Burke Academy in Sweden: the Tunnel and the Oktober Sprinten

FasterSkierOctober 26, 2007

Burke Mountain Academy’s Nordic squad is settling back into the routine of school after returning from ten days of training and the season’s first race in Torsby and Mora, Sweden.

Burke’s schedule is laid out in blocks of academic time interspersed with periods of training time that are long enough to take advantage of training opportunities in other parts of the country or the world. The Fortum Tunnel in Torsby had been getting great reviews by national teams from Scandinavia and Europe. A training block was on the schedule for October this year, so we designed a 12-day camp that centered around time in the tunnel and dry-land training on the roller ski track and in the woods and bogs near Torsby, finishing with the season opening October Sprint in Mora.

We lost two days at the beginning due to delayed flights and lost luggage, but then settled into a comfortable training regimen and balanced tunnel time with time in the outdoors. We shared a private hour and a half in the tunnel with the Norwegian Junior National Team on one morning and enjoyed watching the US sprinters, Andy Newell and Torin Koos, go through their paces as they tuned up for this coming weekend’s race in Dusseldorf. The overall quality of the skiers that are training in the tunnel is inspirational in itself; mostly young, and from clubs and ski gymnasiums, these kids are focused on going fast, and on making the most out of their time on snow.

We found it good to spend time out-of-doors. We were lucky to have a couple of Swedish kids offer to guide a trail run, and for the chance to do one of the favorite roller ski time trials of the local gang…a route laid out by the Fredriksson brothers when they were students at Torsby. A favorite (dry-land? Not.) training session of our gang was a game of “Bog Ball”; speed ball played in a peat bog. Spongy, wet and deep in places, the bogs are the location of choice for intervals in Scandinavia. Two thirty-minute halves of “Bog Ball,” and then a relay race that sucked people into the muck just out of reach of the tag, made for a fun and tough workout.

Our quarters were in the new and very pleasant Valbergsangen Sporthotell which lies in walking distance from the tunnel and in easy reach of the trails and the roller ski loops. Two-a-day workouts were the rule, and it was nice to be right on scene. Waxing for the tunnel was easy, but the snow is abrasive so one has to wax more often than expected. We rented a wax cabin for the week just outside the tunnel and it was good to have that convenience for storing gear. The tunnel’s terrain is remarkably good, with two 10-meter vertical climbs and some twisting high-speed corners. The whole thing is two-way traffic with parallel skate lanes in the middle and well-cut single tracks down each side. It is a wonderful facility for technique and video work, and for short interval training. All in all a terrific tool.

On our last morning we piled into the vans for the two hour drive to Mora, famous in the ski world for being the finish line of the Vasaloppet. The “Oktober Sprinten” is an annual affair taking place on a 1.3 K ribbon of snow laid down on the local trails. Snow has been kept under piles of wood chips since last season, and then spread out to provide the venue for the Swedish season opener. The races were well attended, and the US sprinters Andy and Torin were among several top seniors. The junior field was impressive as well with at least four world junior medalists on the line. On snow that was surprisingly good, and a course that was surprisingly tough and challenging, the whole show went off as smoothly as though they had just hosted a race the day before. Our only qualifier was assistant coach Carina Hamel, but the rest of the team all put in a good show. There were broken poles, and maybe a little lack of focus here and there…pretty exciting to be there at all…but it was a real race and a chance to run the engine, take some knocks, learn some things…all in October!

A lot of “Thank You’s” need to go out: to our chef extraordinaire, Lolly Garrec; to our guide and the provider of fresh moose steak and chanterelle mushrooms, Jonas Adolfsson; our wax man and agent on the ground, Eric Nilsson; the Liljemarks and the crew at Valbergsangen; and the Morells at Hotel Ornen. It was a great camp. We’ll definitely go back.


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