Never judge a book by its cover. That’s what Seth Crocker, 18, of Little Falls learned after he met World Cup skier Matt Liebsch at a ski store in the Twin Cities.
“When I first met him, I just thought he was an ordinary salesman,” Crocker said.
That was until Crocker’s Nordic ski coach, Joe Dunaisky at the Little Falls Community High School (LFCHS), told him that Liebsch was the “fastest, non-Olympic, distance Nordic skier in the United States,” Crocker said.
Since then, Crocker has learned a lot from Liebsch — from ski lessons to taking the time to enjoy life.
Recently, Crocker traveled with Liebsch and several others to the Beckie Scott High Altitude Training Center by the Haig Glacier in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. That’s also where the Canadian national ski team trains, Crocker said.
For the last seven years, Liebsch has brought groups to the center to train. The idea was birthed after he visited Haig Glacier in 2009 with his training partner, Olympian Brian Gregg.
“I had so much fun on that trip and it’s such a beautiful place. Bringing groups was kind of my excuse to go back there,” Liebsch said.
Because there is a 45 minute hike from the training center up the Haig Glacier and they train for three to six hours, Liebsch is very particular about who he brings.
“I generally bring people that want to get better at skiing. To partake in camp you have to have a minimum fitness level and Seth definitely made that,” Liebsch said.
Even though the Crocker family skied for fun, it wasn’t until Crocker watched his older brother, Ethan, ski with the LFCHS cross country ski team that he decided to pursue it.
“Ethan entered in several cross country races. It made me want to join the team, too,” Crocker said.
Two years later, Crocker joined the team when he was in seventh grade. It wasn’t until a year later that he put more effort into the sport.
“There were mainly two reasons I put more effort into it. I wanted to make it on the section team and I also wanted to beat my brother,” Crocker said.
Although Crocker didn’t beat Ethan’s time that year, he did the following year by a few seconds.
“Even though we were on the same team and strived to do our very best, we still competed against each other because we are brothers,” Crocker said.
Traveling to Canada to train was quite expensive. Crocker is thankful to his parents, Tim and Kathy, for helping him making it reality.
“They thought that it would be a good life experience for me. Ethan had also already gone to Oregon to ski in the mountains there,” Crocker said.
It was from Liebsch Crocker learned to stay in the present and to focus on what’s around him.
“You have to enjoy the journey. Don’t just focus on training. It’s not about the destination, but about the journey there,” Crocker said.
Another thing Crocker learned from Liebsch was to truly enjoy the scenery, nature and animals.
“You have to realize you’re not the only one on Earth, that there is nature and animals and that what we do affects both,” Crocker said.
Crocker also learned the importance of taking time away from work to simply enjoy life.
“Just take the time to live, to do something you enjoy, even if it means giving up watching TV or giving up something else,” Crocker said.
Each morning was welcomed with the group having a hearty breakfast. The group then hiked to Haig Glacier where they skied for about three hours. They returned to the training center in time for lunch. The afternoons were reserved for some rest time and for strength training.
Since Liebsch often filmed the group members, the evenings were spent reviewing the video.
“It helped us identify areas where we could improve,” Crocker said.
During his time in the Canadian Rockies, Crocker learned how important a good posture is in skiing.
“If your posture is poor, you will ski slower and less efficiently,” Crocker said.
“He skis very well. For his age, he has a very good technique. He’s very passionate about the sport, learns fast and is advancing quickly,” Liebsch said.
Liebsch competed in the World Cup in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016. He’s considering a try at qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics.