USST J2 Camp Recap by Gavin Hess

FasterSkierAugust 14, 2011

Gavin was an automatic qualifier to the camp by competing at Junior Nationals and finishing the week being ranked in the top 20 in the country. Opportunities such as qualification to the USST J2 camp is yet another reason competing at Junior Nationals is such a significant part of an athletes development. Below is his recap of his week at camp.

Day 1. Monday, 8/1 As many of you know, I qualified this winter at Junior Nationals for the National J2 Talent ID Camp, which was held last week in Sun Valley, Idaho. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. It all started Monday August 1st in the Rochester airport at about 5:30 am. Said goodbye to my parents and headed into a long day of travel, alone. Flying alone was an interesting experience that took a ton of independence, but it was a lot more fun once I met up with a few friends from New England in Chicago. Anyways, once we arrived in Boise, we met up with one of our coaches, Eric Pepper, who drove our group, about 8 of us up to Sun Valley, a long yet beautiful drive. Now I’ve never been out west before, and the mountains are absolutely massive compared to anything back here. Once we arrived in Sun Valley we got the chance to set down our carry-ons in our rooms and change into running clothes to head up the ski mountain for an “easy 30 minute jog to loosen up the legs”. This turned into a 1:05 run/walk with about 2,500 ft elevation gain. Ouch…. It was however a ton of fun, we made it about 3/4 of the way up Bald Mtn, which is the ski area we were staying at the base of. Anyways once we got back both my roommates had arrived, Logan, a High Plains skier, and Pete, a Great Lakes kid who was a blistering fast Mountain biker. We divided the 3 beds in our room, I ended up on a pullout couch but with my own separate room and got myself unpacked. We went to dinner and little did I know, but I was in for some slave labor afterwards. They had hired and flown in a chef for this camp who has worked with alot of ski clubs and cooks at West Yellowstone in the fall every year (Stay at the Days Inn!!!). He was awesome, best camp food I could imagine, however it meant the athletes were on clean up duty and I was the only person in my group who they caught to work that night. Anyways, that was miserable. We had a presentation later that night with some basic camp overviews and a very basic classic technique.

Day 2 Tuesday, 8/2 Ill try and keep today a little shorter. Anyways, we started off bright and early with a 2 hr distance classic session, we did some technique drills and really emphasized getting our hips and whole bodies up and forward in the double pole motion. Even so far as adding a jump at the top of the motion. Then we headed out on the beautiful bike paths of Sun Valley and skied for another 1.5 hrs. Although the pace wasn’t high (Hint: These kids know how to ski in Zone 1) it put me into a ton of trouble. I figured out later what the issue really was, altitude, and i suffered with it until like Thursday/Friday. In the afternoon we did the obligatory Canadian Strength assessment. Which went miserably once again. Nothing too interesting today though as everyone was still kinda settling in and getting to know eachother. This test was performed in the SVSEF (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) training facility, one of the most cobbled together, yet well thought out and comprehensive facilities I have ever seen. It was pretty awesome. Now is the time to ask Jason why RNR cant have one of those… :). Our nightly presentation was done by SVSEF head coach, Rick Kapala and was on the topic of “learning to learn” he gave us some really great insights and a good base of literally how to go about the process of learning and achieving greatness. It was really cool.

Day 3 Wednesday, 8/3 Today we headed out even earlier to the SVSEF Training facility which was on a beautiful trail head to do the Harper’s Hill Climb uphill TT. Went into this with lowered expectation after my strength test failure, but also looking to redeem myself and as Reed told me, all of Mid-a. No pressure though… Anyways, got a time of 15:21, not too bad, however I later found out I was beat by a few kids who I dominated at the Eastern REG back in June. Still wondering whats wrong with me. That afternoon we had another tough workout with a skate distance session that had 3 repeats of 15 minutes just skiing then 15 minutes in the agility course they had set up. The agility was a ton of fun, it started with a sprint then went into circles and slalom and some of road skiing (Swayze?). The skiing was still rough due to the altitude, however the agility was great fun! Tonight we had a presentation by Janice from NENSA on nutrition, she stresses the importance of whole foods in the diet and gave us a good overview of our nutritional needs as skiers.


Day 4 Thursday, 8/4 Today we started the morning off with a 2 hr classic session on “Something” Cloud. An empty housing development, except this one was on the side of a “small” mountain. We did lots of those chalk like run-bound on ski’s drills, and had tons of coaches analyzing technique from the side of the road and also singling us out from the group to give us some individual work. I made huge improvements in my double pole today thanks mostly to one of the coaches, a Middlebury skier named Chase. This was a great workout and I was starting to feel a lot better and my heart rates were finally normalizing. That afternoon I made my first journey into Ketchum, the town in Sun Valley, what a cool place, I swear every block had at least one bike/ski/outdoor store. It was amazing, along with the all organic, crazy expensive Atkinson’s Market!!! My new favorite grocery store. That night, we went to the Ketchum Community School, a pretty cool school as far as they go, and did some plyometric activities in their athletic fields. Arguably the hardest workout of the camp, we had some warm up activities for 15 min, then 15 minutes of absolutely grueling, leg busting plyo’s that had us jumping and squating and bounding all over the place. Then we played flag tag and stretched out, which was loads of fun, for 30 minutes after. Words cannot describe the pain of those middle 15 minutes. Tonight Brian Fish did a presentation building off of REG that was kind of a closure to goal setting and the mental aspects of not only skiing, but life in general, just applied to skiing specifically. We also were graced by the presence of Chris Grover who talked after the presentation and also, anonymously watched our agility session yesterday, that was really awesome.

