Taking it all in stride
Nordic ski racing takes Audrae Coury around the world
When you enter Audrae Coury’s home in the Meadow, the first thing you’ll notice is the ski rack jam-packed with pair after pair of colorful Nordic skis. Then the pungent smell of ski wax hits your nose as your eyes shift to the numerous medals hanging on the coat rack along the wall.
Coury’s entryway is basically a Nordic ski locker room, which is fitting, since she’s been deeply involved in the sport for more than 30 years.
Coury, 75, recently placed fourth in her age group—the top American in that group—at the Masters World Cup in downtown Minneapolis in late January. It was one of many victories she’s had in her racing career, and likely not her last.
Coury started cross-country skiing when she was in her 40’s, skiing at state parks in Minnesota. One day she stumbled upon the World Masters races, “And I thought, I want to do that,” Coury said.
So, she went home and practiced on her wooden Norwegian Bonna skis. Her first race was in the early 1980s at the St. Paul Winter Carnival on those heavy wooden skis, and she won her age class.
“But then I got totally decimated by the competition in my second race,” Coury said. “So, I went down and bought Rossignol racing skis.”
Soon after she competed in her first Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis. It’s a 50-plus kilometer race that attracts more than 10,000 skiers. She’s now competed in 17 “Birkies.”
Her work teaching international students eventually led her to Hokkaido, Japan where she competed in the Sapporo International ski marathon—and even Australia for the Kangaroo Hoppet.
Her worldwide ski racing adventure continued when she joined the Worldloppet International Ski Federation, in which she’s competed in marathon races around the globe—she’s been to 14 so far, making her an official Master Worldloppet racer.
Flipping through her Worldloppet passport, Coury reminisced about past races from Canada to Finland, Sweden, Estonia and many more.
Next year, her goal is to get into the Italian Worldloppet, and she also hopes to fit in Russia to fill out the booklet. But more countries are in line to be included—New Zealand, Iceland and China for example—so the ski trips needn’t stop any time soon.
Some races are closer to home: Coury’s signed up for the 25K at the West Yellowstone Rendezvous race in March. She missed the last two years since she was racing in the Czech Republic and Poland.
Coury volunteers at the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation Mad Wolf Winter Relay. It’s coming up Feb. 24.
“I’ve done so many races, it’s fun to be a volunteer, to see all the young people coming through and skiing,” Coury said.
Outside of racing and volunteering, you can find Coury on the Lone Mountain Ranch cross-country trails most days of the winter and cycling and pole walking in the warm months. She tracks all her mileage in a log book. Last winter she logged 528 kilometers, and the winter before that it was just over 500.
“It’s a motivation for me to keep training, and keep skiing,” she said of her log. “Once you love a sport, you want to stay with it as long as you can.”