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The Making Of The Cross-Country Ski Team’s “Uptown Funk” Music Video

By Peggy Shinn | Feb. 20, 2015, 11:33 a.m. (ET)

There is no “i” in team. But there is definitely some uptown funk.

The U.S. cross-country ski team released its latest music video — to the tune of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” which features Bruno Mars — the day before the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships opened in Falun, Sweden. And it went viral.

Less than two days since the U.S. ski team posted it on Facebook, the video was viewed more than 800,000 times. On YouTube, the 4-minute-long video received almost 25,000 views in the first 24 hours.

“We’ve never had that kind of traction on a video,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s vice president of communications Tom Kelly via email.

The team started making the video three weeks ago. But the idea was hatched two years ago. Before the 2013 world championships, the team filmed a music video to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Mostly, various team members lip-synched to the song.

“Everyone loved it and texted feedback from back home, ‘You have to make another video,’” reported Jessie Diggins, who won the team sprint world title that year with Kikkan Randall.

The team wanted to create another music video before the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games but never had the time. This year, Diggins began planning early.

After a former strength coach showed Liz Stephen a video that his daughter had made dancing to “Uptown Funk,” the team decided that had to be the song.

Then Diggins went to work on choreography. Calling upon her decade of dance lessons at Woodbury Dance Center in Minnesota, the 23-year-old cross-country skier created a learn-to-dance video for her less rhythmically inclined teammates. Everyone was game, she reported, even the shyest people on the team.

“It was so cool to see them get confident, then put some sass into the dance,” she said.

They practiced whenever and wherever they could — especially in hotel hallways, with only one reported accident. An unnamed teammate accidentally punched another unnamed teammate when his/her arm flung out.

“People would be running into each other after the spins,” said Diggins. “That just made it funny because it was just like figuratively and literally bringing the team really close together.”

And it wasn’t just the skiers participating. The whole team took part, including coaches and support staff. The moonwalker in the opening scene? She’s a team physical therapist.

Simi Hamilton and Andy Newell, who started X Ski Films over a decade ago, produced it.

As for Diggins’ favorite scene, wait until the end. The team filmed the final scenes in Falun’s shopping district. Dressed in their stars-and-stripes race suits, they resemble a flash mob dancing in the narrow cobblestone street.

“They were filming us and taking photos and gawking,” said Diggins with a laugh. “It made it fun. It made the video feel really legit. We caused a total scene.”

Was Diggins surprised that the team’s “Uptown Funk” went viral?

“I was kind of shocked how many people wanted to watch it,” she said. “It was really cool because it’s a great time to get people psyched about cross-country skiing and following the sport because that was part of the idea of the video.”

And it’s not just people back home who are watching. Her fellow competitors are also tapping their feet to the beat.

Mostly, though, making the video was a team-building project.

“We love the sport,” Diggins said. “But we also love doing it together.”

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008. 

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Jessie Diggins

Cross-Country Skiing