THE BURKE-SWEDEN EXCHANGE

Remembering BMA’s early international connections on the other side of the pond

Account by Linda Mossman ‘78 Eagle, CO

I recollect that Warren attended a training camp at Schnalstal Gletcher, Italy in the fall of 1977. While there, he just happened to ride the T-bar with a girl on the Swedish national team, (imagine that …)  Britta Östmanstman. In the course of their ride, he discovered that there was a Ski Academy in Sweden. 

This was very exciting because, Warren had started one of, if not the first, sports academy in the U.S. He met one, or maybe both of the coaches there in Italy, and decided to immediately travel up to Järpen, Sweden to see this Scandinavian school. While in Järpen he met with the two Alpine coaches, Lennart Kjellin and Rune Lindström, as well as the Director of the Räkloff Skolan, Monica Wennås, to discuss the possibility of an exchange between the two schools. 

Warren invited the Swedish coaches to visit Burke in the winter of 1978. I remember sitting in the Frazier house living room with the woodstove cranking, listening as the two coaches described their program in halting English. Lennart had a huge laugh which I would become quite familiar with the following year. They had a few brochures (in Swedish) which they left with Warren. They were very interested in all aspects of our program, were jealous of our proximity to the training hill, and enjoyed sharing meals with everyone in the Frazier House dining hall. 

Lennart and Rune’s visit seemed to seal the deal that an exchange would take place. The outcome was that each school would send three students “across the pond” to experience academics, fitness training, ski training, and racing in the respective country’s local FIS race series.

The first year was 1978-79 and the participants were Brian Hazelhurst, Amy Bergstrom, Linda Mossman, Susanne Lundeberg, Tomas Karlsson, and Kjell Genborg.

Räkloff  Skolan (500 students) was a public school which was the equivalent of Community College/High School. The SkidGymnasiet Järpen was a program of 75 (equally split) alpine and Nordic athletes, two alpine and two Nordic coaches within that greater school community to which student/athletes from all over Sweden applied. A majority of them were named to the Swedish National team.

I spent my first two weeks with the Lundeberg family on the Island of Öland, and also up north in their hometown of Vilhelmina. We harvested potatoes for the winter, visited Viking ruins, and played tennis at 11 pm under the midnight sun. Susanne had two younger sisters who eventually ski raced at a high level (Ulrika and Ida), attending the University of Wyoming and the University of New Mexico respectively. Ulrika also coached at the University of New Mexico.

The Burke-Järpen exchange seems to be the swell for the wave of Swedes coming to the US to compete and study at NCAA schools. I think that route was more preferable to 19 and 20 year olds, as opposed to attending secluded Burke Mountain Academy with its strict honor code guidelines.

While attending Järpen, I lived in an apartment with Maria Claesson – Nordic, and Eva Stenar – Alpine. We rode our bikes or “sparks” to school and took trains or carpooled in private cars to races. The SkidGymnasiet coaches rarely attended races, as those duties were the responsibility of “home club” coaches.

Other fun facts:

