There have been a few changes on the U.S. Ski Team (USST) this year, to say the least. It’s bigger. It’s younger. And with two new athlete-driven social media campaigns launched this summer—the Women’s Video Contest and, more recently, the Men’s Training Challenge—it is making the effort to also be more connected with its fans.
The Men’s Training Challenge, or “Man Up Week,” invited skiers across the country to virtually join in with the USST’s lastest training camp in Park City, UT. Members of the men’s team posted daily videos explaining each of their workouts so that anyone could replicate them.
Participants were encouraged to upload photos and videos of their progress to the US Ski Team XC Men’s Facebook page, with prizes given away throughout the week. Submissions ranged from serious training photos to one eight-minute Rocky IV spoof from a group of masters skiers in Peru, NY.
The brains behind the challenge was USST veteran Andy Newell, who also produces cross-country ski videos as the founder of X Ski Films. “Over the years I’ve always tried to give back to the ski community,” said Newell. “It’s always been a goal of mine to encourage people to get involved with the sport. With social media now it’s definitely a lot easier.”
Given the USST’s diminished budget this year, he also believes that it’s more important than ever.
In addition to generating interest for the sport, one of the goals of the project was to educate skiers, particularly juniors, about what it takes to be one of the best athletes in the country. The challenge provided a week-in-the-life glimpse into what a hard training week looks like for a USST athlete.
For Development Team rookie Skyler Davis, the hope was that the challenge would make younger skiers realize that top-level training is not impossible. The 19-year-old from Jericho, VT said that the men’s USST created their Facebook page while in New Zealand this August to update fans on their daily progress. The training challenge further developed that goal.
“We wanted to show people that it’s hard, but doable,” he said.
For Newell and Davis, the challenge was also an excuse to stay connected with their teammates on a daily basis. The fellow Vermonters didn’t attend the USST camp in Park City, choosing to remain in the East rather than disrupt their training with travel so close to the start of the season.
While the geographically diverse team normally touches base weekly about training progress, for the first full week of October they were communicating every day to plan video posting responsibilities. Just knowing exactly what his teammates were doing was a big motivator for Newell.
“It was cool for me to be training here in Vermont, knowing that the Park City guys were doing the same thing,” he said. “We were still pushing ourselves.”
As this was their first attempt at something like the training challenge, Newell said he and his teammates didn’t really have any expectations as to the number of responses they’d get. But between the internal team-building benefit and generating excitement for the sport, he said he wants to do similar projects in the future.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.