There were only a few dozen pro skiers in this country last fall when I surveyed the six main American domestic ski clubs for last year’s season preview. Now at least seven of those skiers have moved on to other things. This post is about them.
It is September, and the first large fall storm of the season is raking Anchorage as I write this. Soon the leaves will turn, and then fall, and athletes with big goals for the coming race season will amp up the intensity and start to lessen the volume. They will try not to get sick, and also not to read too much into their splits from every interval workout.
They will not be joined, this year, by this handful of recently retired American pro skiers. Before we move into fall, and my journalistic focus moves on to previewing active athletes who will be racing in the 2023/2024 season, I want to highlight some athletes who will be doing other things.
You need not shed a tear for them, in most cases; being a professional endurance athlete is hard, actually, and many new retirees have welcomed the chance to define themselves by something other than their race results, as well as to use their mind more after so many years of prioritizing their body. Read, say, Finn O’Connell’s final blog post as a member of the BSF Pro Team, from May of this year, and you will find someone who is grateful for the opportunities he has had while simultaneously being truly excited for the future.
Here is what I think is a complete roundup of those American athletes who were full-time skiers last season for one of the “main” six ski clubs, but who have since moved on to other things. Happy trails to all. Athletes are organized by club affiliation from west to east, as is my wont.
Hailey Swirbul retired from pro skiing following World Cup Finals in Lahti in March 2023. You can read a USST press release on her here, and Ben Theyerl’s fine piece on her career here. I still aspire to catch up with Hailey at some point this fall to talk with her in more detail about what comes next; stay tuned.
Hunter Wonders also retired from World Cup racing this spring. You can read a USST retirement press release here. Wonders is working on obtaining his pilot’s license.
Katie Feldman might be retired? She doesn’t currently have an active FIS license, and raced primarily on the European marathon circuit last season. She is still listed on the SVSEF website for the 2022/2023 season, but that roster also lists Kevin Bolger, who now skis for Team Birkie, so, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Feldman did not respond to a friend’s comment on her most recent Instagram post asking about her potential retirement.
BSF Pro Team
Finn O’Connell retired from pro skiing following Spring Series in Craftsbury. In his final blog post for BSF, “A new adventure awaits,” he writes with palpable excitement about his plans to attend United Airlines Aviate Academy in Prescott, Arizona, starting this fall to become a pilot.
Tony Mathie raced most of the domestic circuit last season before retiring. He posted in June that he has moved to Boise, where he now works as the Head Comp Coach for Bogus Basin Nordic Team.
Xavier Mansfield’s Insta bio now reads, in its entirety, “Cat Dad. I used to ski, now I’m free 🕊.” He currently has an inactive FIS license, and has not contested a FIS race since 2023 U.S. Nationals. He did, however, race the Noquemanon Ski Marathon with his buddies in late January. I tentatively conclude from all of this evidence that Mansfield is now retired.
Craftsbury Green Racing Project
Annika Landis has retired from pro skiing after, most recently, two years with Craftsbury. In her retirement post she wrote, in part, “I don’t entirely know what’s next, and that’s daunting, but I know the nordic skiing community will always be a huge part of who I am, of who I want to be, and I will never be too far away.” But she also said, “I am forever grateful for the opportunities that ski racing opened up to me, the immense joy it brought to my life and the hard lessons I learned about being true to myself through the adversity of high level sport.” And, really, the whole post is insightful and gracious imho, and you should read it.
[There are no retirements to note here, per my research; everyone who was on the team last season is back for more, and the folks in Stratton have added several new athletes as well.]
— Gavin Kentch