A Nordic Skiing Q’n’A

Katharine Ogden skis

Temperatures this week in the northeast have only briefly moved out of the single digits and a blizzard is in the recent rearview mirror. That means we’re in the heart of the outdoor winter season, which is also prime nordic ski season. We’re lucky to have a cadre of professional xc-skiers in our midst at UnTapped and we thought we’d ask them some questions about the questions that are asked to them. Here’s our QnA with pro skiers Katharine Ogden and Bill Harmeyer.

Let’s start in the silly department. What’s the silliest question that you’ve ever been asked?

Bill Harmeyer: This actually happened a few weeks ago in Sun Valley, Idaho. We were in Sun Valley for some races but one night in the week before, we decided to hit up the local T-Bar for their free Wednesday night skiing. On nordic skis, of course. Definitely looked slightly out of place but while waiting in line a kid asked me, “what kind of skis are those?” I told him they were cross-country skis to which he responded, “Can you do any sweet tricks?” My response, “Sometimes, but usually when I try sweet tricks I end up breaking either my poles or myself so…”

Katharine Ogden: Someone asked me one time why I decided to do a road bike race during the spring of my freshman and sophomore years of college. That really isn’t a silly question but I did then have to admit that I went because a boy I matched with on Tinder asked me to go, which is a fairly silly answer! Luckily for me, it was worth it because that Tinder boy has been my favorite training buddy (and favorite person) all four years since that fateful swipe-right. 

UnTapped: Moving onto the basics. What’s the most commonly asked question that comes your way?

KO: I get asked a lot of questions about what I eat, specifically before races! When we race all over the world breakfast options are rarely consistent so I have learned to be very flexible about what I eat before racing. I eat anything from yogurt to pancakes to eggs to chocolate croissants, depending on what’s available and what sounds yummy at the moment. I also love to travel with my stash on UnTapped packets so that I can add a little taste of home in Vermont to my fueling, no matter where I am. 

BH: Do you skate ski? Yes ,I skate ski. I also classic ski. In fact, sometimes I skate ski on classic skis or classic ski on skate skis. Just kidding… well, only sort of. I’d say I train and race equal skate and classic throughout the season.

UnTapped: What is one tip you would give to someone who is new to the sport? 

BH: Keep with it! I know it’s super frustrating when you go out on your first ski and all you do is fall down. That becomes especially hard when you see people gliding effortlessly by, but usually these people have been skiing for HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF HOURS. Stick with it. Keep going. The more you do it the easier it gets. I swear. 

KO: My first tip for someone new to the sport would be to invest in a pair of skin-ski classic skis. They don’t work in 100% of condition but they are great most of the time and that way you never have to mess around with klister waxing, which is generally a sticky mess! 

UnTapped: What’s the biggest misconception about Nordic skiing?

KO: I think that the biggest misconception about nordic skiing is that it is always very slow and safe. On the World Cup circuit we frequently race on icy and fast man-made snow and a lot of the downhills are pretty adrenaline-inducing, I got going 44 mph in one of our races this winter!

BH: You need to have skate skis in order to be a nordic skier. Skate skiing is fun, don’t get me wrong, but I think classic skiing is equally fun and can take you more places than skate skiing. I love nothing more than going out into the woods on an old pair of classic skis and just tromping around! So if you’ve got a pair of classic skis or have access to a pair of classic skis, they are just as fun, if not more fun, than skate skis. 

UnTapped: What question are you most excited to answer about your sport?

KO: I love when people ask me questions about managing mental health while competing, it is a topic that is really important to me. I certainly don’t have any kind of ground breaking answer, but I know from experience how empowering and transformative the simple action of acknowledging mental health can be if you are having a hard time. I spent a lot of years struggling alone, afraid to admit that I was feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, especially while on the road racing. In hindsight, I wish I had asked more questions about how people take care of themselves and their mental health while racing professionally. 

BH: Is it fun? Yes! It’s an incredibly fun way to get outside in the winter, stay warm, and explore new terrain. It’s also a fantastic workout.