Skiing from Norway to Vermont

Izzy Quam | News & Features Editor |

Photo courtesy of Astrid Bakke ’26. Bakke skiing when she was young.

This year, the St. Michael’s College Nordic Ski team has three Norwegian team members. Nordic skiing is ingrained in Norway’s culture, and Norway could be considered the center of the Nordic skiing world.

“Skiing is a part of the culture, everyone knows the sport well, which is a great difference from America,” said Astrid Bakke ’26, a member of the Nordic ski team. “I would say it is special how skiing is a big part of our culture. Even though not all people ski, we have miles and miles of Nordic trails.”

“I’ve always been skiing. I don’t remember when I started, it was so early,” said Michael Brännare-Gran ’27, another member of the Nordic ski team. “My whole family has been skiing and in Norway it is very normal to ski.” 

Astrid Bakke also started skiing at a young age, “My mom has a story, we were out skiing and there was a little girl who said, ‘Look, a baby is skiing,’” said Bakke. 

Both Bakke and Brännare-Gran came to Vermont so they could attend college and ski at the same time. 

“I figured I wanted to study [and ski] and it’s not that easy to do in Norway,” Brännare-Gran said. “And here, it is put in place for you to do that. They go hand in hand. It’s a great opportunity to do both.”

Photo courtesy of Michael Brännare-Gran ’27. Bränne-Gran skiing in Norway.

Henrik Wist ’27 knew skiers and coaches in high school who came to America to ski, so he was already looking into it. His now-teammate and captain, Declan Hutchinson ’25 reached out to him through social media, which led to Wist getting in contact with the rest of the St. Michael’s College team. 

Molly Peters, the head coach of the Nordic ski team, explained her involvement in the recruitment of Bakke, Brännare-Gran, and Wist.

“A recruiter contacted me looking for a spot on our team, and so I worked with her to get Astrid over here,” Peters said. “Then Astrid helped get Michael here, and Declan randomly found Henrik.”

Peters recalled St. Michael’s College had two Scandinavian skiers on the Nordic ski team in the 1990s when she was racing for Middlebury College herself. Since she started coaching for St. Michael’s College in 2013, she has not had any international athletes on the team.

All three of the athletes have athletics scholarships. “I probably wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t gotten it just because it costs so much. University in Norway is not nearly as expensive,” Wist said. 

Bakke said her best friend came to ski in America before she did, and currently skis for the College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota. Her friend’s experience was positive, which helped Bakke decide to come to Vermont.  

“Also, my mom went to college, so she was very partial for me to go to America,” Bakke said. 

There are some differences the athletes have noticed between skiing in the United States and skiing in Norway. 

In Norway, the atmosphere is more intense, and it is more of an individual sport, Bakke explained. Here, it is more relaxed, fun, and there is more team building. “One thing I really like is that you get to know so many different people and different teams,” Bakke said. 

“I quit skiing in Norway for a reason, because it is so competitive and people are so hyper-focused on it,” Wist said. “I learned that most people who make it in skiing are boring because they do not do anything else.”

Wist also explained that skiers in Norway have more individual freedom and are responsible for creating their schedules. Here, there is less of that freedom and skiers just do what the coach says. 

Brännare-Gran said one of the differences he noticed is the weather. Vermont doesn’t have a lot of snow yet, while in Norway there has been snow for about a month. 

Photo courtesy of Astrid Bakke ’26. Bakke racing in an Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association sprint last February.

“The thing is I really like the fall here. It doesn’t rain as much. In Norway it rains a lot in September and October, so it is nice to not have as much bad weather,” said Brännare-Gran. 

Photo courtesy of Henrik Wist ’27. Wist racing in Norway.

Peters said it has been fun having international athletes and it is making the team more well-rounded. 

“I think they have brought a different spirit, a different competitiveness. They have a different way of skiing, a different way of looking at technique, and lots of different ideas in the weight room.”

Wist said there are times when he misses Norway, but he is happy to be here. “It’s just four months at a time, it’s not that bad.”

After she graduates, Bakke said she would like to stay in the United States but it will be difficult due to immigration policies. She said she will probably go back to Norway and get her master’s degree at the Norwegian School of Economics. 

Wist said he also plans to return to Norway to build on his bachelor’s degree. 

All three of the skiers said they are excited for the upcoming season. The first race weekend for the St. Michael’s College Nordic ski team will take place in Craftsbury, VT on Jan. 12 and 13.