Something unique is happening in Bend, Oregon this week.
No, not the mere existence of multiple kilometers of groomed trails in May, though that certainly plays a big part. For the first time in recent memory, four North American national teams will be training on the same trails at the same time for their first official camps of the summer. Athletes started arriving this week, and will be in Bend for the next ten days or so for the rare spring skiing that Bend has to offer.
The U.S. Ski Team and Canadian National Ski Team will both be there, and have worked together in Oregon before. But the addition of the US and Canadian biathlon teams to the mix of skiers on Mt. Bachelor’s trails will be new, and the coaches of all four groups are looking forward to the prospect of getting quality on-snow training in for their athletes and the opportunities to collaborate while doing so.
Joint workouts will more than likely come together on the fly, but the presence of four groups will give each team more than one training partner to choose from on any given day. The two cross-country teams will likely ski together — the same goes for athletes of each nationality, whether biathlete or nordic skier — and the US and Canadian biathletes will have the chance to train together as well.
From the two American teams, skiing together in Bend will be a continuation of a training relationship that began in Lake Placid, NY last summer.
“In Lake Placid last year, our athletes really liked being able to ski with other people than they normally do,” said US biathlon head coach Per Nilsson.
The American biathletes have never done official training in Bend before, and like all the athletes planning on attending this May, are looking to put in high volume on snow in the mornings while also taking advantage of Bend’s dryland opportunities for the second workout of the day.
“It’s probably the best environment for spring training — not so long a drive to the snow, not so high, and you can do afternoon workouts with super conditions there also,” said Nilsson.
There is no shooting range in Bend, so the biathletes will not be bringing their rifles with them. Since the team just finished a shooting camp in Lake Placid, the time on snow is Nilsson’s primary focus.
For the USST, which is currently finishing up testing in Park City, Utah, “it’s kind of a no-brainer to go out there,” said head coach Chris Grover.
The workouts the various teams will do together hasn’t been exactly pinned down yet, but Grover expected the collaboration to be established day-to-day.
“The biathletes have goals they want to accomplish; we have goals we want to accomplish; the Canadians have their own set of goals… There’s a ton of moving pieces,” said Grover.
From the Canadian ski team’s perspective, the Bend camp is important largely because it presents an opportunity to work with American skiers.
As he recently explained, CNST head coach Justin Wadsworth views the chance for the Canadian women to ski with the Americans as crucial, which they will do in Bend and on Eagle Glacier in Alaska later this summer.
“Our national team is quite small,” said Wadsworth. “We’re just three women, and we want to make sure they have as many opportunities to train…in group situations as possible.”
Training camps are a balancing act between meeting the needs of the team, taking advantage of group training, and achieving the goals of each individual skier, he continued.
“Of course you can’t always do everything somebody else is doing in their training plan, otherwise you’re not really meeting the needs of your individual athletes, but in a lot of the camp situations, I think we can attain both.”
In addition to working with the USST, Wadsworth is planning to coordinate some workouts with the Canadian biathlon team. The two groups have teamed up together before, but this is one of the first official camps that overlap for both teams.
“It’s great…they did some double-poling workouts with us last year, and I thought that was really good,” said Wadsworth.
The Canadian biathletes have previously trained at Whistler and around Canmore, BC in late May, but decided to come to Bend this year for the joint attraction of the snow and the new training partners.
“Since all the Canadian and US teams are going to Bend this year we thought it would be a nice change in training venue doing some workouts with other teams,” said Canadian biathlon coach Matthias Ahrens.
Ahrens also plans to incorporate mountain biking around Bend into their afternoon workouts.
With 483 inches of snowfall received this season, the camp promises to provide worthwhile skiing for all four teams. Wadsworth took a family vacation in Bend this month, and as of early May was still experiencing powder days.
“There’s still, like, 120 inches of snow pack on the ground,” said Wadsworth. “Snow will not be an issue.”
Alex Matthews and Chelsea Little contributed reporting.
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Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.