4 of my friends from Ski for Light, SFL, are returning from Norway as I write. They have just participated in the Norwegian version of SFL, the 2015 Ridderrenn. I mention this, because in 1991, I was one of those SFL participants chosen to represent the U.S. at the Ridderrenn. Back in those days, they saved the announcement for the final night, at the banquet, and it was a surprise to everyone, including those of us who had been selected to go. No one in that room was more surprised, no shocked, than I when they announced my name as 1 of the 4. After I picked my jaw up off my chest, I remember thinking, Why me? I didn’t even want to go to Norway. Talk about being ungrateful for an all expense paid 2 weeks in Norway, complete with airfare, sightseeing, and skiing in the famous Ridderrenn, on which the idea of SFL was based. But I did have the grace to look happy and accept the congratulations of everybody afterward. I would be 1 of 2 blind skiers, along with 2 guides, and we would be the official USA team.
As soon as I got home, I had to call my boss and tell her, not ask her, that I would be taking off a week in mid March. Then I had to run around and get a passport and start training. The Ridderrenn was a 20-K race, half of which was up and down the side of a mountain. The most I had ever skied at 1 time was 5K. I was very nervous. Somehow, I managed to borrow a Nordic Track, and I’d work out on it in a storeage room on my lunch hour.
If I had known what a fabulous experience was in store for me, I would have been a whole lot more excited.
At the Ridderren site, the tracks were beautiful, and the trails were gently rolling. The skiing was so delightful that my guide, Liv, who was born in Norwa, taught me a few Norwegian phrases as we skied along, like “It’s nice to meet you,” and “Have a good day” and (most useful) “You are a very good dancer.” Liv’s parents lived in Oslo, so she brought the whole American group to meet her parents and have real Norwegian pastries and coffee. I got to put my newly attained Norwegian phrases to good use, although I didn’t have much to say, past “It’s nice to meet you.”
It was warm that year, and by the end of the race week, the only snow left was on the mountain, a terrifying thought. But with Liv’s expert guiding, and the reassurance that half the course had been cut off due to lack of snow, I made it.
People from all over the world come to this event, and Every night, there was entertainment and dancing. I tell you, those Norwegians can ski all day and then party all night. I have stories to tell about dancing with a man who had no right arm, a man with an artificial leg, and a totally blind man who could speak no English. Stay tuned for those memories.
There are 3 races during the week, the 5K, the biathlon, and then the big race on the last day. For the biathlon, we had to ski around a short loop, then flop on our bellies, with skis still on and shoot at a target. For those of us who were blind, we wore headsets that made different tones, and when we thought we heard the right tone for shooting, we pulled the trigger. The best part of that was getting coaching from the cute young Norwegian soldiers that were assigned to help. There were many other little memories from that week that I keep tucked away that I’ll share in another post. The whole thing was the experience of a lifetime. I hope that at least one of my SFL friends who went this year, will comment on this blog. Yes, Betty, I’m talking to you.