Day 5 Friday, 8/5 This morning we went to a smaller local ski area, Dollar Mountain (I don’t think passes cost a dollar, it looked very nice) to do some moosehuffs bounding intervals. For those that dont know, moosehuffs are a Norwegian style interval in which the terrain dictates the interval, best done on a hilly rolling trail, you do the uphills in zone 3, and recover SLIGHTLY when the road turns down. The coaches had set us up a course zig-zagging the side of the hill with one long climb at the end before looping back around. I ended up feeling great and doing the max amount of time, 25 minutes of “on time” before finishing my workout. Brian Fish, the USST development coach really helped me with my bounding today. Really awesome intervals, Peter’s favorites! Again I went into town to explore a little today, then headed off to the SVSEF “hut” for some yoga with the women of the camp, and me. The yoga was as always really great as I was starting to fatigue a bunch and that along with later events really gave me a second wind to finish the camp off strong. These later events were the hot springs. aka the grossest smelling, dirtiest water I’ve ever been in, but dear god was it hot. And just next to it was a river of freshly melted snow coming down the mountains, some of the clearest crispest, also coldest water Ive ever been in. A newly acquired friend that week Tyler, from SMS (check out his videos at and I decided to do some ice bathing. I must say my legs have never felt quite so refreshed after some time in both the hot and cold.

Day 6 Saturday, 8/6 We started the morning with a Skate session in the same “Something” Cloud development (White Cloud?) again, 2 hrs, and again, lots of technique work. Janice Sibilia, the head NENSA coordinator spent a ton of time working with my V1 technique, which little did I know was pretty horrible by their standards. Again it was a good ski and I was able to stay in zone 1 without much of an issue while keeping up with the fastest kids in the country. Later that day we did a 1:10 strength session, with 4×15 minute circuits up in that awesome training facility I was talking about earlier. Put out 309 watts on the erg! As a cyclist I always find interesting. On a humbling note, Simi Hamilton (USST b-team) has the record on that specific machine at 700 and something crazy that could probably power all of Ketchum… I was surprisingly un-sore after this workout and everyone else confirmed the same feelings although I know for sure we worked realllyy hard throughout the session. Tonight we had another presentation by Brian Fish of the USST about the development pipeline and kind of where our paths could lead us in this sport if that’s what we choose to set our goals to.

Day 7 Sunday, 8/7 Last day of training, which was pretty sad. But also something to look forward to because it was EPIC. 3 hour, 11 mile, 3,500+ ft of vertical on the mountain trails through the area. We set a very easy pace and walked most of the uphill sections, then the last half hour or so some of the faster kids dropped the hammer which led to my demise. I was happy with that however as that was the longest run I’d ever done and it was down to about 10 kids ahead of me, many of which were top High School runners in their areas (the other 30 had shortened their journeys at various cutoff points throughout the course. No shame in that, this was TOUGH! We ice bathed again in the creek at the trail head (We finished at SVSEF, did i mention trails will take you EVERYWHERE in this place?) then we headed home for the day. A few kids headed to the skate park, on rollerskis. That was pretty spectacular, they got those things rolling around and up in the air like you wouldnt believe, I think Tyler has some videos of that up too. We finished the evening with one last presentation by Brian Fish and Rick Kapala, then got on to the moment I had been waiting for, the NCCSEF contest winners! I won a Bjorn Dahlie USST Jacket, which is admitedly a little big, however I discovered it fits perfect if i wear 2-3 jackets under it. Along with a nice box of Toko waxes. That was pretty awesome! Thanks again to everyone who voted I really appreciate the help. Reed Deserves an especially big shout out for all his help, he had people legitimately angry for his persistant bothering about the voting (No Marty, an intervention was not necessary), also Jason did a ton of spamming and emailing around to help get the word out, along with lots of others, the list would be too long, but thanks to everyone!

Day 8 We woke up really early, spent a few hours in the Boise airport, flights got delayed in Chicago, arrived home at 1:30 am. 5 hours of sleep later, 3 hour ski. Life is great.

Two things I think deserve mentioning- Altitude, Hopefully everyone in this program will be racing at altitude in 2012, JN’s will be held at Soldier Hollow which is about 5,000 ft. Sun Valley I was living at about 6,000 ft. So the altitude is definitely going to play a huge role in your success at JN’s this year. A few hot points, first, drink tons, I was on the bottle of water an hour plan the first 4 days and even after that still drank a lot more than usual. Second, recover right and come into it well rested, the first few days are hell. Another thing that was somewhat subtle due to the buffet like nature of the week was that the body is burning a ton more that usual just laying around, so eating more food can be super beneficial. It was good to get some experience and I kept a detailed account of how i felt so I can formulate a plan for Soldier Hollow (ill be there a ton in the next few years; JN’s 2012 then Nationals 2013 and 2014). It takes experience and that’s one reason the camp was held at altitude this year was to help gain that experience. Also I feel like superman now that I’m home! Coaching, Can you imagine having 20-30 coaches like Jason watching your every move during every workout you did for a week? That is a good comparison to what this camp was like, the coaches were just assigned a point in the loop we were training on and would constantly be watching, taking notes, and stopping people to have them work at their technique. I made the biggest technique gains I have made since last October when Reed and Dylan first took me out rollerskiing. It was amazing the attention to detail and how much care every one of these coaches put into their work. Remember though, we have that two days a week here, Jason and Roger are on the same level as many of these coaches and everything they have told me is consistent with what I heard at camp so just remember to continue to use that resource to your advantage as much as possible because its a privilege not many clubs have. -Gavin


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