Kristin’s Experience

Sun Valley Ski Academy at Community School welcomed Kristin Helland-Hansen, a Norwegian student and cross country skier, to our school in the fall of 2015. From her studies, to her athletics, to taking part in community events, Kristin made the absolute most of her time here. Take a moment to read through Kristin’s experience. We miss you girl!

This last school year, I was lucky enough to live in one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. Sun Valley is not just a mountain town in Idaho. Sun Valley is a community of people that not only take care of each other, but also share a passion for the outdoors. There is always a happy atmosphere in Sun Valley! After a fantastic year of meeting new people, learning a different way of life full of so many new adventures, I can truly say that Sun Valley feels like home. It was not all easy, of course, I missed my family and the life I was used to in Norway a lot, but the strong community of friendly and welcoming people of Sun Valley made this transition a lot easier.

I had only been to the United States one time, and here I was boarding a plane from Oslo, Norway to a state I had never heard of! I was nervous, but excited at the same time. Coming to a new place and moving away from home is a challenge, no matter where you go. As the plane touched down in Boise, I recall wondering where all the mountains I had been promised were. I remember meeting one of the Residential Advisors, Michael, and trying my best to understand what he was saying, and then searching for my vocabulary words to answer him. And then we arrived, to what I can honestly say was one of the prettiest mountain towns I had ever seen, complete with the mountains I had been promised.

I lived at the Community school dorm with 20 other dorm students who had moved there for the same reasons I had: to attend a great school and train with the Sun Valley Ski Academy. Living in a dorm is different from living at home, and it was an amazing experience unlike any other. Besides amazing meals prepared by chefs (and my extra moms!) Tracy and Julie, we became siblings and together with our four “dorm parents”, [Director of Residential Life] Jenn and her dogs, we made up a “dorm family.” And just like a family, we took care of each other and had fun together. Whether it was random dance parties when physics homework killed us, singing dish crews, family dinners, late movie nights and pre-bed hot spring visits were everyday highlights that now are deeply missed.

We were also served the best food and meals you could ever dream of. Tracy and Julie prepared the most amazing dishes for us day after day. Every day I’d wake up and come down for breakfast in the morning to the smell of freshly baked blueberry muffins. Coming home from school and training I would always find one or two of my extra moms in the kitchen, preparing me dinner. It’s amazing what those two ladies were able to put together for all of us. I tasted new things every week, it was like living in a restaurant.

Community School students and faculty were very welcoming and open, so it wasn’t long before I felt like a true Cutthroat. There is a very strong and positive relationship between the students and the teachers that I have not seen anywhere else. The teachers were not only our instructors, but they were also our friends that went on exciting outdoor trips with us. This relationship definitely shaped the learning in a positive way and made school a lot more fun. Now that I am back home at my old school, I see how much I appreciated the Community School. I miss discussing our outdoor trips in Spanish class, pretending to be North Korean in a history debate, making music videos for math, and observing our surroundings in our nature writing class. The curriculum at Community School is varied, interesting, and makes you motivated to learn more and get good grades.

Living and going to school in Sun Valley was amazing, but the thing that made the biggest impression on me was skiing with the Sun Valley Nordic ski team. I have never been part of a more motivating and inspiring team. Every day after school we would head over to the Nordic hut where our coaches would be waiting with a program for us. These practices were the highlight of my day, and I loved hanging out with my fellow wolfpack teammates. The team is big and everyone, regardless of their level, were just as motivated. The skiing culture in the states is a lot more about having fun, being a team, and enjoying the sport. Before races we would paint our faces with glitter and tie ribbons in our ponytails. I am positive that this made us better as a group. At least we had more fun, the glitter took away some of the stress and seriousness that can overwhelm you. We trained together and travelled together and we always backed each other up.

This team energy and spirit was a huge contrast to what I was used to from back home and nowhere was this spirit more apparent than in March of last year. After traveling back to Norway to compete in the Norwegian Nordic Junior Championships, I got sick and the races were a disappointment. I traveled right back to the States to compete at Junior Nationals in Truckee and once again, did not perform well due to time zone changes and illness. Yes, I was disappointed in myself, but there was a huge difference between my experience in Norway and my experience in Truckee. In Norway, I felt it was all a waste. But when I didn’t perform at Junior Nationals, all my disappointment was drowned in the team spirit. I was now wearing glitter in my face, ribbons in my hair and I had teammates to be happy for. When I look back at it and think about the two different races, the only one I have positive memories from of is Junior Nationals. This, I believe, has to do with the fun attitude Americans have towards skiing. This show of spirit and attitude is probably one of the things that made the greatest impact on me. I left the States more motivated to keep skiing than what I was when I came.

Also I must just add that Rick Kapala, the head Nordic ski coach, is the coolest, most awesome man I have ever met. He believes in you, and helps everyone create a training program that works for them. Before races he has the best inspirational speeches. These speeches make you see the perspective of what we do as ski racers, helps you see the fun of it, and also makes you motivated to kick some butt and do your best!

All this said, leaving home to go live in Sun Valley for a year was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am forever grateful for all the adventures and experiences Sun Valley gave me. I really wish I could have stayed for another year, and my first priority is to come back! The friends and family that I have made will always be a part of me. Thank you for making this an unforgettable experience, and like Molly my host mom said when I left; “This is not the end, but the beginning”. Miss you all way too much, and hope to see you soon!