they do a really good job of keeping me awake and not letting me fall asleep at that hour of the morning.

And that brings me to now! I am currently living and training in the Olympic Athlete Village in Sochi, Russia. We have World Cup races here this weekend, so it has been incredibly interesting getting to know the way of the land, the culture, and the trails of Sochi! I tell you, it is a different scene way up here in the mountains of Russia! I look forward to trying out some racing this weekend!
Loading up baggage for our charter flight to Sochi
This is our form of transportation up here in the athlete village. We are literally perched on the top of an alpine hill, so vehicles are only limited to construction vehicles... and I have yet to figure out how those got up here!
The Gondola Ride up from the Black Sea to the mountains- Hoff photo
My ski tech, Randy Gibbs and I. Randy has been working hard getting to know the unique snow up here!!
skiing up one of the big hills into the stadium... I think we will get to ski this beast 6 times on Saturday...YES!!
Holly and I above the Biathlon Stadium.. it is huge!! Like a huge football stadium. The Nordic Stadium is temporary, so nothing set up yet.
Finding some time to ski in a skirt!! Thanks Skhoop for all the support!
One last exciting note from the past couple of weeks is that my brother and I both just recently got named to the World Championship Team in Val de Fiemme, Italy!! This has been a goal of mine all summer, but I started loosing site of it while I hit bump after bump throughout the summer and fall. After racing into form throughout the beginning part of the season- I was able to accomplish my original goal- so I really look forward to teaming up with 12 others for one of the strongest World Championship Teams ever!! These races will take action the last weeks of February, so we have two weekends of World Cup races between now and then.

Pure Excitement... what will Russia bring next? Liz photo