Scattered throughout Canada on Sunday, four World Cup team members and their coaching and support staff started their long journey to the land down under – that is, New Zealand.
Alex Harvey ate handmade chocolates and sipped a steamed drink while waiting for his 16-hour flight out of Québec International Airport, then got upgraded to business class, according to Twitter.
Meanwhile, his teammate Devon Kershaw tweeted that he was in coach on another flight, but didn’t mind.
“It’s awesome in the back,” Kershaw wrote. “Middle of the middle for 15 hours #decent?”
As head coach Justin Wadsworth stepped off the plane in Denver and awaited his departure for Los Angeles, he took the time to chat with FasterSkier on the phone. The entire Canadian men’s team – Harvey, Kershaw, Lenny Valjas and Ivan Babikov – will arrive in Queenstown, New Zealand, on Tuesday afternoon. They’ll start training Wednesday and spend about two and a half weeks on snow at the Snow Farm near Wanaka.
FasterSkier: Last year, you timed the trip with the New Zealand Winter Games so your skiers could race at the Snow Farm. Why did you schedule it later this year?
Justin Wadsworth: We have a lot of camps. In the summer, it works out to be almost two weeks out of every month the athletes are in camps. I thought this summer it might be nice to give everyone a six-week period with no camps. That’s basically what we did to try to create more of a stay-at-home and get back into a groove where everybody lives. Our last camp was up on the Haig Glacier, you know, as part of our Hawaii camp. [Note: The men’s team was in Hawaii from mid June to July 4, then skied on the Haig Glacier near Canmore, Alberta, from July 5-9].
It has been a nice break for everybody, including myself, and then it just worked out well. We usually have a two-week break before the Park City altitude camp in September [where both the Canadian men’s and women’s teams will train together in Utah from Sept. 23-Oct. 4].
FS: What are some training goals while in New Zealand?
JW: This is kind of a volume camp. We have other periods where we focus a little bit more on intensity. This one is volume-based and obviously on snow. It’s worked very well in the past few years [at creating a base for really good ski technique and working on climbing. We’ve been rollerskiing a lot and glacier skiing where there’s not a lot of opportunity for super-steep uphill training]. It’s just terrain that’s good to be on for working the steep uphill.
FS: Why else is it important to travel there for snow?
JW: We have opportunities to ski in Canada and right behind Canmore on the glacier, but New Zealand provides us with straight-out-the-door, fairly low altitude, and just really, really good winter snow conditions to train from. I, personally, and I think the athletes really feel like this camp provides them something that a lot of their summer skiing doesn’t.
I know other North Americans are sort of straying away from going there, but … I think it is a super-high value for us to be down there, and it’s worth the trip even though it’s a long trip down there. It’s a really good place to get some quality training in.
[Note: For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. Ski Team will not be training in New Zealand this summer. Head coach Chris Grover cited the steep rise in airfare, lengthy travel and 16-hour time-difference adjustment as reasons for skipping the trip. Instead, the U.S. men recently skied in Austria and Germany, and the women just wrapped up two weeks of training in Sweden.]
FS: Which international skiers will still be at the Snow Farm?
JW: Right now, the Russians are down there and Justyna Kowalczyk and one other male sprinter from Poland [Maciej Kreczmer], and then Kris Freeman and Noah Hoffman [of the U.S. Ski Team] will be down there a little bit later. There’ll be a few other folks there.
FS: Do you plan to coordinate workouts with Freeman and Hoffman?
JW: Hoff gave me an email a couple days ago and asked me what our plan was down there. He said he’d like to at least hook up for some workouts. We’ll probably do a time trial down there so it might be nice to get those guys into that one and probably some intensity with them also. I mean, we’re happy to work with those guys and I’m sure they’ll ski a lot together in the distance workouts. The majority of the sessions down there are distance training.
FS: It seems like the North American women have been pushing particularly hard to train together. How would you describe the relationship between the Canadian and U.S. men?
JW: It’s a little bit different between men and women. I think the social aspect on the women’s side is so much more important, and I think that’s a big difference. It’s not that we don’t want to train with Hoff or Bird, it’s just guys in general do a little bit more on their own. We’re not going to force it, but definitely there will be some company on the long workouts that they’ll be welcome [to join at the Snow Farm]. It will be nice to have those guys there.
FS: Which of your staff members are going?
JW: Myself and [wax tech] Joel Jaques, [team physiotherapist] Shayne Hutchins, and then [men’s assistant coach] Louie Bouchard … so we have a pretty good staff-to-athlete ratio on this one.
FS: Will the training sessions be mostly structured similarly or individually?
JW: Occasionally, we’ll have different workouts, but [at] almost all the camps, guys do all the workouts together. We can vary the length of them and stuff individually, but they do all pretty much the same plan for the camp so it works out really nicely and I think it’s beneficial for all the guys.
You kind of see that now, Lenny’s coming up and I think Ivan’s doing really well right now. He’s focusing on some things for him on the side leading into this period, so I really feel good where he is and where Devon is, and I know Alex is doing well. Everyone’s doing great. They all train together and hopefully push each other a bit when we need to push.
[Note: Kershaw and Babikov have been training together throughout the summer in Canmore. In a recent blog post, Kershaw wrote: “After the momentum we gained during the Maui camp – Ivan and I have been working super well together under the watchful eye of Justin. It’s a different set up with the men and women training separately this year which is a big change, but things with the men’s team seem to be going splendid.”
FS: How are the team dynamics in general?
JW: We separated the men and the women this year and I think that’s been working well. We’re going to get everybody together in Park City. We’ll be doing slightly different things, but we’re going to be sharing some meals and stuff together.
The reports on [women’s national-team members] Chandra [Crawford], Dasha [Gaiazova] and Peri [Jones] have been really good, and the vibe on the guys’ team is always good. I’m feeling really good about how things are, and it’ll be good to get the team together in Park City because we’re going to be spending a lot of time together starting in November. It’s good to make sure we’re all on the same page.
FS: And that camp’s timed slightly before the USST training camp in Park City (from Oct. 8-18)?
JW: It just didn’t work out timing wise because we want to be back up in Canada for Frozen Thunder starting on [October] 15th. We wanted our men and women to be at the Park City camp together. The U.S. women will be in Canmore so that’s kind of the shared time when our ladies can train with their ladies during that period. It’s important to get the team together in Park City just to make sure we don’t lose contact with that.
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.