(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Canadian coach Ivan Babikov on his team’s recent camp in Park City, Utah.)
Two days after Andy Newell and Erika Flowers tied the knot in Bozeman, Mont., seven members of the men’s U.S. Ski Team and eight U.S. women’s team members jumped into an intensity training block at their respective dryland camps in Park City, Utah, and the Methow Valley in northern Washington.
The 10-day camps were scheduled simultaneously from June 26-July 5 to accommodate the wedding. Newell is a longtime U.S. Ski Team (USST) member and teammates with Flowers on the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team out of Stratton, Vt. Because several national-team members ventured to Bozeman (Flowers’s hometown) to watch them say “I do,” the USST coaches decided to reduce travel and keep their squads together out west.
“We wanted to capture the men in the Intermountain West immediately following Andy Newell’s wedding in Bozeman, and therefore reduce the overall travel load for athletes who were already coming to the West from the East or Alaska,” head coach Chris Grover explained in an email.
The men based themselves in Midway, Utah, about 1,500 feet lower in elevation than Park City and 1,000 feet lower than Deer Valley, where they typically reside for summer and fall camps. Grover explained that this was by design, “because of the shorter duration of the camp (i.e. too short to create a meaningful stay at altitude), the focus on specific intensity workouts, and the benefits of quicker recovery at lower altitude,” he wrote.
Staying closer to the Soldier Hollow training venue was also ideal for the men’s team’s “PyeongChang-specific workouts”, Grover explained, including sessions focused on the freestyle team sprint, classic sprint and 4 x 10-kilometer relay, which will be contested at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Newell, Simi Hamilton, Erik Bjornsen, Scott Patterson, Paddy Caldwell, Ian Torchia, and Ben Saxton attended and worked with coaches Jason Cork, Pat O’Brien, Grover, and U.S. Ski & Snowboard Strength and Conditioning Coach Tschana Schiller.
“The men did a great job of bringing heightened focus and effort to these key intensity workouts and we are grateful to the staff at Soldier Hollow for preparing the track for us,” Grover wrote. “Overall, it was a very productive camp and I think sent the men into the main summer preparation period with important areas to work on, a good gauge of fitness, and a further understanding of what skills need to be developed for the WC [World Cup] season and for PyeongChang.”
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Meanwhile, the U.S. women tried a new camp in the Methow Valley, home of current national-team members Sadie and Erik Bjornsen. The athletes themselves dubbed it the “CAGS Camp“, which U.S. women’s coach Matt Whitcomb explained stood for “a secret and mildly inappropriate team acronym that pokes fun at girls being girls. Sophie had hats made for the camp that she handed out at the airport when everyone arrived.”
All kidding aside, the goal of the camp was to be small and intensity focused, “with eight days of training and hard intervals every other day,” Whitcomb wrote in an email. “It’s an unusual setup for our team as we usually run joint camps with the men, but both enjoyed the simplicity of having such small training groups.
“We chose the Methow in part because it is where Sadie and Erik Bjornsen grew up, but also because we could get close to sea-level to maximize our hard efforts,” he added. “Another draw was that Pete Dickenson, one of our team physical therapists, was able to provide great treatment all week. Winthrop PT & Fitness sponsored our strength sessions, which meant we didn’t have to drive very far to get strong.”
Like Grover, Whitcomb used the word “ideal” to describe the Methow as a training site, yet emphasized that the community that hosted them was “even more incredible.”
“A local couple gave us their two cabins in a location as beautiful as we’ve seen anywhere in the world,” he wrote. “The chance to meet Olympians Laura McCabe (’94, ’98) and Leslie Hall (’88, ’92, ’94) was an important experience for the team. We owe them special thanks not for just guiding us to their favorite training spots, but for helping pave the early path for elite women’s skiing.”
The women’s team, which included Sadie Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan, Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins, Katharine Ogden, Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargent, and Liz Stephen, spent one afternoon working with with the Methow Valley Nordic Team, which McCabe and Hall both coach.
“We invited a handful of their top athletes to join our bounding and ski walking sessions, and were encouraged by their technique and fitness, but also their love for the sport,” Whitcomb wrote. “They are doing a good job up there. I don’t know what the future holds for us regarding camp locations, but the Methow Valley will be considered as a great option moving forward. Thanks to so many people for making it happen.”
Women’s team staff included Whitcomb, Tim Baucom and physical therapist Pete Dickenson.
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Cross Country Canada also recently finished up a two-week camp in Park City (June 26-July 11) with its entire men’s World Cup team — Alex Harvey, Len Valjas, Devon Kershaw, Jess Cockney, Knute Johnsgaard, and Graeme Killick — and U25 national-team member Julien Locke. Co-World Cup coaches Ivan Babikov and Louis Bouchard accompanied the team for the duration, and Joel Jaques joined for the first week.
While Park City has become an annual staple for the Canadian team, Babikov explained that this was their first time there in the summer, as opposed to the fall.
“We love the area and training there. … It was pretty hot but we managed,” he wrote. “The main goal was a big training volume/hours at the altitude. We were planing on doing a time trial at the SoHo but it got closed for those dates so we ended up doing intensity down in Salt Lake instead.
It was a great camp for all the guys, everyone feels good and no injuries on the team.”