In the months following its first camp of the year in Bend, Ore., the U.S. Ski Team (USST) has several new training destinations planned along with its old standbys: the men and women will split up and head to Alaska, Sweden, Austria and Germany over the course of the summer. And for the first time since its first trip to New Zealand 10 years ago, the Snow Farm is completely off the schedule.
The women’s summer begins in familiar territory: the “North American Women’s Training Alliance” will coalesce once again for a June camp in Anchorage, Alaska. The Americans, Canadians and an unnamed European guest will take advantage of Eagle Glacier for quality time on American snow.
August brings a new training opportunity for most of the women: they’ll jet off to Scandinavia where they have a joint camp planned with the Swedish women. Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen both did a tour of Sweden last summer with their host Anna Haag, but with the rest of their teammates along for the ride this time, what began as a friendship between Haag and the Americans has turned into a full-scale, two-week training period in Salem and Torsby for each team’s full roster.
A collaborative camp on this level between the U.S. and a European national team is unprecedented, at least in USST head coach Chris Grover’s memory. The idea was discussed in January in the midst of the Tour de Ski, when Swedish women’s coach Rickard Grip cited Randall’s skate technique and the value of exposure to a non-Scandinavian approach to skiing among the benefits to training with the Americans.
The results the U.S. women posted on the World Cup this winter played no small role, either.
“I think because of the women’s team making a big step forward and having World Cup contenders, that becomes more attractive to a team like the Swedes than perhaps it was before,” said Grover.
“I’m psyched it’s coming to fruition.”
While the American women are in Sweden, the men will be in central Europe — first to Ramsau, Austria, home of the Dachstein glacier, and then on to Oberhof, Germany to use the indoor ski hall.
The traditional New Zealand trip, which has been a staple of the USST’s summer training in some capacity since 2002, is off the schedule this year. The Southern Hemisphere is simply too far and too expensive for it to make sense any more.
“It was tough to pull away from because it’s such fantastic conditions, great living, and such a solid camp,” said Grover.
Besides airfare more than doubling in recent years, Grover added that the lengthy travel and 16-hour time zone adjustment (from EDT) made the Snow Farm a less practical option. Europe is a cheaper flight and only six hours ahead of the eastern U.S.
“We talked for a while about going to Europe, and we felt it was time to do something different,” said Grover. “And it would be a little easier on our budget as well.”
Dachstein is a mecca for nordic skiers year-round, and in the summer is frequented by European clubs and national teams. Grover wasn’t sure who else would be in Ramsau in August, but knew the Norwegian men would be in Oberhof for the tail end of the USST’s camp there.
“We may look for opportunities to schedule workouts with the Norwegians if it’s possible, but we have nothing planned at this time,” he said.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.