Cutthroat Q&A: Kristin Helland-Hansen

Sun Valley Ski Academy (SVSA) welcomed Kristin Helland-Hansen, a Norwegian student and cross country skier, to our school in the fall of 2015. Sun Valley and Community School quickly became home for Kristin, as she became fully engaged in the academic, athletic, and social opportunities of SVSA and the wider community. Here, Kristin, who returned to Norway to finish high school and currently attends university in her home country, describes her choice to attend SVSA and offers insight into her experiences as an international boarding student.

1. How did you learn about Community School and Sun Valley?

I wanted to find a school in the states where I could combine my passion for skiing with academics. And by Googling something like “Ski academy USA,”  I found Sun Valley Ski Academy. I remember I was a bit nervous about the decision at first, but after a phone meeting with one of the teachers and a few emails back and forth, I started to get really excited about attending Community School for a year.

2. As a Scandinavian student from the mecca of Nordic skiing, why were you interested in skiing in the U.S.?

I think I needed some variation and new motivation. Back home, every year started to get pretty similar: we went to the same training camps and same races every year. And, skiing in the States had always been a dream. I knew of a lot of Norwegian college skiers, skiing for Denver, CU Boulder, and Utah, and I wanted to get a similar experience.

3. What was it about Community School and this area that led you to choose the school and ski programming available through Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF)?

I chose Sun Valley and Community School because they were helpful and really made an effort to welcome me. Also, I had heard a lot of good things about the coaching available through SVSEF, and after spending a lot of time looking at photos of the area and doing research, it was hard to resist!

4. What do you think other international students and families would like to know about the experience of studying at Community School and skiing with SVSEF? What do you think would surprise them?

I think the best thing about my year in Sun Valley was getting to experience and be part of a new culture. The American ski culture was very different from what I was used to back home. Being able to share my knowledge from Norway and learn from my new teammates made me not only a faster and more motivated skier, but also a better teammate. I think any student who chooses Sun Valley Ski Academy will be surprised by how positive, outgoing, and inclusive this amazing place is.

5. In the time you’ve had to reflect since you left Sun Valley, what are the lasting impressions of your time as a member of SVSA are?

The feeling of being part of a community that takes care of one another remains with me today. The dorm family, the school community, and the ski team were all so tight-knit. I am forever grateful that I can call Sun Valley and the fantastic people I came to know my second home and family.

6. You visited Sun Valley recently to see friends and attend Community School's graduation. What was it like to be back "home" in Sun Valley?

Coming home to Sun Valley after two years, I was overwhelmed by the welcoming smiles and hugs from family and friends. Sun Valley during early summer, when the area is blooming with spring flowers and the snow is still great for backcountry adventures up north, is unbelievably beautiful. Honestly, I wondered why I ever left this amazing place.

7. Any other thoughts you would like to share?

I loved every part of my year in Sun Valley and I now am lucky enough to have best friends and family to visit on the other side of the world. It is a beautiful place with the most wonderful people. I would give a lot to get to do it again!