Meet Maks, Canadian skier in Norway

Maks kneeling with mountains in the background.

Photo courtesy of Maks Zechel / Faster Skier
Maks Zechel among the fjords and fjell of Norway.

Maks Zechel
Faster Skier

I am a 19-year-old Canadian cross-country skier who moved to Asker, Norway, on August 1 to pursue my goal of qualifying for, and being competitive on, the World Cup circuit in the coming years. The World Cup is a big stage, one that I am not even close to being ready for. Many North Americans, if given the chance, race World Cups because it is a wonderful opportunity that is almost impossible to turn down. But for many skiers, these chances do not lead to further success because they are not prepared for the intense level of competition that is World Cup ski racing. One of the issues is that North American skiers do not develop in close proximity to the world’s best skiers.

This is the introduction to my series of observations, stories, and lessons learned as I live in Norway and train with Team Asker for the next nine months. I want to make it easier for other Canadians and Americans to come to Norway by making as many connections as I can, and I hope to make them feel a little bit closer to the environment that the world’s best skiers grow up in.

Why Norway?
I learned how to ski at Cypress, just outside of Vancouver, at around the same time that I started walking. Since then I have lived in York, England; Zurich, Switzerland; Kingston, Canada; Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany; and most recently Ottawa.

I started racing with Nakkertok Nordic, based just outside of Ottawa, when I was 11 years old. Being the biggest club in Canada, Nakkertok made me fall in love with skiing, as I always had one or two dozen skiers my age to train with.

Over the past two years, I have studied part-time at the University of Ottawa, raced in Switzerland and Austria, skied on the Dachstein glacier in August, skied at Sunshine (near Canmore) in May, raced in Park City, trained and raced in Silver Star, and had various other amazing opportunities all over Canada and the U.S.

Coming to Norway is something I have thought about for the past two years. I have come here with the goal of learning as much as I can from training and racing with the Norwegians. This season I will be racing at the Scandinavian Cup level and focusing on my personal development.

As many Canadians can attest to, it is hard to go from racing solely in North America to racing on the World Cup. By familiarizing myself with the European competition atmosphere, I hope to set myself up for success and show others back home what I have learned. I still have far to go, but I am here to learn and hopefully improve.

Another reason that I have moved to Norway is, strangely enough, to reduce my skiing costs. In Canada it costs a ridiculous amount every year to fly to early season skiing opportunities, to train with other fast skiers at camps, and to attend as many high-level races as possible. Despite all of these flights, I have still found it difficult (even as a junior) to fill my race calendar with enough opportunities to race at a high level.

In Norway, once you have bought your plane ticket, there are regular high-level races within driving distance from mid-November until mid-April. The fields are deep, with most of the Norwegian World Cup team racing the Beitostølen Scandinavian Cup in November.

Planning my trip to Norway was filled with days of excitement but also with days of doubt that things would ever work out. From the start I knew that I was going to see this through to the end, so with a lot of willpower, and even more help from others, I am now finally in Norway.

Maks Zechel is a competitive cross-country skier who secretly wants to become a professional mile runner. He loves hiking and going on canoe trips with his family, as well as peanut butter cups in ice cream. Johan Olsson is his favorite skier, and he hopes to race the Cortina-Toblach stage of the Tour de Ski one day. Follow him on Instagram @makszechel.

This article was originally published on Faster Skier. View the complete post at fasterskier.com/fsarticle/closing-gap-meet-maks-zechel-canadian-norway.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 6, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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