Maybe you’ve seen me around the Mt. McIntyre ski chalet. Or perhaps this summer you spotted someone whizzing up and down Robert Service Way on roller blades; that was me, and they’re actually roller skis.
My name is Knute Johnsgaard and I’m a cross-country skier, born-and-raised in the Yukon.
Long winters and terrain for every type of skier can be found in the Yukon. You can shuffle around on the Chadburn trails on your grandfather’s wooden skis, or race along the perfectly groomed Mt. Mac tracks, either way you won’t regret it.
Ski racing has taken me all over Europe and North America, so believe me when I say Yukon offers some of the best.
Cross-country skiing combines physical strength with endurance. In my opinion, it’s the hardest sport out there. When I race, my muscles fill with lactic acid and I try and keep myself together as my heart races at 200 beats-per-minute. I collapse on the finish line, completely exhausted.
You’ve probably heard the saying “Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop.” Ski races are sort of like that. But it’s more than a feeling of relief. It’s a feeling of achievement and fulfillment. Exploring the upper reaches of ones physical capabilities is something many people never experience and I consider myself lucky to be someone who has.
Although race season runs from December through March, I train year-round with my team, the Yukon Elite Squad. A typical week would see us in the weight room a couple of times and out roller skiing or running—often twice a day.
I also spent a couple weeks on glaciers this summer. Finding snow in the summer is crucial for perfecting technique and getting that “feel” for snow. Come winter I live out of a duffle bag: from one race site to another via airplane or Dodge Caravan.
In cross-country ski racing, course distances range from one and a half kilometers to 50 kilometers. The most common are 15-kilometer races.
There are two different styles or techniques: classic and skate. Classic skiing has been around forever. The speedier skating technique, in which the skis are angled outward, has only been around for a couple decades.
From snapping on a pair of thre- pin bindings when I was four years-old to racing at the World Junior Championships last year, I see myself getting closer to that childhood dream: the Olympics.
In the meantime, this year I hope to represent Canada at the Under 23 World Championships in Czech Republic.
Knute Johnsgaard is chasing the Olympic Dream.