This year, a group of athletes moved Thanksgiving up to celebrate with their friends before the competition season kicked off. (Photo: Noah Hoffman)
For skiing and snowboarding athletes, Thanksgiving often becomes just another day. For some, it’s a competition day. For others, it’s just another travel day during a long journey to far flung destinations in Europe. This year, though, a few athletes took matters into their own hands and hosted USSA Thanksgiving several weeks before the actual holiday.
“Because a lot of us are going to be out of town for Thanksgiving, I thought it was really important to get everyone together and celebrate before we're scattered across the world,” slopestyle skier Emilia Wint said.
“Since I don't get to spend Thanksgiving with my family, it was nice to be with people who feel like family,” snowboardcross athlete Jackie Hernandez said.
Wint, along with fellow slopestyle skier Jess Breda, organized the event while another slopestyle skier, Ashley Battersby, offered her house in Wanship, Utah, as the location. Dozens of athletes were invited and asked to bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish to share.
“My favorite part of USSA Thanksgiving was the collaboration,” cross country skier Noah Hoffman said, “Every single person contributed a vital part of the meal. Everything was homemade. Everyone clearly put a lot of time and effort into their dish and many of us were cooking way out of our comfort zones.”
From turkey to pie, all of the traditional foods were present at USSA Thanksgiving. And with over 20 athletes contributing to the dinner, there was no shortage of good eats.
“I would say the best food contribution was by Mac Bohonnon,” Breda said, “He made mashed sweet potatoes with some sort of crust on top. It probably could have been considered a dessert with the amount of maple syrup and butter that were in it and it went perfectly with the tart cranberry sauce!”
“The butternut squash stuffing,” nordic combined athlete Nick Hendrickson said, “I actually don't know who brought it, but it rocked.”
While many of the recipes were tried and true favorites, there was one Thanksgiving staple that required a little bit of experimentation: turkey.
“Emilia and I were in charge of the Thanksgiving staples: turkey, cranberry sauce and gravy,” Breda said, “But this was our first time ever cooking a turkey and we cooked two! We cut out the turkeys' backbone and broke the breast bones so the turkeys laid flat and each cooked in under two hours. It was quite an experience!”
Despite the nontraditional scheduling of the holiday, the athletes were excited to have the chance to get together with teammates and celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving.
“I have not been able to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family since 2004,” Hoffman explained, “As a skier, missing holidays becomes normal. Consequently, it felt very special to do Thanksgiving with my USSA teammates, who have become some of my best friends.”
Since the dinner was held in Wanship, just a short drive from the USSA Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, athletes from a variety of sports and disciplines were able to attend.
“We had friends from slopestyle, snowboardcross, halfpipe, freestyle aerials, one of our strength interns and a couple nordic skiers,” Hendrickson said, “I've never seen a more tight knit group of athletes in the gym than this summer."
Despite the busy schedules and Olympic season looming ahead, it was an opportunity to relax and enjoy the true spirit of the holiday.
“It was just a good way to get together and have some fun before the season kicked off,” Wint said, “We didn't do much of the traditional Thanksgiving practices, but the vibe was there, so I don't think they were necessary!”
“My family Thanksgiving is all about having fun, laughing and being with people you care about,” skicross athlete Whitney Gardner said, “And USSA Thanksgiving was all of that!”