About Jennie Bender

A professional cross country skier from the East who joined CXC spring of 2010.


By Jennie Bender
                                                                                                       Old Quebec

On Saturday night a couple weeks ago, post the Bozeman sprint, the house was a bustle with packing and  making plan B travel arrangements. I decided to head home early to Vermont, but wanted to watch the Quebec races, especially since home is only an hour from the Canadian border. I was elated when I called my home club coach of NorthEast Nordic, Fred Griffin, and found out that he was taking his group of highschool skiers to Quebec for a school trip, and to experience a World Cup. I couldn’t have thought of a better group to raise my spirits, and to spend that bittersweet weekend with.

After a long day of absurd air travel (MT, NC, FL, PA, to Quebec…what’s your priority, time or money?), I landed in Canada, ready for an adventure.

                                                   6:30 am to 10:45 pm airport day. Polaroid with Santa? Why not…

I have been to Quebec a few times, but have never stopped by the church Sainte Anne-de-Beaupre. You don’t need to have a religious affiliation to appreciate its grandeur.  As you sit and listen to the silence, the surrounding art is mesmerizing and full of detail and history.


If you have ever gone to a NE Nordic camp, you’ll know that it’s custom to hit the ground running. Our first excursion was a 3 hr run along side an icy river bed trail. Fred teaches his kids to embrace challenges, but proceed at your own risk, and  to be smart about the situation.  One day, when I’m coaching a horde of athletes, this will be my approach too.

Due to lack of snow, the rest of the long weekend was packed with a choose-your-own-path hike up the mountain for about 3 hrs, a group strength session, a bounding technique workout, and lots of morning yoga.  However, these excursions don’t hold a lit candle in  the memory bank filled with images of our 4am ski. As thirty groggy highschoolers stumbled into the parking lot, the buzz of excitement to ski in the dark on the nearby golf course grew. Scattered headlamps tromped into the field, and the moon lit the untouched snow blanket for the rest of us. Why 4am? Why not! There was finally enough snow to classic ski, and we had to leave late that morning, so 4am gave us the option to ski again at 8:30am. Not something I would usually do, but I will remember it forever. Needless to say , many kids pass-out in between workouts.

Time spent watching the World Cups was of course very exciting. You have read all about it already, so I won’t go into detail, but it was awesome seeing those girls kicking some Euro butt. ‘Merica.

Picture by Julia Snyder
Kikkan during the team sprint
As an elder on CXC, I failed at teaching Diggs how to open a Champagne bottle. Then again, I don’t think I know how to properly open one either. Kikkan, please, show us your ways. That was one of the best things I have ever seen. (Reader: if you dont know what I am talking about, just look for pictures of Quebec awards ceramony.)

I am now in Vermont, enjoying my short time here as time flies before I head to Utah for US Nationals. It finally snowed, so I can now sing Christmas carols without feeling misplaced.

Merry Christmas Everyone (:

Thank you Joel Woodward for taking some great pictures in West Yellowstone!


Welcome to Canmore

By Jennie Bender

The Green Mtns in Vermont are extremely pretty, but this place is so awe inspiring to me.

I will be here until Oct 25, skiing around the hamster wheel called Frozen Thunder (HERE).  This is by no means a complaining statement, I am uber pumped to get on snow!! I have to admit, I am kinda bummed I have to head back to the cities for a Superfit, because they are holding a sprint race here on the 26th, and the ORIGINAL Banff mountain film fest is happening the week after! SO, you guys better come to the FinnSisu clinic/Superfit!!

This will be my first training camp with a big group since May, so we’ll see how things roll. I came out early to hang with my buddy and past teammate Sara Hewitt, and the cxc guys arrive today. Yesterday she took me on a scramble. I would call it a hike, but this was only half hike. The strong wind didnt help my growing fear of falling off the mountain. As we climbed she updated me on the unlikely but proper “bearAware” and cougar attack protocol, but this is wild country, and I kept reminding myself to HTFU.  The way I see it, do something that freaks you out, gives you a thrill, challenges you, or just makes you happy, as often as possible.

This picture does not give the wind justice.

Today Sara and I joined the Canmore Nordic Junior team on a long run along a river bed trail. Highschool club adventures will forever be my favorite.

Stay tuned for some on snow pics, unless you don’t want to be jealous, then I suggest staying away…

Question – Now that Sara, Jessie, and I are back together for a week, should we do another video?  And what should it be on?


