The US Ski team is midway through an on-snow training camp on the Olympic trails in the Callaghan Valley. Running from April 30th to May 12th, the main purpose of the camp is to allow the athletes to become intimately familiar with the entire Olympic venue. This includes working on specific techniques for the courses.
From a training standpoint, the team is primarily skiing easy distance in the mornings and resting or dryland training in the afternoons. US sprinter Andy Newell told FasterSkier, “we're starting off the training year more aggressively than we have in the past so we're going to try and put in some 20+ hour weeks but without getting too carried away. Intensity is not a focus of the camp but since we are at the Olympic venue it's good to hammer around the race trails whenever possible so we have some harder workouts too.”
Adds Head Coach Pete Vordenberg, “This camp isn't as tough as the following camps will be only because it is early, but hours will range from upper teens to mid twenties, mostly skiing, some running, some weights, some ski touring, mountain biking for some. Mostly easy skiing to moderate skiing with technique emphasis but also some specific and tough workouts.”
And while it may seem unusual to be back on snow so soon, the Americans are not the only ones taking advantage of the excellent skiing in the Callaghan Valley, The Norweigan team left just before the US arrived, and the Canadian team and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation squad are currently there.
Newell and teammate Kris Freeman are both ready to go after a few weeks off following the conclusion of the 07/08 season. “I'm feeling rested and ready to dive into a tough year of training,” said Newell. “I took pretty much two full weeks off from training after the end of the racing season. One of those was in Park City so I did a little skiing, and the other was on a surf trip so I stayed pretty active during that time. I think it's really good to get out of the competition scene for a little bit each spring and relax and hang out for a few weeks, but also do things like surfing or skateboarding and stuff so I don't get out of shape. After the two weeks I went back to Park City and gradually got back into training and going to the gym. The start of the training year was on April 28th and I started off with rolling skiing intervals, so we're hitting it pretty hard right from the get go.”
After struggling with illness for significant parts of the past season, Freeman is feeling 100%. “I took all of April extremely easy. It was very restful and I feel totally healthy and am in a good place to start the training year.”
Vordenberg noted the importance of being recovered before jumping back in to the training cycle, but also stressed the need to avoid losing ground during the rest phase – “When it comes to recovering after the season you need to rest enough physically and mentally to start training well again just like any training block, but you can't slip backward and lose gains made the previous year. Starting at ground zero every spring makes it very hard to make any progress from year-to-year.
The camp featured a full sprint competition, complete with qualifying round – an opportunity to race the Olympic sprint course. Said Newell, “it was a really good chance to see how the course skied. It was a sick day too,icy and fast but really warm out. By the end we were all racing with our shirts off and some people went down… It was pretty nasty, I lost some skin.”
Kris Freeman sporting his new Omnipod insulin pump.
In addition to the sprint, some of the women's distance team skied a 5km classic race, and a sprint relay is scheduled for later in the week. The skiing has been excellent with over a meter of snow on the ground and freezing temperatures every night. Some of the team took advantage of the conditions to mix things up a bit and get some distance in the form of alpine touring – climbing and descending 4300 feet on Whistler mountain, hitting perfect corn snow for most of the descent.
Concludes Vordenberg, “The courses here are beautiful, as is the venue. John Aalberg and his staff have done a really good job, and we're having a great camp.”
Zach Caldwell supplied the photos – all from the sprint competition (with the exception of the above photo of Kris).
Qualifying and the first head to head heat were run on skate skis double-poling. Here's Newell on his way to winning qualifying.