Hailey Swirbul (USA). Photo: Madshus

The 21-year-old Colorado native is entering her second season at the senior level, aiming high for the 2020 FIS U23 Nordic World Championships, which take place in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, from February 28 through March 8.

Growing up near Aspen, Colorado, Hailey first started alpine skiing, but has been cross-country skiing since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where she is working on a degree in civil engineering and skis for the Alaska Pacific University ski team when she is not representing the United States internationally.

Why did you get into cross-country skiing?
“I’m from Colorado, so I first started alpine skiing. When I was 10, I wanted to get into freestyle skiing, like moguls and terrain parks. But then my older brother started cross-country skiing, so I followed him. And I realized I liked cross-country a lot. When I was very young, I thought cross-country skiing was pretty miserable and just a lot of hard work, but this time I guess I was old enough to enjoy the delayed gratification, and seeing that hard work pays off. In this sport, you get back what you put into it.”

What are your goals, for this season and long-term?
“This year I get to start on the World Cup for the first period of the season, and that’s really exciting. I hope to learn as much as I can from that and soak up all the experience I can. And I hope to earn my first World Cup points. Specifically, I am really looking forward to the U23 World Championships in Oberwiesenthal (GER). I’ve raced there before and I love the trails and the terrain. As for results, I want to be among the top six there, and I think that is realistic on a good day. Long-term I want to make it to the Olympics.”

What motivates you day-to-day?
“On a very simple level, I just love skiing, and I will keep doing it as long as I love it. But specifically, I think the delayed self-gratification motivated me, seeing that the work I put in pays off. There are many days I don’t really want to go outside, the weather is dreary and I wonder why I’m doing this, but I know that I’m working toward a long-term goal. Every day and every workout is one step closer to that overall goal. Checking off the small things gives me pleasure.”

How much do you train in a typical week, and how does it break down into distance, intensity, speed work and strength?
“Most weeks in the dryland season I come out to between 19 and 21 hours. According to my training log, 84 percent of this is distance training, 4-5 percent of this is intensity work at level 3-4, and 2-3 percent is speed work at level 5. About 10 percent of my overall volume is strength training. We do one single-stick and double-pole workout every week with my program at APU, and we also have at least two workouts per week where we do lots of jumping drills. I also go to the gym for some more traditional, weight-added workouts and I do core-strength and band exercises throughout the week.”

What is your favorite dryland workout?
“I like roller skiing. I feel like I cover some ground when I roller ski. But bounding intervals with skipoles at threshold intensity is maybe my favorite hard workout for the dryland training period. Of course, we also have amazing mountains in Alaska, and a long mountain run is hard to beat.”