Amidst all the glitz and glam of professional ski racing (I’m kidding) lays one universal and decidedly un-glamorous reality: your life fits into a slightly worn, occasionally duct-taped, suitcase. I arrived this week in Quebec City for my first ever World Cup Races and I’m wearing the exact same green sweatpants and slightly lighter green sweatshirt (my version of a groutfit) I’ve been wearing since November. My long underwear has lost a bit of its stitching and I finally threw out two pairs of socks with holes in the toe and heel, but otherwise nothing has changed. Perhaps this is what Marie Kondo meant when she wrote about the life-changing magic of tidying up. To be honest though, I’m not sure anything in my suitcase sparks joy these days and I can’t wait to wear a new outfit when I get home.
Pretty much every U.S. racer at the elite level spends November through early April living out of one mid-size duffel bag, a backpack and a ski bag. Given the space and weight constraints of travel, the basic contents each bag varies little between athletes: race suit, jacket, hats, gloves, socks…the things you would expect. However, there are a few anomalies. After a few winters spent crisscrossing the U.S., Canada, and Europe I’ve come to appreciate the unique and sometimes plain weird items each athlete brings on the road, little indulgences that make life in a hotel feel just a bit more like home. Here’s a brief look into the creative and unusual ways Nordic skiers fill a 50 lb bag…
- Hot Water Heater: I’ll admit, I laughed when my teammate Paddy pulled this out of his suitcase. When you only have a few cubic feet available to carry all of the things you need for 5 months, taking up a good portion of that with an electric teakettle seemed egregious. However, after subsequently borrowing the kettle nearly every day for a month, I see why it is a non-negotiable. Lightweight and easy to transport, the teakettle makes coffee, oatmeal, Top Ramen, hot chocolate and tea available anywhere you have an outlet.
- Recovery Kit: foam roller, strap, lacrosse ball-everything you need to stay loose after eight hours on an airplane (or in the case of APU’s recent travel epic to Quebec, 12 hours on a train).
- Cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and Himalayan sea salt: Spices weigh nothing but can turn bland oatmeal into a gourmet foodie-worthy breakfast. I took this tip from Annie Hart who travels with ginger and mini packets of coconut oil (which we actually used when we arrived at a rental house without cooking oil).
- AeroPress: to go along with the hot water heater. Coffee=life. An AeroPress is easy to travel with, virtually unbreakable (unlike a glass French press) and simple to clean. We currently have 4 on our counter since every coffee drinker on the team travels with their own. Overkill? Maybe. Is each one used multiple times a day? Yes.
- NutriBullet: I can’t vouch for this one (the weight alone is a deal breaker for me) BUT my teammate Annie claims it is a must-have along with a Hydroflask. The NutriBullet is great for post workout recovery smoothies and mixing protein shakes, especially when food on the road makes you crave real fruits and veggies.
- Sugar: Emergency chocolate can turn any bad race day into a great day and extra gummies keep the wax techs and coach happy. Honey Mama’s is far and away the best cocoa-based product I have ever had but in a pinch Mast Chocolate will also do.
- Peanut butter…along with other favorite food products that you just can’t live without. I always save room for hot chocolate mix, Kate’s Real Food Bars, powdered Beet Juice, Gatorade, Vermont Peanut Butter, sleepy-time tea, and wheat thins. I have a soft spot for wheat thins.
- A Ziploc of Health: A good stash of Emergen-C, Cold-EEZE cough drops, and Zicam means I won’t actually get sick. As soon as I forget my bag of goods I start snifflng. It’s like some unwritten rule or law of nature the same way it only rains when you forget your umbrella.
- Headlamp: This is a newer addition to my travel bag but one I wouldn’t leave home without now. My teammates Annie and Paddy have the sleep habits of 80-year olds. Anytime I room with them it means lights out at 7 PM. That might be a slight exaggeration…but I like to read before bed and generally go to sleep at the more normal hour of 10 PM. Having a headlamp to discretely sneak into the room and find my pajamas after Annie has started snoring (or more like cooing, she coos in her sleep) has been clutch.
- Hand Sanitizer: Yes you can overdue it with this stuff and yes it kills good bacteria long with the bad BUT…. when you are about to race at your first World Cups, and sharing a dining room with about 100 of the best Nordic skiers in the world, and some may not be feeling 100%, having hand sanitizer is a life saver. I’m not letting a cold stop me from this weekend!