Finnish Pro Team skier, Terhi Pollari from Team Nordic Jobs Worldwide, is leaving competitive skiing behind. As she leaves the active Pro Tour scene, she reflects on her career, the development of the women’s field in Ski Classics, and the interest in long-distance skiing in Finland.
This year’s highest result 13th place from La Diagonela, 7th on Vasaloppet China in 2017 as her career-best result, and in a total of 12 top 15-places in the Pro Tour since 2015, Pollari looks back to the best moments of her long-distance skiing career.
“The best part for sure is to spend time outdoors with your best friends and to travel with the same-minded people. To be able to see the world, new places, new tracks, and great scenery is thrilling for someone who loves being outdoors. I have also been lucky to be part of teams originating from different countries, so you learn new languages and cultures at the same time.”
She also recalls the moments as an athlete when she could outdo herself.
“I was really proud of myself after double-poling my first Marcialonga and later Vasaloppet. Looking back after all this development in skiing, it might seem like a piece of cake, but it requires training and guts from everyone. Maybe the ultimate achievement was, however, Nordenskiöldsloppet 2019 (the world’s longest ski race, 220km); I was brave and crazy enough to face the challenge and took home second place from that race.”
While skiing has brought a lot of good experiences and joy, it has also been a demanding lifestyle for Pollari, who is working as a project and team leader in a software company Huld Oy.
“On the other hand, combining goal-oriented skiing with a normal day job is demanding. You need to plan a lot, and there is not much room for other things in your life. Sometimes it has felt hard to find enough time to take care of my equipment and relax. I also felt that traveling was more demanding than before during the last year. Because of the pandemic, you needed to be prepared for almost everything. I also spent weeks alone at our summer cabin after the trips abroad, while I did not want to bring any viruses home. I found all this quite stressful.”
Now she can enjoy less structured training in her free time.
“But as I love doing sports, I do not think the change in my everyday life will be very major. It just won’t be so goal-oriented. I believe there will be more biking and kayaking during the summer than during the last years and maybe just hiking and being out. And we have been planning to take a dog, so let’s see!”
Since her first start on the Ski Classics circuit in 2015, Pollari has seen the change and development of the women’s field.
“Especially in women’s field, the game has changed drastically. During the first years, there was only a couple of ladies double-poling the races, and the number of women was in overall quite small. Little by little, more girls have been willing to put effort into the long distances, which has made the field stronger every year. Nowadays, it is a full effort trying to fit into the top-15 or top-20, and it is harder to get good positions.”
Pollari sees this development as a positive thing for the sport, the athletes, and the spectators. She also reminds us that Ski Classics has actively pushed this positive growth in the women’s field by developing Pro Team rules further, giving more women an opportunity to join a Pro Team.
“To get to a Pro Team, you still have to be a high-level athlete, but the interest of investing in female skiers is broader, and this is great for the sport.”
When it comes to the development of long-distance skiing in Finland, Pollari sees that the interest is growing, although not as fast as in other Nordic countries. She notes that the role of media and live TV broadcasts are essential elements in increasing this interest. Moreover, having competitive skiers and Pro Teams that bring visibility to the sport is essential to support Ski Classics’ development in Finland. She hopes to see more skiers challenge themselves through long-distance and seek their limits, no matter the level. She also wishes that she can somehow be able to support this positive development in the future.
While Pollari feels nostalgic about leaving the active Pro Tour scene behind, she ensures that sport will still play a big part in her life.
“I enjoy challenging myself and seeing new places, so I think I will be doing some smaller races that I have not participated in before, like the legendary Lapponia (Ski Week) in Northern Finland. During the past years, I have done mountain bike races as well. Now, there could be room for some. I also just bought a gravel bike, so there will be a lot of new gravel roads to explore this summer! Coaching is also something I might be more involved in in the future,” concludes Terhi Pollari.