A Tribute to Torin Koos

Leavenworth Olympian deserves recognition – and so does his community
By Rep. Brad Hawkins

Rep. Brad Hawkins R-12The Washington State House of Representatives occasionally takes time during its course of business – drafting budgets and passing laws – to recognize people, groups and events that are significant and worthy of statewide credit.

Torin Koos, Leavenworth’s own Olympic athlete, is more than deserving of such recognition. Last week, I was honored to sponsor a House resolution to recognize his accomplishments. Competing in his fourth Olympic Games this year in Sochi, Russia, Torin did our state and country proud. The second-oldest member of the 14-person skiing team, Torin tied for 37th out of 85 racers in the qualification race for the men’s sprint free event. Torin has proven himself an extraordinary athlete and remains the reigning U.S. national freestyle sprint champion, winning his eighth national championship at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships in January.

People like Torin teach us that accomplishments do not come without sacrifice and setbacks. In 2009 at the World Championships, Torin fell out of the start gate, ruining his time. He has suffered three major injuries in his career – most recently during a race in Norway in February 2011. Despite a dislocated shoulder, he continued to compete through the rest of the season when he had surgery.

Torin is not only a role model for aspiring athletes, he is a fabulous representative for Leavenworth. At the age of three, Torin was introduced to skiing by his father, a U.S. biathlon skier himself. He didn’t compete in skiing until he was 12, but Torin has always been an exceptional athlete regardless of sport. I actually remember competing with him in cross country…running! It was hard enough to keep up with him on foot; it makes sense that he would become one of our nation’s best on skis.

A long-time member of the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club, his participation in the group allowed him to practice his talents and be encouraged by others in this community. In addition, one of Torin’s sponsors is USA Pears – which is a true representation of Central Washington given our proud tradition of agriculture.

Tourists and locals alike appreciate the many winter recreation opportunities near Leavenworth; including backcountry skiing, dog sledding, ice climbing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, sledding/tubing, sleigh rides, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Leavenworth is perfectly nestled between Stevens Pass and Mission Ridge for great access to ski trails. Your Ski Hill provides a closer option for those wanting to stay closer to town. For those seeking something more remote­­­­­­­, opportunities abound in the Icicle Creek, Highway 2 corridor and Chiwaukum Range. Clearly, winter activities are part of your community culture, which only makes sense given Leavenworth’s recreational opportunities.

Being a member of the U.S. Olympic Team for the fourth time, Torin’s achievements highlight all Leavenworth has to offer and the home-grown talent found in these mountains. It is such an honor to represent a region so abundant with opportunities not only for tourists and families, but for Olympic athletes as well. Future Olympians are probably skiing now on your Leavenworth trails. These boys and girls will remember Torin as I have – one of our area greats. It was my honor to sponsor House Resolution 4693 to help recognize him and his accomplishments in representing us.

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 Rep. Brad Hawkins serves the 12th Legislative District, which includes Chelan, Douglas and parts of Okanogan and Grant counties. For more information about Rep. Hawkins, visit his website at www.representativebradhawkins.com. He can be reached by e-mail at brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov or by phone in Olympia at (360) 786-7832.

Torin Koos, National Cross-Country Champion

Torin_1 web

photo credit: Toko USA

USA Pears is a proud sponsor of Torin Koos, cross-country skier and Olympic hopeful from Leavenworth, WA. We caught up with Torin recently as he celebrated his recent freestyle sprint title on the slopes at Soldier Hollow, Utah.

Torin’s training this season will hopefully earn him a spot on the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympics team, which would be his fourth Olympic appearance. Torin grew up among the pear orchards of the Wenatchee Valley, and he values both the beauty of his hometown and the healthy benefits of fresh USA Pears.

Of his recent national title, he says, “I felt that as the day went on I got better and better. The qualifier was a little bit off, but every time I was like, ‘Okay, refocus and let’s do this. We’ve got Sochi coming up and I’ve got to put myself on the team.’”

perry on podium

We’re wishing him the best during the next couple of weeks. You can follow Torin’s path to Sochi, too—he’ll be posting photos and updates from the road on our Instagram account. Be sure to keep an eye out for his travel buddy Perry. Good luck, Torin!

