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Magnus Vesterheim: The Football Player Who Became Pro Tour Skier

Magnus Vesterheim has not followed a traditional skier path. The Team Kaffebryggeriet Pro Tour skier finished the Ski Classics Season XII in the 18th place at the Champion competition and talked to ProXCskiing about how he became a cross-country skier and what the long-distance skiing community means to him.

Photo: Magnus Östh/Ski Classics

Magnus Vesterheim, Team Kaffebryggeriet, from football player to Pro Tour skier.

Most long-distance skiers were traditional skiers. This means that they started competing at a young age, probably chased some World Cup qualification, and eventually fell in love with the world of long-distance skiing.

But Magnus Vesterheim followed a different path. He was a football player in the 3rd division in Norway who eventually stepped into the military service and, along with his friends, decided to try to set a world record for crossing Greenland.

While he was training for the Greenland crossing, Magnus became a skier. But the attempt to cross Greenland had to be canceled, and Magnus decided to put so many hours of training into practice and signed up for a skiing marathon. That’s when he fell in love with long-distance skiing, and eventually, this passion changed his life.

How and why did you become a long-distance skier? 

“I started skiing when I was 20 years old. Before that, I played football in the 3rd division in Norway, followed by long military service. So, when I finished military service, some friends and I had plans to set a world record for the fastest time crossing Greenland on skis. And since this requires some skiing knowledge, I got my first ever racing skis from one of those who were to take part in the world record attempt and started training for this in January 2015, intending to cross Greenland in May 2015. But a few months later, one of those going over Greenland got sick, and the record attempt was canceled. But since I had trained on skis for three months, I signed up for the Troll Ski Marathon 120k, the world’s longest ski race at that time. I finished just 1 hour and 25 minutes behind skiers like Kjetil Dammen, Øyvind Moen Fjeld and Petter Skinstad. But this was the first time I competed individually in sports, and I loved it, the fight against myself and other like-minded people.” 

“So, after this, I decided to move to Lillehammer to study sports science, but also to ski a little more. There was a double-poling revolution going on in cross-country skiing, and I had Øystein Pettersen as one of those I looked up to. I saw that he often trained once a day and often had long sessions. So, I did this too. And a couple of years later, he moved to Lillehammer, and we started training a bit together. The world of long-distance skiing is small and wonderful. And since then, the ball has rolled. I still love what I do. And because of my untraditional path as a skier, I have never practiced traditional cross-country skiing, apart from when I have used this as training in recent years. My experience is when you get a taste of long-distance skiing, you don’t go to Beitostolen doing a 5k loop three times without missing the long-distance community.” 

What have been the best and worst moments of your career so far? 

“It’s been a lot of ups and downs since the start in 2016, but maybe the best moment was Vasaloppet 2018. At that point, I was racing for Team Parkettpartner/Næringsbanken, and because of the heavy snowfall, there was a big chance of having a big group sprinting for the victory, so my only task for the day was to get Thomas Gjestrumbakken in a good position for the last 200m. But when we reached Evertsberg, I was the only athlete from Parkettpartner left in the first group, and suddenly, I could go for it alone. So, the feeling when I was going into Moraparken and realized that I was racing for the victory when earlier that day had no big expectations is something I will remember for the rest of my life.” 

“The worst moment was Vasaloppet 2019. I think I was in my best shape, and with last year fresh in mind, I was going for the podium for the first time in my career. But all Team Kaffebryggeriet athletes chose completely wrong skis, and I quit the race after 60k.” 

How and where will be your summer training? 

“I like to train a lot in the summer, and this year’s summer will be no different. I hope to be able to train between 95 and 120h every month until December, maybe a little less in August when there are lots of rollerski competitions. In terms of training, 50% will be double-poling, 30% will be cycling, and 20% running. And 0-2 hard sessions a week, depending on how many hours I train. I like to train in cycles of 28 days: 3* 7 days training + 1 day rest. And then 4-5 days with a maximum of one-hour training a day. So, I have between 5 and 7 rest days in a month and have had it like this for the last two years.” 

“In the summer, I spend most of my time with Team Kaffebryggeriet in Lillehammer, the whole team lives within a radius of 100m, so it is easy to train together. And also spend maybe 5-6 weeks in the north where my family lives. “

What advice would you give younger athletes looking to perform well in long-distance skiing? 

“I think the most important thing is that you find motivation in exercising and developing yourself. I think it is wise to train a lot for yourself in the starting phase. Long-distance skiing is, as the name says, a long distance where it is about being patient over time. So, when you reach a level where you stop evolving, you can seek out new environments to get better. Either by training differently than you have done before or seek out better athletes than you and try to follow them.” 

Finally, what are your ambitions for next season?

“Easily said, I’ll give it an honest try on one of the bibs. And hope to be able to win one of the races next year.”

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