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From Ely to the World Cup

Julie Kern, Jessie Diggins, Erin Bianco, Sammy Smith, Rosie Brennan

Bianco skis in Europe,  will be part of U.S. team  in Canada, Minneapolis

by Tom Coombe

A fall cut short part of Erin Bianco’s experience in the World Cup skiing races in Europe, but there’s much more to come for the 25-year-old Ely native.

Bianco, who skis professionally for a Montana-based team, qualified to represent the United States at a pair of World Cup events in January - one in Germany and another in Switzerland.

She took 30th at a sprint race in Germany but a fall in a relay race knocked her out of the sprints that were held Jan. 26-28 at Goms, Switzerland.

Yet Bianco, who won a state championship while skiing for Ely’s high school Nordic Wolves in 2017, is set to compete again for the United States at two upcoming events.

Those are in Canmore, Canada, from Feb. 9-13, and then back in Minnesota - at Theodore Wirth Park Feb. 17-18.

Bianco qualified for the World Cup based on her performance in a 1.5-kilometer sprint competition at the U.S. Cross Country Skiing Nationals, held in January at Soldier Hollow, Utah.

That led to the trip to Europe, a spot with United States team and even rooming in Switzerland with United States Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins.

Bianco said she went into  her first sprint race with a simple goal.

“I was hoping I didn’t get last,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Bianco surprised even herself, competing against top international skiers from Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy and elsewhere.

“The top 30 qualify and I was 35th and less than a second (away from qualifying),” said Bianco. “I was very shocked with that. I kind of went in hoping I didn’t get last.”

The following weekend it was on to Switzerland and some untimely circumstances sidelined the former Timberwolf.

“I was put in a four-by-five kilometer relay and with the altitude it was tough adjusting and I got dizzy and had a fall and didn’t finish the leg,” said Bianco. “Due to medical staff they said I couldn’t race the sprint.”

Bianco has since recovered and was back in Montana this week, prepping for the upcoming World Cup event in Canada, in the province of Alberta.

In 2023, Bianco joined the professional Bridger Ski Foundation, based out of Bozeman, Mont.

“I’m on the BSF pro team and represent the United States in the World Cup,” said Bianco. “There’s like a national team and then they take skiers from different professional teams.”

Bianco was an NCAA national qualifier for Colby College in Maine, where she graduated with a sociology degree.

But that work is on hold for now as she pursues professional skiing, and potentially, a spot on the Olympic team in two years.

“The Olympics are in two years and I definitely want to ski again next year,” she said. “Most skiers take it year by year and if they feel burned out or how their body is feeling.  I’m playing it year to year. I really want to ski next year and if I ski the year after that it would be really special to make an Olympic team.”

Bianco’s parents, Joe and Mary Bianco of Ely, trekked to Europe for the World Cup events and other family members including Erin’s sister Amy were also in attendance.

The cheering section could be even larger in North America, particularly for the upcoming event in Minneapolis.

Bianco said she was also buoyed by long distance support.

“It was really cool to get a lot of messages from people back home in Ely,” said Bianco. “It definitely helps to get that support.”

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