Congrats, Torin!

USA Pears is a proud sponsor of cross-country skier and Olympian Torin Koos, and we’re thrilled to congratulate him on his recent successes at the 2013 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah. (Can you see his biggest fan perched atop the wall?)

Koos took first place in the classic sprint on January 2 and first in the 30 kilometer classic race on January 4 — his first national title in a distance race, and his eighth U.S. National gold. He also took home sixth in the 15 kilometer skate race. Check out this interview to hear Torin’s thoughts on the sport of Nordic ski racing and his history on the slopes.

Torin recently shared this fun video with us, filmed on the slopes in Leavenworth, Washington—right near the heart of pear country. Try out this fun skill next time you hit the mountain!

You can follow Torin on Facebook here, and check out his latest successes and thoughts on the Athletes and Experts section of our website!

New Beginnings with Youth Mentorship

This week, we have a guest post from Torin Koos, our favorite cross-country skiier! Read on to hear about his latest adventures, from mentoring high school students (who modeled Torin’s Olympic duds in the classroom) to running mountainside in Switzerland.

Just as my summer schooling and Canada training camp came to an end, the first days of hopping in Mr. Peck’s classroom and a little running with the Kodiaks of Cascade commenced.

Probably few things are better for a high schooler than overnighting with your teammates. I joined the Kodiaks for their first annual team training camp along the shores of Lake Wenatchee. A family opened up their turn-of-the-century homestead for the team to call home. It was a sweet location, with fireroads and dirt trails around to run on, the lake nearby to cool off and relax besides. The team even had its own guest yogi, Tonja Renee Hall, who works with both the MLS Seattle Sounders and Seahawks of the National Football League.

Inside the classroom, my ITA mentor (and former 5th grade teacher, and running coach) Greg Peck is in his final year of teaching in the Cascade School District. I’ve bounced around a bit with where I’ve done all my In The Arena work – from Bend to the Methow Valley to running with Park City High last fall – but I’ve always put in several weeks a year with Mr. Peck, both in his 5th grade classroom, along with the teams he’s coaching as the seasons change.

Already this year, the class has started on a couple sweet side projects. Every year I bring in a big duffel bag full of ski team and Olympic jackets for the kids to put on for an afternoon, and pose with their friends in class. Pictures are taken and developed, and the kids get a small momento. Every year, the class is totally into it.

Last year, a Seattle Seahawk gave the class a signed game jersey. Every Friday, a kid from class earns the right to wear the jersey. I can’t believe I never thought of this myself. For this year, I gave the class my opening ceremonies wear from the Vancouver Olympics. Every Friday, the “Inspired Performance of the Week” puts the Ralph Lauren clothing that was gathering dust in the attic to use.

Mr. Peck’s class this year has already wanted to know quite a bit about goal setting. From many years ago Mr. Peck remembers how I would write in my training log every day, logging how many laps around ski hill I’d put on the cross-country skis, or times I ran around the neighborhood on a Tuesday. Today, the notebook has been replaced by an Excel spreadsheet, but the process is the same.

The kids are doing their own outcome and goal setting, then hanging them from a young pear tree in class. I look forward to getting back there and seeing how this – and the year – are progressing.

For now, though, I just hopped a plane for Switzerland. This weekend, I headed up the Sertig Valley in Davos, then traded in the rollerskis for running shoes and ran to the top of Jakobshorn. It was a sweet little tour of the terrain outside the little city in the Alps.

And if you were wondering, scenes like the one at left exist beyond the marketing literature on Switzerland. If I could only get some of the orchard fruits in harvest I left behind…

Until the next time…

Torin

Aspire and Expire

This latest article from our cross-country skiing friend Torin Koos provides some powerful insight into how a recent avalanche tragedy in the heart of pear country has affected the skiing community, particularly Torin himself.

Thanks to Torin for sharing this heartfelt story.