  • I had to get out the Encyclopedia Britannica to look up the location of Järpen / about 6 hours drive north of Stockholm.
  • The only reference I had for where I would spend the next year was a one-page brochure for Järpen in Swedish
  • I didn’t know a word of Swedish when I stepped off the plane. After three weeks of my roommates treating me like a toddler, and only speaking Swedish, I started to understand. Our rule was: the only English allowed was when I helped them with their English homework.  It worked. 
  • Lunch was provided at the school cafeteria and I had the option of buying an early 4 pm dinner. Otherwise, all food shopping and prep was up to me.
  • I learned the real definition of FartLek ( Speed Play) on a beautiful spongy forest path. The Swedes’ primary dryland “hill workouts” were running downhill, not uphill.
  • Sand Pit routines at Burke were replicas of the original Sand Pit workouts at Tossön just outside of Järpen. They also had a ”blueberry hill ( blåbärsbacken) which was named after the blueberries growing there, rather than Tommy’s pancakes. 
  • I was surprised by the lack of everyday competition in dryland training in comparison to Burke. There was more a sense that everyone was training to improve themselves; wherever those needs may fall.
  • Both our morning and afternoon on-hill training sessions required lights. We had a few months of going to and coming home from the hill (30 min drive) in the dark because of our northern latitude.
  • I remember being shocked that two of the athletes who were dating actually lived together in their own apartment.
  • My Swedish Burke/Järpen experience influenced much of my life and career. I went on to work at the Gällivare ski academy in Northern Sweden, worked for the Swedish National Team as an assistant on the Women’s World cup, and then as head coach of the women’s Europa Cup Team.  I spent over four years living in Sweden and was able to share much of my experience and knowledge with colleagues and athletes when I coached at Burke, Vail, and other North American programs. 
  • Susanne Lundebergs niece, Hilda, is two years younger than my daughter, Camilla. Hilda spent six months living with us in Eagle, Colorado, attended high school, and played soccer for our local club.
  • I still speak fluent Swedish and keep in contact with many former fellow students, colleagues as well as former athletes.
  • I have run into Helge Weiner on the slopes and tennis court in Vail this past year and ran into a pack of Järpen alums at the Vail World Alpine Championships.  I also met with many Järpen – Burke students while visiting Stockholm with my family two springs ago. The Burke / Sweden connection runs strong in the veins of those of us who partook.

MEMORIES FROM OTHER EARLY BMA-SWEDEN EXCHANGE STUDENTS

Amy Bergstrom Baughman ‘79,  Corsica, PA

“Ha! Lots of good memories… I remember orienteering, dryland training was definitely ski-specific. Athletes were super friendly and spoke English well. I had to ship dozens of Levi jeans to everyone when I got home.”

Thomas Karlsson ‘79, Rätan, Sweden

“I remember that we came a few weeks before school started, and were placed with host families.  I ended up with Lingelbachs in South Pomfret Vt. It was Finn’s first year back at Burke. Cathy was new at teaching, and I felt sorry for her having been given three Swedes, two of which were not at all focused on studying but insisted on asking difficult questions. Another coach was Luc Robillard who was a crazy Canadian.  We went on a survival trip with him where he ate worms. We caught birds and rabbits, which we later stored in the school freezer. I had already returned to Sweden by the time the cook found the rabbits in the freezer!!  Without plastic bags. She was not so impressed with our hunt.”

Susanne Lundeberg Westman ‘79, Östersund on Frösön, Sweden

“I remember those early mornings and runs at Burke on those winding small nice gravel roads. I think about the fall when the forest stood on fire with maple trees. That nice feeling, I still hold within me. I think of it often. We ran in small groups and it was really nice to chat amongst friends. I also remember that we got to visit Warren’s house (on Lake George) and waterski.  Really fun! We attended the US Nationals in Copper Mountain.”

Thomas Roos ‘80, Falsterbo, Sweden

“I was part of the second year of the exchange program with Carina Carlsson. When Carina and I came over, we got to fly in Warren’s plane and landed on the water at his summer house. Unbelievably beautiful, and a great start to our adventure. It was lots of early morning water skiing when the water was calm. Heidi and Holly were really good! I remember the long training bike rides of 10 miles (60 miles?), they were complete drudgery! And to top it off, the end from East Burke to school was dreadful! I also remember our long trip in a van traveling to NOR AMs in Aspen, Vail, and Copper Mountain. Incredibly fun to participate in and compete!  I think we stayed for a while with Amy (Bergstrom’s) sister outside of Vail. Oh ya, and we drove through Canada, neither Carina nor I had our passport with us! We had big problems getting back into the US.”

Debby Miller Porcarelli ‘79, Great Falls, MT

“I was also part of the second year of the exchange program. I graduated from Burke Mountain Academy in May of 1979 and in August of 1979, I went to Sweden for year two of the Burke Mountain Academy, Skidgymnasium Järpen exchange. I am thankful for having had such a meaningful cultural, educational, and athletic experience. I was immersed and welcomed into everyday Järpen life, I learned the language, and I had some of my best race results while there. I have fond memories such as total immersion into the Swedish language at school, running dryland slalom in deep sand, riding a train all night to get to ski races, attending the native’s reindeer roundup, and racing my first nighttime FIS race under lights in Oslo, Norway. I made lifelong friends I continue to be in touch with.”