Happy birthday, U.S. women’s cross country Olympic team; 50 years looks good on you.
Cross-country skiing debuted as a sport in the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, but only for men. In 1952, in Oslo, women’s cross-country teams were allowed to participate in the Olympics. But it wasn’t until 1972 that the U.S. women were able to field a team at the Sapporo Olympics, although it wasn’t for lack of interest or talent — it was more about lack of support, stereotypes, and antiquated thinking about women in sports.
In celebration of five decades of women’s cross-country awesomeness, a new book that chronicles the individual and collective journeys of the 53 women who participated in cross-country skiing in the Winter Olympics between 1972 and 2018.
Released last December, “Trail to Gold: the Journey of 53 Women Skiers” was coordinated by Sue Wemyss, who skied for the U.S. in Sarajevo in 1984, and features many familiar names and faces, including valley favorites Leslie Thompson Hall (Calgary 1988, Albertville 1992, Lillehammer 1994), Laura McCabe (Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998), Sadie Bjornsen (Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018), Suzanne King (Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998), and Caitlin Gregg (Vancouver 2010), as well as other Nordic athletes who have become household names, like Kikkan Randall (Salt Lake City 2002, Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018), Rosie Brennan (PyeongChang 2018, Beijing 2022) and Jessie Diggins (Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018, Beijing 2022). Had the publication date been pushed back a bit, the book could have added Novie McCabe (Beijing 2022) and a handful of other skiers new to the Olympic scene.
“Trail to Gold” is part instructional, part yearbook. The first section consists of nine chapters, each with a theme, such as financing a career in skiing, wax tips, training results, club development and teamwork. Different athletes took responsibility for each of these chapters, focusing on their specialties. The second section is devoted to a page for each athlete, with a photo and a personal submission as well as an update on their lives post-Olympics.
It’s anthology of the women who built, championed, and continue to elevate Nordic skiing for those who follow in their footsteps, not just to podiums around the world, but to trails in local stadiums and college campuses, to tracks through woods and meadows, to routes just about anywhere that have enough snow to support an athlete on two skinny sticks. “Trail to Gold” is not just for girls with Olympic dreams or Nordic history buffs, it’s for every girl who wants to celebrate her participation in a sport she loves.