The news came when I was in the hamlet of Sjusjoen, in the hills above Lillehammer, Norway: Three Dead in Stevens Pass Avalanche

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Why the appeal of affixing clinging skins, clicking into rear-heal releasing bindings and heading into the backcountry? My ITA mentor Greg Peck says this gets back to the soul of sport. And the way he says it, you know it’s true. Some of the last words of Daniel Zimmerman, the closest person to me I’ve lost to winter’s fury said to me was, “We got to get up in the mountains together again (pointing to the Enchantment Range of the Cascades just above) and receive their good tidings.”

I’ve never known another to be such a fun-hog as Dan. He had the ability to take the moment at hand and fill it to the brim with kinesthetic energy and conversation. I can see A.E. Housman penning the words that Dan, and now Chris and Jim Jack and John were the very ones able to fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds of distance run.

Dan leading the group through his backyard playground.

After you leave the hometown you grew up in, it’s never quite the same to come back home to. I still feel a deep connection to the valley. But the parents sold the house, and moved back to the city 30 miles away. More and more, I am left with memories. These mental etchings will be with me well into my time as an elderly man sitting at a lunch counter ordering a reuben-and-rye at Rumplestilskin’s Delicatessen. Thanks for the memories. You are missed. Profoundly.

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My connection to Chris Rudolph and Jim Jack didn’t run back to the first day my family moved to 107 Mill Street in Leavenworth. But they were great friends of friends, the kind of people you look to get to know better if you were ever able to move out of the suitcase and settle back down in the Upper Valley. The best word to describe them would be characters. This is just how the Seattle Times reporter described those caught in the February avalanche – “Residents of the small town of Leavenworth mourned the loss of three ‘very beloved characters’ who lived and breathed Leavenworth.” Sometimes, a writer and a friend gets it just right. At Chris’s memorial, one spoke about how Chris was an amplifier of life. The following are his words:

In a parallel universe, Chris, Jim Jack, Johnny and the rest of the crew skied safely and ecstatically down to the highway. The Stevens Pass van that Chris would surely have had en route would load them up and deliver them back to the resort in ecstasy and disbelief of how epic and how easy it all was. I know this, because I’ve been on that van ride. I’ve been at the bar afterwards as we all raised a glass to Chris for facilitating this finite slice of heaven. If we could only have realized how finite it would really be.

Chris and I shared many of these beautiful moments. Skiing, celebrating, making music, working, traveling, exploring, planning and giving freely of the gift of joy. He was a man with whom I had more in common than nearly anyone else in my life. Being around him gave me the feeling that my actions and motivations in life were of the highest tier, because the same actions and motivations were his.

My perspective on this is not unique. Chris served as an amplifier of life, in full support of anything positive, brave or inspired. For the people with whom he connected, Chris was a motivator, a collaborator and a model for fully living. A life more fully and joyfully lived creates stronger bonds. My dear friend Chris Rudolph created more of these bonds with more people than anyone I can think of.

Yesterday while in the midst of living his creed, Chris was killed. When he died he was in his element; on skis, in the mountains, on his favorite run, sharing the wealth with his close friends and a crew of people experiencing the place for the first time. This was Chris Rudolph at his finest.

What Chris has left for us is a profound sense of loss that is more burdensome and acute than many of us have experienced before. But more importantly, he’s left us a guide for interacting with the world around us. We’re left with the knowledge that we have a small window of opportunity in this life to forge friendships, to inspire, to live and to love. It’s time to open the floodgates and let it all fly. It’s what Chris would do.

The Sweet Science of Skiing

As a proud supporter of Olympian cross country skier Torin Koos, we’re pleased to be able to share this great article. He’s just embarked on another year of competition, already bringing in second and eighth-place finishes at the USSA SuperTour in West Yellowstone. Best of luck in 2012, Torin!

The Sweet Science of Skiing
By Torin Koos

Riding the cable car up, up, up high into the high Austrian air to the Dachstein Glacier for the first time, I get the feeling Garrison Keillor echoes on his News from Lake Wobegon when he says “All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Packed six tight into the tiny aluminum tin, you can’t help but look around and think all the young women around you are strong and good-looking and above average. Here, though, this isn’t some Lake Wobegon effect – our universal, natural tendency to overestimate one’s capabilities. Rather on that first ride up to the Dachstein Glacier, you know this is the big leagues. For good reason. Standing shoulder to shoulder to Axel Teichmann, Timmy Tschanke, or Justyna Kowalczyk, one gets the very real sense they are no longer skiing in the sandlot.