I went to Madison WI for a few days before I headed to Vermont, and was so excited to have 14 women attend my PlayNordic clinic in the park!

PlayNordic is a traveling clinic series I started to encourage women to stay young at heart.

I have met many individuals through my travels, and am drawn to those who maintain a spark for life. This spark can be passed on, and this is my method of doing so. Sometimes life starts to become a dull routine, and exercise can be boring. My mission was to put together a workout that was out of the ordinary, and that I would want to do now, and 50 years from now.

We have to remember to always challenge ourselves, and to break out of our comfort zone every so often. I named it PlayNordic for two reasons. For one, through my nordic ski training, I have realized that just about anything can be good exercise as long as you are moving your body. I incorporate many core, arm, and lower body strength exercises that work your nordic ski muscles without realizing it. Two, I have seen many adults give up on ”playing”, and shy away from trying new things due to social expectations for their age group. For this reason, I hold the clinic at a park with a big playground, and we most certainly use every inch. Little children, move outta the way!

 After the clinic, I asked for a show of hands for who did something today that they hadn’t tried in the past 10-15 years. As the hands shot up with smiling faces, I knew it was mission accomplished.

Stay tuned for postings of when my next PlayNordic clinic will be, and I hope you can join!

The RunForSnow in Madison that same weekend was a big hit. Renee, Dave, and Yuriy, did a great job with the logistics, and I was surprised to see that it was actually a hilly difficult looking cross country course! Link HERE 

Meanwhile, in Benderland, life has been rough. That’s about all I can say without a few hours, a chocolate bar, and box of tissues. Good news is, I have started training, and days are progressing in a slow but positive manner. Lymes disease and Mono be damned.

I saw a quote recently that puts it in perspective:

“If everyone put their problems in a bag, and threw the bags in a pile, once everyone saw everyone else’s bag they would grab their own and run away.”



By Jennie Bender

While spring is arriving at top speed around the country, I am at home in Vermont, awaiting my drive to Canadian Nationals, and watching the weather forecast of the next two weeks for Craftsbury (Spring Nationals) like everyone else. The 70 degrees and raining doesn’t look good, although I must say their 2.5k loop is holding strong. Over the past two years, the East hasn’t received the best luck while hosting National events. We DO have snow…at times….I swear!!

I love the sights, smells, and sounds of Vermont in the spring. We went to visit my neighbor down the rutted dirt road (it is mud season after all) who has a large sugar house currently in full swing. As we walked up their driveway, two very prominent work horses behind a thin wire fence greeted us. You better feel comfortable around horses, because you have to duck under the fence and walk through their domain to get any farther. In the background, the many cords of wood are piled next to the sugar barn, steam billows from the roof opening, and the forest has a web of blue veins carrying sap.

With only two people running the show, the sugar house process must be a continuous flow, literally. It’s actually quite amazing, not to mention mesmerizing, as the sap travels through many stages such as reverse osmosis and boiling before it comes out as Maple Syrup. It takes 35-45 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, and the yearly preparation with setting lines, cutting wood, clearing trails to get to the taps, is a tremendous amount of work. A short spring with only one freeze/thaw is not good for the business, as it is this weather pattern that keeps the sap flowing.

Meanwhile in other news, I have now seen my first (completely) naked nordic skier on a public trail, WELCOME back to Vermont!

Off the groomed track

By Jennie Bender

Every once in a while, a skier needs to go into the woods and explore. No matter what type of boards you’re on, the spirit of skiing lives in the middle of nowhere, because that’s where the boards can take you. Jessie and myself took advantage of arriving at the wrong trail head for our classic distance today in Rossland B.C. Although we were initially planning for some awesome classic only trails, we clambered up snowshoe packed for an hour on part of what we discovered to be the Seven Summits Trail. It was the most action the inside edge of my classic skis have ever seen as they clomped over the tracks of a previous backcountry goer with fish scales. Meanwhile, I was eagerly anticipating our out of control descent. A view of mountain tops through pine tree forest is even more special knowing  you’re one of few who have seen it. We turned when the twisting, ascending, two foot trail got to a point where our descent would be treacherous considering how prepared we….weren’t.

Click HERE  for an insider view of our nordpine adventure (:

The best part of today, I must say, was shortly after we turned around when we ran into Gus and Jason, who after dropping the others off at the correct trail, decided that an adventure actually sounded pretty sweet, and chased after us. This is one of the many reasons why both of these guys are so great. Work hard, play hard.

