And just like that, the holiday break is over. It was a busy one. The Alpiners had a small crew at the Canadian Panorama Nor-Am series and scored some solid results. Leon Nikic was ready to start his first World Cup – a slalom in Zagreb on Jan 5th, but got rained out. The real story however, lies with the Nordic athlete’s 2022 debut at the US National Championship and University of Utah Invite.

Dominating the men’s classic 15K, the Skiwolves swept more than the podium taking first, second, third, and fourth. JC, Espen, Magnus, and Sigurd. It is the best finish for the UAA ski team in program history and speaks volumes to what this team is about. The women also had impressive results with Tuva going sixth, Pascale eighth, and Astrid ninth. Oh, and JC became a US National Champion in the classic sprint races, qualifying him for the 2022 Bejing Winter Olympic Games. No big deal. Seawolves represent on Team USA.

All in all, UAA had 11 top ten finishes in four events at the Utah Invite, propelling our team to a second place standing going into the Alpine events next week. Top performers were JC winning both men’s races and Tuva, Pascal, and Astrid fighting amongst themselves in five top ten finishes. Trond Inc. and crew wrapped up an incredible week of racing and are now in Idaho casing out Sun Valley for this weekend’s line-up of races. It will be exciting to see what this group can accomplish down the stretch.

Meanwhile, the Alpine team has been training at home on perfect snow at Alyeska Resort in preparation for their 2022 debut at Montana State and the University of Utah. Temps hovered a few degrees below zero for the entirety of our 10-day January camp. There were a few comments about cold toes, but nobody complained about the surface. We’re now comfortably inside a Boeing 737 and expecting to fly somewhere.

After returning to the gate to offload the passenger in 17A who had a heart attack while taxiing for take-off, we’re finally hurtling south toward Seattle at 34,000 feet. We presume to make our connection into Salt Lake City later this afternoon. Alaska Airlines suspended 10 percent of its scheduled flights indefinitely, and our 10 am was a casualty. Rebooked on the 9 am, we happily absorbed the medical delay. Paramedics stormed aboard, stabilized the patient, and successfully extracted the crisis from our aluminum tube.

Freshman Ashleigh Alexander gettin’ some angles in Pano

Entering year three of the global pandemic, Omicron is wreaking havoc with just about every aspect of our operation. From airlines and university administration to ski area operation and equipment vendors , depleted staff, supply chain woes, winter weather, and a rampant virus are making this season even more challenging than last. We successfully dodged a hail of Covid bullets last year, but the new and improved variant appears to blanket the world like pollen in the spring. The Alpiners are now without half of their women’s team for at least the first series and it’s anyone’s guess as to how we’ll navigate the rando-pando-lotto. For now, we’ll put our faith in N95 masks, HEPA filters, and luck.

FIS Nor Am’s. Panorama, Canada. Predawn Course Set.