Published: March 4, 2024 By

Hanna AbrahamssonNordic skier Hanna Abrahamsson (EnvEngr’25) entered this season as a three-time 1st Team All-American and a 2nd Team Academic All-American. Originally from Eksjö, Sweden, here she discusses endurance training, why she came to Colorado and ski culture back home. 

You finished 2nd in classic and 5th in freestyle at the 2023 NCAA Championships. What was key to your success?

I was struggling with injuries during the training season, so my expectations weren’t super high. But when the season came, I performed better than ever before. I’ve trained since I was young in Sweden and on the national team for a couple of years. Sometimes when you train a lot, you’re not getting better at the time, but if you allow your body to rest, you get payback later.

How do you approach a race?

We start individually or in a mass. I prefer individuals because you set your own pace. With the mass start, it’s more tactics. You have to run out at the top to get some meters on the others. It’s a mental game as well. My best skill is to keep a pretty high speed for a very long time. We have a word for it in Swedish — to be really “seg.”

What is offseason training like? 

Summer is when we get in the greatest volume of training. You can do different sports and still improve your skiing. It’s all about getting your heartbeat up. I do a lot of roller skiing, plus running and the SkiErg machine. During the summer, I do 18 to 25 hours of conditioning and two sessions of strength training each week. As it gets closer to ski season, volume decreases and intensity increases. 

Hanna AbrahamssonDo you still race for Sweden’s National Team? 

Sweden’s Nordic team is the best in the world. It’s hard to get a spot. There’s also this assumption that you’re retiring when you go to the U.S. I really don’t like that! I wanted to continue skiing but do it in another way than everyone at home. I get to see a new country, get an education and get so much more out of my skiing. But that said, when you choose to go here, you’re not really included in the skiing community at home. I’m pretty sure I could have beaten Swedes who qualified for the U23 [ages 21–23] World Championships last year, but I was not taken. 

Why did you choose CU? 

I wanted to get something else out of skiing. Several people suggested that college skiing might suit me. I contacted a Swede, Hedda Baangman (IntPhys’20), who was skiing for CU a couple years ago. She was like, “You have to do it!” I got coach Jana’s [Weinberger] information and contacted her. Then I quickly decided on CU. 

Can you share something you’ve learned from Jana Weinberger, skiing director and Nordic head coach? 

She is very good at looking at your entire life, including your school schedule. Then we build in training that’s well suited to everything going on.

What do you love most about skiing?

I like to race, but the part I like most is training and being outside. Here in Colorado and everywhere we travel to, the surroundings are gorgeous. I’m so thankful for that. When it comes to skiing itself, it’s all about pushing myself and challenging my body.

Do you prefer to ski classic or freestyle?

Classic. Even though I practice skate [freestyle] more, I am always better in classic. Skate or freestyle is like ice skating. With classic, you have your skis in a groomed track. You have ski wax under your skis so you’re running, or striding, on your skis.

Does CU hosting the 2024 NCAA Championships at Steamboat Springs in March add pressure to this season? 

Yes, but we can handle it.

What’s something readers would be surprised to learn about you?

We don’t have snow where I'm from in Sweden. Also, I live for training days when I do six hours of running. Or three hours on the SkiErg with intervals.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

I want to show people at home that you can go to the U.S. and become better. Skiing is an old tradition and culture in Sweden. It can [feel like being in] a box, even if it’s starting to change. I want to do the national team again and ski races to qualify for the World Cup, but in my way. I’ve learned a lot about myself since I came here. I would also love to do longer races. Nordic skiing has distance teams like with cycling and the Tour de France. Long-distance skiing suits me.

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Photos courtesy CU Athletics