As U.S. and Canadian national team members continue to log hours this June on snow, asphalt and trails, they have several more training camps on tap for the remainder of the season to look forward to. The first World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland, isn’t until the end of November, but when you start to break down the North American training schedules by camp and month, the offseason suddenly looks much shorter.
The two nations have a history of holding joint camps in the offseason; last month in Bend, Ore., the teams often skied together on rollerskis and on snow at Mt. Bachelor. The teams separated after Bend; the U.S. Ski Team migrated to Park City, Utah, for an altitude camp and series of treadmill tests. Liz Stephen traveled to Norway and Sweden to train with national team members there, and the Canadians split for their respective homes, which for Perianne Jones, Ivan Babikov and Devon Kershaw meant Canmore, Alberta.
For their next training blocks, the U.S. Ski Team and Canadian National Ski Team diverge. The Canadian men and women will be back in Bend in late June for a two-week dryland camp, while the Americans have a month-long block of home-based training to follow Park City.
“By design, we have a really open summer,” said USST head coach Chris Grover. “The idea was to really allow each athlete to build some momentum in their home club environment and home training environment, and to really make some progress with their day-to-day training over the summer. So everyone’s got quality at-home time in the summer, some on-snow opportunity.”
When the training season transitions to fall, U.S. athletes will be together more often than not. “[It is] a little more of an intensive camp schedule once we get into the fall, as the volume drops and we’re typically doing more intensity,” Grover said.
In between now and October, the U.S. men and women each have a separate two-week training camp on the schedule. The women will once again be in Alaska starting in mid-July for a half dryland, half on-snow camp in Anchorage and on Eagle Glacier. In 2012, the women’s Alaska camp included Finnish guest athlete Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, and Grover indicated another guest invitation was currently being finalized.
The U.S. men have a longer break built into their camp schedule, but will travel all the way to the New Zealand’s Snow Farm to return to snow for group training in mid-August. After trying something new with a men’s camp in Ramsau, Austria, and Oberhof, Germany, last year, Grover is returning his team to familiar ground before the Olympics. He says they found the quality of skiing on Dachstein glacier to be inconsistent and the Oberhof ski hall wasn’t suited for long sessions.
“Dachstein in the morning is good, but in the afternoon it’s typically not very good, depending on the weather,” Grover said. “In the ski hall there’s only so much skiing you really want to do on a daily basis inside there.
At the Snow Farm, he says, the snow is more consistent and offers higher quality skiing for longer training sessions. With the Canadian men scheduled to be there at the same time, the location also offers more opportunity for group workouts.
New Zealand also provides the potential for some early head-to-head competition. The New Zealand Winter Games take place there in August and include three FIS races at the Snow Farm. The U.S. will miss the first two races, a 15 k mass start classic and a 10 k individual freestyle, while they fly down, but Grover thinks there is a possibility the U.S. men will jump into the freestyle sprint on August 15 for their second day on snow. Whether they compete or not, he expects the camp to be a quality one.
“New Zealand has been a go-to for us since 2002 and we’ve really come away from it so many times going, ‘That was a really great camp,’ ” Grover said. “We took a look around and tried something different last year, but I think because it’s an Olympic year, we know we can get a ton of great skiing down there and we know we can come away from the camp having had a fantastic camp. It made sense to go back down.”
When fall intensity ramps up the USST will return once again to Lake Placid, N.Y., followed by a return to Park City for another altitude block and a final pre-season camp in Canmore on the stockpiled snow of Frozen Thunder.
“We had a great camp up there last year and I think one of the reasons the team hit the ground running so well in the fall World Cup was because we had that extra eight days of on snow time that we haven’t had in previous years for some of the athletes,” Grover said of Canmore.
After New Zealand, the CNST’s October camp takes them to a new venue: Truckee, Calif., instead of Park City. Women’s coach Eric de Nys explained in an email that they wanted a new location for their October camp.
“We wanted a fresh place to do the training this year and we feel we can achieve our objectives for this camp better in Truckee,” he wrote.
— Alex Matthews contributed reporting.