When professional Nordic skier Erika Flowers raced the legendary Run the Rut 50K in 2019 in Big Sky, Montana, she had never run 30 miles before, let alone 30 mountain miles that climb and descend 10,500 feet on steep and technical terrain. She had no expectations and certainly wasn’t expecting a podium. The surprise win began a new chapter of mountain running for the endurance athlete.
In summer 2020, she raced her first event as a professional runner, the Standope 60km, and accidentally added seven miles to a 35-mile course. Next up? Some regional FKTs, the virtual Rut 50km, and some big adventures including running from Bozeman to Yellowstone and running in seven different Montana wilderness study areas leading up to the election.
Erika finds the simplicity of mountain running appealing. “Your feet can take you to some incredible places that few have the chance to experience,” she says. “There's also something so empowering about it—that feeling when you’re breathing hard and your legs are burning but you're flying up or down a ridgeline surrounded by incredible views.”
Born in Missoula and raised in Bozeman, Erika began cross-country skiing first with her late Swedish mother, and then with the Bridger Ski Foundation. She started racing and fell in love with the competition and comradery. Her work ethic emerged early—she remembers writing her own training plan (running around the block and doing jumps in her driveway) when she was 13 years old. She credits the team aspect of Nordic skiing for impacting her development as an athlete and as a human being. After attending Dartmouth College where she was a three-time NCAA All-American, Erika joined Stratton Mountain School’s Elite T2 Team, a unique program in Vermont that attracts some of the world’s best Nordic skiers. For six years, Erika raced around the world, representing the U.S. at World Cup Finals, reaching the SuperTour podium 16 times and finishing fourth overall in the 2017-‘18 season.
When Erika didn’t make the 2018 Olympic Team, she left Vermont and returned home to Bozeman with her husband, Olympic Nordic skier Andy Newell. She transitioned from full-time athlete to a Director at Bozeman’s Profitable Ideas Exchange, where she facilitates peer-to-peer interactions with senior executives for companies like Oracle and IBM. But she didn’t hang up her skis. In fact, she raced to one of her career best seasons. In the office, she appreciates the same thing she enjoyed as an elite Nordic skier—interpersonal interaction.
In fact, mountain running is also one of Erika’s favorite things to do with friends. “When you go out for a mountain adventure you have no idea how the day will unfold—what you will see, how you feel, etc.,” she says. “Some of my favorite memories are adventures in the mountains with people I love. Pickles and potato chips at the end of a long run have to be one of the best parts of life.”