SHAFTSBURY, Vt. – Andy Newell had been home in southern Vermont for just about a week – and he hadn’t had a ton of free time between pre-dawn photo shoots with Karhu and Craft two hours away in Hanover, N.H., and training.
The U.S. Ski Team veteran went to his high-school reunion in Stratton, Vt., watched Ziggy Marley in concert and soaked up the sights of the town’s Wanderlust Festival. Yet for a guy that lives in an assortment of European hotels at least five months of the year, the pace of Shaftsbury seemed just right for the 27-year-old World Cup skier.
After a four-hour rollerski in nearby upstate New York, Newell and his Stratton Mountain School (SMS) teammates returned to his house to a lunch spread of tuna salad, deli meat, bread, fruit, nuts and homemade cookie bars set out by his father, David.
Around the same time, his mother, Carol, walked in after completing the Vermont Sun Triathlon that morning. Three seconds short of placing third in her age group, she was a little disappointed, but greeted her guests with interest and enthusiasm. Her husband checked in with everybody, then resumed his yard work.
FasterSkier caught up with Newell on June 24, about a week after he started training with the new SMS elite squad, known as the T2 Team.
After working with the U.S. Ski Team (USST) in the spring – first at a May training camp in Bend, Ore., and then in Park City, Utah, for altitude training and testing, Newell said he’d be in Vermont for most of July. There, he’d work with his five Stratton teammates (Skyler Davis, Eric Packer, Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell and Erika Flowers) and new coach, Gus Kaeding, before heading to Austria at the end of the month for a USST on-snow camp.
FasterSkier: What have you been up to since you’ve been home?
Andy Newell: [I] made it back just in time for the Stratton high-school reunion and then started into probably one of the bigger weeks of the year, training 26-27 hours this week [June 17-23], so a lot of volume, which was tough with the heat. We had a few days in the 90s, but we were able to get it done and train basically every day with the Stratton team.
It was fun to jump in with a big week and start training every single day with Gus and Eric [Packer] and have Mikey [Sinnott of Sun Valley] here for a lot of the workouts. It was cool to have everybody together for the first big week of training.
FS: Considering you previously trained at Stratton when you were home with program director Sverre Caldwell, how does this new team change things?
AN: It’s not a ton different. Stratton’s always had a big training group and Sverre meets with us at least three days a week during the summer. Now that we have Gus around and now that we have Soph and Erika and Packer and Skyler, instead of just meeting three days a week with Stratton, we’re meeting basically every single day. It’s a real team atmosphere.
I’m at home now and I drive up 35 minutes or 40 minutes to Stratton, and I do that almost every day. On a day like today, we trained down near my house, which was cool, but there’s so many good training opportunities whether it’s down here or up at Stratton. Instead of doing some of that traveling by myself, now I meet up with the guys and we’ll train together.
FS: You’ve been racing internationally at the highest level for several years. How do you use less-experienced teammates as effective training partners?
AN: Just having anybody there is a benefit really. I know that I have a lot to learn from anybody, too. Just because I have more racing experience than somebody else doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t learn from them on a daily basis.
Eric and Mikey and Skyler … push me really well during a speed workout. Just to have those guys right next to me instead of doing sprints by myself is really helpful.
FS: What’s it like to see the team come to life?
AN: It’s awesome to see it become a reality. We have Diggins on the team and Soph and Erika, myself, Packer and Skyler, so not only did we get the team going but I think we have one of the strongest clubs maybe in the entire country now … as far as how well we can compete both in the U.S. and internationally. I think we did a great job of recruiting skiers and so now our goal is to kind of infiltrate the community and let everyone in southern Vermont know that this team is around. We want to be southern Vermont’s team.
We just want to spread out everywhere so that people all around southern Vermont know that we’re the elite-racing team in the area. We can get a lot of support from them because even though we have some of the best skiers in the country here right now, we still have a ways to go as far as fundraising goes. We need to raise a lot of money basically, between now and the winter, and to keep the program going summer after summer and year after year. The more we can kind of reach out to the people in the area, the better.
[Note: Last week, the T2 Foundation signed on as Stratton’s title sponsor, making it officially the SMS T2 Team.]
FS: How’s training going personally? Have you made any changes?
AN: I’ll change a few things. I trained a lot last year as far as hours and trained a lot on the distance side of things, basically training [as a] pure distance skier and not focusing on the sprinting at all. That’s what I wanted to try last year and I’ll train pretty similar to last year, but I’ll do a little more sprint-specific stuff and slightly more intensity. Last year was such a big volume year. … I’ll be training similar hours, but maybe slightly more intensity and I think that will kind of sharpen me up for the season.
FS: How did you think last season went?
AN: I was in great shape last year during the summer, like racing in New Zealand. I had some great races in New Zealand against Bird [Kris Freeman] and the other Canadian guys. (Newell won the skate sprint and was second in the 15 k classic mass start.)
I was building, building, building and I pushed the volume a little too much in October. Instead of dropping the hours and doing more intensity to kind of sharpen yourself up for the season, I just pushed it too hard so I was flat for the first half of the season. So we’ll learn from that and this year hopefully I’ll push the volume, too, but when it comes to October, November, like when we start to get into the race season, I’ll cut that stuff back and train more like sprint-specific and race-specific.
FS: And Kaeding as your new personal coach is collaborating with USST head coach Chris Grover?
AN: Myself and Grover and Gus kind of come up with the monthly outline and the yearly outline. We decide what we want to get done this year and what we want to get done this month and even down to this week. And then Gus knows what we want to accomplish each week, and we’ll piece together the training days to best fit the Stratton schedule. Gus has a lot to offer as far as working on technique and it’s good to have him there for interval sessions and stuff.
FS: At this point in your career, why did you want to shake things up?
AN: We’re looking at this Stratton program as a long-term type of thing so I think Gus will be around for a while and the Stratton team hopefully will be around for a while. I think we’re going to start to transition to having Gus be more of a full-time coach because we know he’ll be in this area a lot of the time, and it will be easy for me to work with him.
FS: So in late July you’re off to Austria?
AN: I’m here ’til Austria camp, which starts in basically end of July-beginning of August, and we’ll do 2 ½ weeks in Europe training on the [Dachstein] glacier and training in the [Oberhof ski] tunnel [in Germany], and then we’ll be back home through Lake Placid camp [in mid September].
FS: And Packer is going to the glacier with you and the rest of the U.S. men’s team?
FS: You guys will be inseparable by the end of the summer.
AN: Pretty much.