Sophia Laukli celebrates after winning a women’s 10-kilometer mass start freestyle race during the Tour de Ski at Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Jan. 7. Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press

When the rest of the competition was fighting fatigue, skier Sophia Laukli was hitting her stride.

Laukli, a Yarmouth native who represented the United States at the 2022 Winter Olympics, showed off her hill-climbing ability in the final stage of the Tour de Ski cross-country race at Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Jan. 7.

She powered past the competition for her first victory on the World Cup tour, winning the women’s 10-kilometer mass start freestyle race in 38 minutes, 16.5 seconds – 17.1 seconds ahead of Heidi Weng of Norway.

At 23, Laukli became the youngest American and first Mainer to win a World Cup cross-country ski race.

“It really couldn’t have gone any better,” Laukli said via phone from Oslo, Norway, her home while she competes on the World Cup tour as a member of Team USA. “It took a second to soak in that I’d won. … I definitely just like climbing. It’s pure fitness and endurance, and less technical and tactics. Everyone else finds it the hardest race, but for me, I love it.”

The cross-country ski course at Val di Fiemme has the toughest climb on the World Cup tour and plays to Laukli’s strengths. It’s where she earned her first World Cup podium, finishing third in the same event last year. She placed fifth in the same race in 2022.


Laukli described the final 4-kilometer climb as similar in steepness to a World Cup Alpine skiing course, only she and her fellow racers go uphill. The climb comes at the conclusion of the race. Feeling good, Laukli said she made her move with 400 to 500 meters left.

“I kind of realized the person in front of me (Weng) was getting tired, and I was feeling better and better,” Laukli said. “I had the sense that I had a little more energy than her.”

The cross-country ski course at Val di Fiemme has the toughest climb on the World Cup tour, which plays to Sophia Laukli’s strengths. She said she made her move with 400 to 500 meters left in the race to win by 17.1 seconds. Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press

Matt Whitcomb, Team USA’s cross-country head coach, said the work Laukli put in during offseason training is apparent, especially in her strong finish at Val di Fiemme. Laukli has taken up trail running, competing in the Golden Trail World Series circuit in Europe. In August, she won the Sierre-Zinal, a 31-kilometer mountain race in Switzerland.

“Notably, Sophia is now a top-10 contender in all skate (distance) races, and a top-20 contender is all classic (distance) races,” Whitcomb said. “That should make for exciting Tour de Skis in years to come.”

The World Cup cross-country tour, organized by the International Ski Federation, features the world’s top male and female Nordic skiers. The season runs from November to March, with most races held in Europe.

Laukli, who made her debut on the tour in January 2021, sits in 22nd place among women in the World Cup standings. That places her third among American skiers, behind Jessie Diggins (No. 1) and Rosie Brennan (No. 3). The victory helped increase Laukli’s World Cup prize money for the season to approximately $13,500, far more than she earned during her previous three seasons on the tour.



Bob Morse, who coached Nordic skiing at Yarmouth High for 48 years before retiring in 2018, isn’t surprised his former skier earned her first World Cup win at Val di Fiemme.

“She’s a climber. That is her strength, and it always has been,” Morse said. “She has tremendous balance on her skis. Combine that with her physical fitness, and that’s a course she would excel on. … Now she has a target on her back.”

For Laukli, the World Cup victory is another step in a skiing career in which she’s already hit major milestones.

Sophia Laukli trained at the Pineland Farms Nordic Center in New Gloucester while competing in Nordic skiing for Yarmouth High. She was the Varsity Maine Girls’ Skier of the Year as a senior in 2018. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Selected as the Varsity Maine Girls’ Skier of the Year as a Yarmouth High senior in 2018, Laukli went on to a strong collegiate career, first at Middlebury, then at the University of Utah, where she won the NCAA title in the 15-kilometer freestyle in 2022. She was a two-time All-American and helped the Utes win a fourth straight national championship in 2023.

At age 21, she earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2022, then placed 15th in the 30-kilometer freestyle in Beijing. The biggest thing Laukli took from the Olympic experience is the knowledge that she can compete among the world’s best skiers.


“It’s pretty shocking to me that I went to the Olympics. No part of me had my heart set on the Olympics, then I was there,” Laukli said. “The fact that I’m here (on the World Cup circuit) is pretty cool. The last two years, I’ve realized how much I want to go (to the Olympics) again.”


The next Winter Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 6-22, 2026, in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Last March, Laukli placed fourth in the 5-kilometer freestyle at the U.S. National Championships at Lake Placid, New York, and third in the 20-kilometer classic race. Her victory in Italy was Laukli’s second top-10 finish this season on the World Cup tour. She also was a member of the U.S. relay team that took third place in a 4×7.5-kilometer relay at Gallivare, Sweden, in December.

Laukli said her goals for the World Cup season began with a focus on skiing with more consistency. As she’s done that, Laukli has turned her focus to performance goals.

“Now I can actually fight for positioning,” she said. “That makes it easier to race.”


Laukli’s next World Cup competition is this weekend at Oberhof, Germany, followed by races at Goms, Switzerland, on Jan. 26-28. After a week off, the tour comes to North America, with racing at Canmore, Alberta, on Feb. 9-13, and Minneapolis on Feb. 17-18. The Minneapolis event is the World Cup’s first U.S. stop since 2001, when it came to Soldier Hollow, Utah. Laukli and her teammates have had the Minneapolis races circled on their calendars for a while.

“It’s exciting for all us Americans to actually race on home ground,” Laukli said.

Whitcomb said he wanted Laukli to rest the week after her victory in Italy and prepare for the second half of the season, with the goal of skiing her best at Canmore and Minneapolis.

“We have a big show to put on in North America, and we think Sophia will be a major force in the distance races,” Whitcomb said.

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