Create your own caption ….. “Mmmm, this tree smells good…..”Although it’s funnier thinking it was flat terrain, there WAS a giant downhill that he just came down, and had to stop somehow! We all fell ALOT.

When you aren’t expecting a view, it’s that much more enjoyable.
The little warming hut in the woods that we stumbled upon. I can’t say I was expecting company and a burning chimney on the hillside, but I hear there are many along the way.
This was taken our last day at SilverStar, and it’s definitely one of my new favorites. I left there with a 4th in the classic sprint, and 8th in the classic 10k. Although I really was hoping for a podium, the season is still young! The races here in Rossland are both skate, so I will be able to work on my newfound technique epiphany. They just keep comin’….thanks to Gus, whose method is to tell me it’s horrible but then fixes me so it’s all good. (:
I’m excited for Vermont/home in a week!

By Jennie Bender Some overstated facts about this…

By Jennie Bender

Some overstated facts about this trip that I will repeat:

  • Yes, the excitement of snow is high here in West Yellowstone, Montana
  • Yes, at times you can cut the pre-season intensity lingering in the air with a butter knife
  • And  Yes, the demographics here are probably 99% Caucasian, and 75% Midwesterners.

Everyone is eager for this winter wonderland. The team arrived on Tuesday before the herds moved in, reminding me of how desolate and wild West Yellowstone really is when it’s not during a “season” of some sort. The main ones seem to be huntin’ season, snowmobilin’ season, hiking season, bears eating hikers season, and nordic skier season. The locals look at us like we’re nuts as we walk and jog down the middle of the one-car-an-hour road in our bright colors, shiny puffy coats, and spandex. The CXC team is staying in a house this year on a road named Firehole Ave, across from Geyser  and Ol’Faithful Street. Gotta love it. As we walk the 7-10 minutes to Rendezvous trails, other skiers appear out of random houses and old hotels to join the mass like a sea of fish.

Despite my love for hugs as I re-discover my seasonal ski friends, lately I have had the most fun skiing by myself with my iPod through the woods. It’s only then, when I can truly look around at the untouched snow laden trees and remember why these two boards keep me on them. The world looks brighter when it’s covered with a blanket of powder…ok mostly because it reflects the sun, but I’m trying to be poetic here.

By the way, West Yellowstone moves snow like a boss..

The first races were today. As much as I like sprinting, these first races are the splinter under your finger nail sprints. There was a classic qualifier at 9am, and a skate qualifier at 10am. Not only are these first races at altitude, but they have massive attitude. It’s basically a mini hill climb sprint, with just enough time in-between to let your lungs stop bleeding.

Thanks to Salomon and the coaches, the skis felt good. However, my second place classic finish was bitter sweet due to my pole basket coming off two feet after I started. I used extra glue too! There was definitely some time lost getting a new pole, but I still feel like I had a good race. It’s no secret that I am more of a power skier, so the skate hill climb sprint made me feel more like Gumbi (the uncoordinated green stretchy toy) than tinker bell. Oh well, you’ll have that. Many, many more races ahead!

A few great pictures from Toko’s Ian Harvey here: http://tokous.com/Event%20Reports/US%20Nationals%202011%20Skate%20Sprint.htm

Results here: http://summittiming.com/races/race_results.php

Taken by Jason Cork

SkiErg Fundraiser

        The 3rd annual SkiErg World Sprints November 11-13, 2011



Come race a challenging 1000 meters on the Concept2 SkiErg this next weekend at GearWest http://www.gearwest.com (friday and saturday) and The Fix Studio http://www.thefixstudio.com (sunday) in the twin cities! Please help Matt Leibsch and Jennie Bender fundraise for their upcoming season.

Are you as tough as you think you are? Come prove it…


Compare your time against others in a one-weekend showdown of speed happening all over the world!

$10 Fee – Free Prizes – All Age – All Abilities

Sign up and compete at either location:

Location – Gear West Ski and Run 1786 W, Wayzata Blvd Long Lake, MN

Friday Nov 11th – 10am to 6pm

Saturday Nov 12th – 10am to 5pm

Location – The Fix Studio (Sunday Only) 3725 Minnehaha Minneapolis, MN

Sunday Nov 13th – 10am to 2pm


Hope to see you there!