As a sometime writer, mornings begin with my mind wondering off to write stories about the people I meet. One morning it’s about the fifteen-year-old Finnish girl with her father and the improbably tall Thomas Algaard. It’s then when it hits me: the three of us – all of us, really – are writing our own unique chapters to the same book on our love affair with skiing.  That same morning, the clouds and the setting and the sunrise are just perfect. Fortunately, I have my Canon G9 camera tucked away in the backpack with the change of clothes, Bartlett pear and thermos full of chalky chocolate flavored recovery drink. I snap the picture and send it off to the world.

When I get back to the hotel just over two hours later, former American World Cupper Dan Simoneau (World Cup Best: 2nd; 7th 1983 World Cup Overall) has left a message. Simoneau’s terse prose reads like poetry. “Great photo, Torin. I’m jealous that you are skiing on snow that has so many drops of gold medal sweat. Rub it well. Throw some over your shoulder. Burn some to the Gods. But most importantly, melt it with hard work, focus, and determination. I believe.” Reading these words the first time sends a shiver down my spine. I know what Dan says is true.

I’ve been to the area many times before, though only in the heart of winter. The Ramsau trails wind through valley, canyon and race loops from the 1999 World Championships for a total of 180 kilometers. I could easily work for the town’s media department: I wouldn’t trade one day of skiing Ramsau for anywhere else.

And yet somehow, coming to Ramsau in October is even more special. Maybe it’s because for most, October is the toughest time of the training year. You are still putting in big hours. You are a little sick of the dryland. There really isn’t any good or consistent skiing yet. As a racer you have the itch – and a little bit of anxious anticipation – to get on with the season, and visit with those friends for whom you only seem to meet up with along the trails.

Getting into Ramsau, I flew to Munich then took the train to a tiny town in Germany where I meet up with Swiss National Teamers Mauro Gruber, Eligious Tambornino, and Martin Jaeger, sprint specialists all. Over the next two weeks, I will meet up with the Swiss athletes from time to time, though rarely for the same on-snow workout. This can be chalked up to the sweet science of cross-country ski training.  The Swiss athlete’s are in specific race sharpening training for the race season’s start, coming in two week’s time. The Swiss athletes also don’t believe in doing anything except low intensity long distance training on the glacier, due to its altitude 2700M (8,370ft). Instead, they distance ski in the mornings on Dachstein, then do intensity or strength or speed in the valley below. What they miss out on in real-snow feel they feel they make up in spades with the faster movements of speedy Marwe rollerskis with the low resistance zero wheels.

For Ramsau, I’m joining up with a Norwegian team comprised from the seven small towns that border the hills around Lillehammer. These Norwegians from Team Sjusjoen are more distance-oriented and believe in getting on-snow twice a day. Unlike the Swiss or the Germans, they believe in the trade-off of doing controlled threshold intensity at this high altitude. Most days I ski with the young up-and-comer Simen Sveen. You haven’t heard of him before, but you will soon enough. As a twenty-two year old in med school, Simen was 3rd in the Norwegian Cup Series and 4th at the Norwegian National 50 kilometer.

Simen’s motivation is the kind you rarely see. The young up and comer has just tasted success. He can only see himself getting better and achieving more in the ski tracks. The longer someone can keep this feeling burning bright inside their emotional engine can say more than technique or tactics or V02 max test scores. Right now, all are headed up, up, up for Mr. Simen. It is a wordless spectacle in itself. Like all extreme but perishable actions, watching skier find their inspiration, excites the writer. It also burnishes his instinct to bear witness.

