By André Santos
Petter Eliassen is a Visma Ski Classics legend and an inspiration to elite skiers, recreational skiers, and young athletes that aim to follow in his footsteps.
After 13 victories and 27 podium places in Visma Ski Classics events, Eliassen decided it was time to stop.
We talked to him about the importance of cross country skiing in his life, his achievements and asked him for some advice for future generations of long-distance skiing.
Cross Country Ski is very popular in Norway, but how did it influence you as a person while you were growing up?
“Cross country skiing was quite popular among kids in Trondheim. I grew up close to a ski club and joined it when I was six years old. They had “ski-games” up to when we were ten years old, with a lot of fun, and they were not focusing at all on competition or results. I think that’s why sports for children first and foremost should be joyful and fun.”
Are there any cross country skiing adventures or special moments you remember when you were a kid?
“At this time of the year, my local ski club sometimes used to spend a weekend together in the mountains where we skied and had fun. We used to spend hours of crust skiing in the mountains in the springtime.”
If you could talk to Petter Eliassen 15 years ago, what advice would you give him?
“I would tell him: Don’t judge yourself too hard on the results and try to work from a long-term perspective. It takes time to develop as a strong athlete.”
What was the most important moment of your skiing career?
“The most important moment was when I got a phone call from Thomas Alsgaard in 2014. Saying yes to join Team Leaseplan and Ski Classics positively changed my career.”
What plans do you have for the future? Will we see you in the ski tracks again?
“At the moment, I am working as a physical therapist at a local rehab center. I hope to be skiing a lot in the future, and I hope to do some Visma Ski Classics races. At this point, I have no plans of which races it might be, but I think it will be with lower expectations than before.”
When Thomas Alsgaard invited you to Team LeasePlan, what were your thoughts and expectations?
“I thought that Ski Classics races were long and hard competitions. I wondered if I would like to train that way and if I was strong enough for that. And I also wondered if I wanted to travel around and compete when I had a family with two small children at home. I was a little bit tired from traveling around with the national team and had a lot of sicknesses which reflected my results.”
How was the adaptation from regular cross country skiing to competitions where you only use double poling?
“The adaptation was, of course, tough, and sometimes it felt a little extreme to have such long sessions and so much uphill double poling. But, the focus on double poling had been quite high in regular skiing, especially among the World Cup sprinters, as they were allowed to double pole the whole course. And some of the best long distance skiers at that time were former World Cup sprinters, like John Kristian Dahl and Johan Kjølstad. I knew them well and had been training with them a lot, especially John Kristian Dahl, who was one of my friends when we lived in Trondheim.”
What are your thoughts about the world of long distance skiing and how Visma Ski Classics has been developing over the seasons?
“I think Visma Ski Classics have established themselves as a well-run product, and also a community that is really welcoming to new teams and new skiers. The future could be bright if they can continue to be broadcasted on TV. And it would be good if they still can have many of the same races, that are really “classics” and familiar to a lot of people, even outside the skiing family.”
In 2019 you decided to return to racing. Did you feel that the Pro tour was more demanding than when you had left in 2017?
“No, I think it was the same. But the perspective depends on what team you’re competing for and what they require. Team BN Bank was a smaller team, where the athletes decided more on how things should be run. Team Ragde Eiendom is a more professional-driven team, and it required more of me as an athlete and also more traveling with the team.”
You are a skiing hero for many people, but who are you skiing heroes?
“When I grew up in the 90’s, Bjorn Dæhlie, Vegard Ulvang, Erling Jevne, and Thomas Alsgaard were the biggest ski heroes in Norway. I admired their skiing, and I had some posters of them too.”
What is the best advice you can give young skiers that dream of winning the races you have won?
“I think every athlete has to create their own style and build upon their strength. But for sure, to be dedicated to what you do is a necessity.”