Those who know Methow Valley residents Alex and Leslie Hall will be intrigued by news of the existence of a publication known as the Hall Family Newsletter. Written in the early 2000s by the Hall children, Ella and Walker, the Hall Family Newsletter chronicled the daily trials and tribulations of life in the Hall family as seen through the eyes of elementary school students. (Spoiler alert: No one can put their hands on any of the copies.)
So it is no surprise to learn that despite graduating from Dartmouth with a degree in environmental studies, Ella has become an English teacher and sports reporter. The path has been both circuitous and serendipitous — not to mention thwarted by COVID — but the end result is that some of the articles that many of us read about Jessie Diggins, Novie McCabe and other members of the U.S. cross country ski team at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing were written by Ella, working as an assistant editor for FasterSkier.
Ella graduated from Liberty Bell in 2016 and from Dartmouth in 2020. She was supposed to go straight to France to begin teaching English in the language department at the Université de Lyon, but COVID delayed those plans for months. Ten days after Ella arrived in mid-October of 2020, France went into its second pandemic lockdown. Instead of remaining in lockdown in Lyon, Ella found a short-term rental in Chamonix, overlooking Mont Blanc, where she spent two months living the dream.
Whoops! What I meant was, Ella spent two months living alone, knowing no one, and being allowed out of the house only for one hour each day within a one-kilometer radius. She taught all of her English classes on Zoom, with students who she had never met, who were more or less her age, whose native language she barely spoke. Ella’s students tended to leave their Zoom cameras off, which meant she was teaching to a bunch of black boxes. Not only could she not see the students, she could also not understand them, although that wouldn’t have mattered since they didn’t talk much.
“I’d ask a question and there would be blanket silence,” Ella says. She did a have a great view though.
It was a hard transition for someone who had spent the summer in the Methow Valley, hiking, swimming and being able to navigate COVID surrounded (at a 6-foot distance of course) by family, friends and the valley’s outdoor playground.
When Ella returned to Lyon for the second term in January 2021, classes were still on Zoom, but the country was starting to open up a bit more. “We had a 6 p.m. curfew until March,” Ella says, “but in May restaurants reopened and restrictions began to relax.”
Ella had originally planned to stay in Lyon for just one year but says that “The one year was not really what I had planned, so I extended for a second — and final, since that’s all I’m allowed on a work visa.”
She says that she’s enjoying the job and the city a lot more this year, since her classes are all in person.
While Ella was in lockdown during late 2020, her mom encouraged her to apply for a job with FasterSkier, which was looking for someone to cover World Cup events.
“I don’t think anyone of my generation reads FasterSkier,” Ella says, “but it all was a good fit for me: I watch the World Cup races anyway, I’m a total ski nerd, I was in Europe in the right time zone to watch most of the races in real time, and the races were all on the weekends so it worked with my university schedule.”
Now well into her second year of reporting for FasterSkier, Ella spent last week in Lygna, Norway, watching her brother Walker race (and win a medal) as a member of the World Juniors team and reporting on those races.
To report on the Olympics, Ella watched the races in real time on Eurosport, got the live timing from FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski), and took notes. Later, she got access to interviews recorded in the “Mixed Zone,” an area through which athletes fresh off competition have to pass in order for the media to access them. She then wrote up her articles based on a combination of what she saw in the race and what she heard from the Mixed Zone. To report on the World Juniors races, Ella got to be in the Mixed Zone, interviewing athletes as they came off the race course.
Ella says that she loves the opportunity “to write about athletes achieving such impressive things,” mentioning recent articles about Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan.
It’s particularly fun when the subject is close to home, such as writing about Novie McCabe, with whom she has skied probably tens of thousands of kilometers.
“I’m not a gusher, but I gush about Novie,” Ella says. “To get to write about how well she’s skiing and what a gracious athlete she is, well, I just want to do that justice.”
To read some of Ella’s sports and fitness reporting, visit https://fasterskier.com/author/ellahall.