Just over two weeks ago, the Canadian men’s cross-country ski team made the long journey to New Zealand in search of some low-altitude, on-snow volume training. According to head coach Justin Wadsworth, they planned to work on intensity and climbing steep hills.
That was the plan, and after checking in with Wadsworth before the team left for home on Wednesday, he wrote in an email that all went well. In fact, he described the camp as excellent.
“Overall we are ahead in every aspect from where we were last year,” Wadsworth wrote. “So I’m very pleased.”
While the four World Cup teammates — Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov and Lenny Valjas — put in some long days at the Snow Farm near Wanaka, they also had some fun. The team posted a YouTube video called, “Snow Farm – New Zealand – August 2012” to sum up their time there, which was mostly a laughing matter.
In one scene, the four men stand stand on a treeless trail high above the landscape while taking a break during training. Valjas looks to his left.
“Pop questions for our teammate Ivan Babikov,” he says.
“Hey Babs, what’s your spirit animal?” Kershaw chimes in.
Babikov laughs. “Unicorn?”
The camera pans to Harvey: “Hey Babs, can you explain why we see the moon and the sun at the same time?”
Babikov pauses. “We’re way down deep south. That’s why.”
They all laughed, and then it was probably back to training. At least that’s what the videos shows. But between jumping out to scare Kershaw at surprising moments and doing penguin-like belly slides on skis, the Canadian men did have a productive camp. Wadsworth pointed out the quality of a couple speed sessions and hefty amount of technique work.
“Maybe one of the best days was a crust cruise up to the top of the Pisa Range [the plateau where the Snow Farm is located] on a bluebird day,” he wrote.
Snow conditions were good despite a thin snow year, he added. The team has also never skied in New Zealand this late in the season (they typically travel there about two weeks earlier in August for the Winter Games NZ races with other international skiers).
“Really the only hitch was 2 of the 4 guys got a 24 hour flu,” Wadsworth wrote about Harvey and Babikov’s illness about halfway through the camp. “This happened on the morning of the classic time trial we had planned, so we had to move things around a bit, Alex and Ivan bounced back quickly and even though they were rooming with Devon and Lenny the flu didn’t spread.”
Asked how he was feeling, Harvey responded in an email from the airport that he was doing well.
“I’m coming out of the camp not really tired,” he wrote. “It’s hard to know what [the sickness] was exactly. … It was quick but pretty intense. Probably something we caught down in town, in Wanaka. I was able to ski twice the next day so I didn’t loose any training really. I just ended up skipping a rest day later in the camp.”
Harvey added that having the camp a bit later gave them more time to enjoy summer back in Canada. Once they arrived in New Zealand, he said the conditions were still good, just a bit more spring-like.
“But there was never a day were we couldn’t ski because of the weather, which is pretty good for the Snow Farm,” he wrote. “We usually get one or two days were we can’t ski up there so we were lucky this time.”
Just like other team training camps, Harvey focused on completing hard-intensity workouts with his teammates.
“The training camps are the only time I do Level 4 intensity in the summer so it’s good to be with the boys to do that,” he wrote. “We also worked a lot on technique, classic, skating, uphills, flats. Trying to improve a bit on all aspects. I feel like I was able to put a lot of hours on snow, maintain the strength training while doing 4 solid hard intensity sessions and training kind of at altitude.”
(Harvey trains at sea level near Quebec City and could feel the difference at the Snow Farm’s elevation at 1,500 meters.)
“I’m coming out of the camp fitter and faster that’s for sure,” he added. “I feel like the camp didn’t take too much out of me so I should ba able to get two more solid weeks of training before our next camp in Park City, Utah (from Sept. 23-Oct. 4).”
As for highlights, Harvey picked out three:
“1. The weather allowed us to ski everyday if we wanted to.
2. Settlers of Catan. It’s ‘The Game that Defines our Generation!’
3. Devon’s beard and hair combo. Skyping with my mom, she asked why he tried to look like a hobo and said that he’s a ‘complete disaster.’ “
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.