The Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) escaped Canada for their second training camp of the year – to the islands of Hawaii.
“When we came out of the Haig Glacier last year, about a year ago exactly, it was pouring rain, we had been snowshoeing out for numerous hours, and people were kicking around other places to train at this time of year,” said Head Coach Justin Wadsworth in a recent interview with FasterSkier.
Somehow Hawaii came up, and Wadsworth promised that if the team could collectively produce more than four World Cup podiums, they would have a camp on the islands.
By the end of the season, the team had produced six, including a gold medal in the team sprint at World Championships, and in turn, Wadsworth delivered, getting them out of “monsoon June,” in Canmore, as several local athletes have nicknamed it.
True to form, the entire time the team was in Hawaii, Canmore was rainy and cold. Wadsworth said escaping Canmore to train elsewhere had been really good, as “the athletes like it, the pavement is great, and the weather has been good.”
For the Canadians, the main goal of the camp was to get some high-quality altitude training.
The athletes stayed at high altitude on Mt. Halaekala, a volcano on the island of Maui, and were doing a lot of long rollerskiing and running workouts, as well as working on efficiency at high altitude.
“We’re working on nailing the same technique for a long period of time,” said Wadsworth.
The Canadians were able to rollerski from the town of Paia, at sea level, up to around 7,000 feet, where the park officials asked them to shelve rollerskis in favour of running or biking the rest of the way up to 10,000 feet.
If you think the Canadians were vacationing in cushy style, think again. Gaining 10,000 vertical feet in a day is a serious workout – Wadsworth said that the long grinding uphill workouts took around four hours to complete. Additionally, the athletes were camping high on the volcano, and were put through 30-hour training weeks.
However, Wadsworth did allow them to come down and sample some of the things Hawaii is more known for: on rest days and evenings, they managed to surf and hit the beach.
But they didn’t have a ton of time – over the course of the first 10 days of the camp, the team had one rest day, and “really good, really hard intensity and strength training.”
Wadsworth described the entire team as “excited and motivated” by the new terrain and location.
“The quality of camp that you just couldn’t get anywhere else because of the intangibles,” he said. “It’s easily one of the best camps we’ve ever had.”
While the team usually trains at the Beckie Scott High-Performance Training Center, at the Haig Glacier just outside of Canmore, at this time of year, Wadsworth said that financially the Hawaii camp was not a major difference.
The team reduced costs by camping, found cheap flights, and overall Wadsworth said he felt they were receiving plenty bang for their buck.
“Our objectives were to have a high altitude training site with good rollerskiing, running, and biking,” he said, “and Hawaii was one of the only places we could have it.”
Wadsworth also mentioned the number of professional athletes who choose Hawaii as a training location, including Canadian cyclist Ryder Hjesdal, downhill skiers Julia Mancuso and Aksel Lund Svindal, as well as plenty of elite triathletes.
The entire team was present at the camp, with the notable exception of Dasha Gaiazova.
“Dasha has been excluded from the World Cup Team training camps at this time, and is currently pursuing alternative training options,” said Wadsworth.
“We expect to have Dasha’s training program finalized over the next couple of weeks.”
Wadsworth declined to comment further on the situation.
The camp wrapped up last weekend, when the team flew back to Canmore for a little time at home.
And what is Wadsworth going to use for motivation next year?
“I’ve told them, next year they need 10 podiums if we’re even going to consider coming back,” he said.