It’s not altogether different than sliding down the window on the cable car, sticking your head out into the cold alpine air and breathing in the oxygen, the sights, and the opportunities that lie ahead for you.  If you have the chance to ski the Dachstein, take it. Your love affair with skiing will only go stronger. Just remember that in this little corner of the world all the women really are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Torin Koos Takes Another Title

Our favorite cross-country skier, Torin Koos, won his fourth U.S. Nationals title on Sunday, January 2 in Rumford, Maine. I caught up with Torin after his championship win to ask him about his 2011 racing season. Here’s what he had to say:

USA Pears: How did you prepare for the race?

Torin Koos: The last couple weeks I’ve ratcheted up the intensity of my training. This takes me from being fit to being fast. I start racing in November. The season doesn’t end until April, so I decided I want to start skiing really fast from January on. It seems as if my preparation and planning is spot on.

The morning of, I eat a big bowl of oatmeal, topped with real maple syrup and slices of Anjou pear for more pizzazz, as well as a bit more fiber. In the winter, I cut out the coffee every day except for race day. So I get a little extra pick-me-up with some locally roasted caffeinated coffee beans to add to the early morning culinary experience.

After this, it’s off to the races to test equipment, get in a good warm-up and keep my head clear of everything except seeking speed at every opportunity.

USA Pears: What does it feel like to win another national championship?

TK: Taking home a national title has a special feeling of accomplishment. The biggest thrill comes in the moment of racing, though. I had a definite game plan about how I would win this race. After this, it was up to me just to go out there and execute. And it just so happens on a day everybody was aiming to be in top shape, I had the best combination of fitness, tactics, technique, and skis.

USA Pears: What’s next for you?

TK: U.S. Nationals also doubled as the 2011 World Championship Trials that start in late February in Oslo, Norway. The crowds and competition should be incredible there, and I’m really looking forward to being even better there. Directly from Maine I’m heading to Davos, Switzerland for a couple weeks before meeting up with my Norwegian race outfit, Team Sjusjoen, to race in the Scandinavian Cup circuit before Oslo.

Congratulations, Torin! We’re looking forward to hearing more good things in 2011.

USA Pears Hit the Slopes

It may be summer, but there’s still snow on the mountains, and you can bet Olympic skier Torin Koos is there to enjoy it!

From June 18–22, skiers of all ages joined Torin on the slopes of Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon to brush up on their skiing skills and have fun at Bend Camp.

Bend Camp is a long-running tradition that invites Nordic skiers to train on snow and land with professional skiers. This year, skiers including Torin, Lars Flora, and Kristina Strandberg instructed campers, and Torin invited USA Pears to camp, too!

Perry poses with the group at Bend Camp.

As you can see, Perry was happy to join in the fun—he even made a new four-legged friend! It was a pear-fect start to the summer.

Go for the Gold with Pears!

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After the last few weeks of winter games, do you have the Olympic spirit? Are you itching to try a new sport? Maybe you’re thinking about hitting the slopes, trail, or the ice. Now, when you’re motivated, is the time to try something new! But just like in summer, safe and effective physical activity has a few requirements. Whichever activity you choose, you may want to play it safe by opting for a lesson, and always dress in layers to stay warm. Staying hydrated is crucial for regulating body temperature. In the winter you may not feel like you are losing as much moisture. But, you are still losing moisture through sweat and respiration, especially if you are active at higher altitudes (e.g., ski slopes). It’s also imperative to energize your body with proper nutrition! Your body needs carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals before, during, and after activity to perform at its best and to replenish tissues. Carbohydrates not only pump up your muscles, but the energy they provide fuels circulation, breathing, and temperature regulation. Micronutrients are needed to help the tissues use energy, and some nutrients, like vitamin C, limit muscle soreness and help repair tissues after they have been exhausted.

4x6-boscTake a cue from Olympic skier Torin Koos and fuel up with pears! Pears provide the optimal balance of carbohydrates and micronutrients to fuel workouts and replenish tired bodies. Pears are a good source of vitamin C, necessary for proper recovery, and at around 100 calories apiece pears are perfect for a pre or post-workout snack. And if you’re strapping on your skis or board and hitting the powder, pears are portable and perfectly portioned for snacking. So, don’t delay; grab a pear and go for the gold!