Champions may be made in the summer, but if Matt Gelso is any proof, they don’t have to be made on rollerskis.
Gelso, the 2010 NCAA champion in the 10 k classic, detests rollerskiing. It’s dangerous, he says, and it can cause compartment syndrome. And it hurts his elbows.
“If there’s one thing that’s going to make me quit skiing, it’s going to be too much rollerskiing in the summer,” Gelso said.
But while collegiate athletes might be able to sneak by without putting in big hours on the roads, Gelso recognizes that to make it at the next level, he’ll need to do more. That’s why he’s opted to join the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s (SVSEF’s) Olympic Development Team for the next year.
“In the summer, I’ve been notoriously unstructured with my training,” Gelso said in an interview Wednesday. “A little bit more structure—especially forcing you to rollerski more—is something that I think is going to be very beneficial, and I like that about Sun Valley.”
After four years at the University of Colorado, Gelso will join a proven program in SVSEF—one that has helped turn out two current U.S. Ski Team (USST) members in Simi Hamilton and Morgan Arritola. But he’s not in too much of a hurry to get there.
The skiing in the Tahoe area, where Gelso lives, is still excellent: he said that he put in three hours on snow on Wednesday morning. And there are also a few triathlons to complete before relocating to Sun Valley later this summer.
With the move, and with a planned increase in training, Gelso said that he’s not betting on immediate success this coming year, though he does mention qualifying for the U-23 Championships and World Championships as potential goals.
After putting in between 500 to 530 hours during each of his four years at Colorado, Gelso is hoping to do at least 600 hours this year—and he knows that he may not be able to adapt immediately to the new setting and the jump in volume.
“Adjusting to that is going to take some energy and time,” he said. “The basic idea is you need to give it a year or two, at least, to get your feet under you.”
Meanwhile, Gelso said that he’s especially excited about the buffet of outdoor opportunities that Idaho has to offer—a big factor in his decision to move there. Rock climbing, kayaking and hiking will keep Gelso occupied during the hours that he’s not spending on rollerskis.
Gelso doesn’t have any big trips planned, although he will travel to the U.S. Ski Team’s (USST’s) National Training Group camp in Park City starting next week. Two other camps with the USST, in Sun Valley and Lake Placid, are also possibilities.
Gelso, a former USST member, was dropped from the team last year along with two other collegiate athletes, which generated no small amount of controversy—especially when USST staff maintained that NCAA programs were not compatible with international success. But despite losing his spot on the national team, Gelso said that he had no regrets about his time at Colorado, citing the high level of support he received when he was competing there.
“The education, the skiing support, trainers, weight room, doctor’s appointments, waxing, traveling—the amount of support that the University of Colorado gave me was incredible…I would absolutely do the same thing [again],” said Gelso.
“As far as the USST, they do their thing,” he said. “They have their program, and I have my program, and when they’re compatible, that’s great. When they’re not, no big deal.”
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.