There’s a video of Dasha Gaiazova floating around the web that opens with the 28-year-old Canadian World Cup Team member doing abdominal rollers with a weighted barbell.
“I am different because I’m happy with myself and proud of what I do,” she begins the narration. “I take my training seriously because I don’t just want to win, I want to race better than anyone else. Now I ski faster and I race smarter. I have confidence to take risks with no hesitation or doubt.”
The video is called ‘Dasha2: It Takes More.’ If you talk to the 2010 Olympian, that’s exactly how she’s approached this season.
After largely training on her own last year, Gaiazova is back in good graces with the Canadian National Ski Team and excited for the season ahead. Instead of living in Banff, about 20 minutes northwest of Canmore, she opted for a change of scenery and moved to Québec to follow an individualized plan while complying with national-team standards.
In doing so, she chose to train with Louis Bouchard, the World Cup men’s assistant coach and head of the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre (CNEPH) in Mont Sainte-Anne. That required a cross-country move and parting ways with Rocky Mountain Racers and its coach, John Jacques.
She also signed on with B2ten in Montreal, splitting her time between sprint and strength work in Québec’s largest city with ski and more sprint training in Mont Sainte-Anne (MSA), about 300 kilometers and a 3 1/2 hour drive northeast.
In a phone interview last week from Banff, where she’s spending a few weeks on snow before heading to Sweden on Nov. 13, Gaiazova said she hadn’t spent more than two weeks in one place since last November.
“It’s the first time I’m trying this and it’s been a nice change,” she said. “I guess I’m at the point in my life and point in my career where it’s working out really well. I’m happy with where I am right now.”
With Bouchard writing and monitoring her training plain, she said it was much more sprint-focused. At the same time, it was difficult to to measure against her progress against previous markers in Banff and Canmore.
“I trained in Canmore for so many years and every hill I know how long it takes me to get to a certain place,” she said. “I can’t tell you exactly where I’m at right now fitness-wise, but I feel pretty confident. I feel like I’ve done a really solid summer of work. I’m just curious to see where I’m going to end up and the changes, how they’re going to translate into ski racing.”
According to Canadian Women’s World Cup Coach Eric de Nys, coaches noted several improvements in Gaiazova’s training throughout the offseason. With the national team based in Canmore, he didn’t see Gaiazova much outside of training camps, but tried to coordinate workouts with her World Cup teammates, Chandra Crawford and Perianne Jones, when possible – especially with Gaiazova around in November.
During the team’s dryland camp last month in Park City, Utah, Gaiazova primarily followed the men’s schedule to address her specific needs.
“We’ve identified some things through tests, Dasha needed to work on some different things than Chandra and Peri,” de Nys said. “I saw her in Park City, and I know her double poling and her movements are looking a lot stronger than in the past at this time of year. … While I haven’t seen a lot of the testing that she’s done out [in Québec], I know talking with Louis that a lot of the things that she’s done in the past that she’s a lot further ahead with time trials and different types of tests, so that was really encouraging.”
After a career-best season with two eighth-place results in World Cup classic sprints, a ninth in a skate sprint and 26th overall sprint ranking, what exactly is Gaizaova hoping to accomplish? She didn’t want to get too specific, but she’s got some races in mind – namely the Canada World Cup sprints and World Championships.
FasterSkier: What are you up to in Banff?
Dasha Gaiazova: Just skiing on snow and training, getting ready, putting finishing touches on my preparation before taking off to Europe. The bulk of the work is done so now it’s getting the feeling back on snow.
FS: Even though you visited this summer, how does it feel to be back?
DG: The community’s great. I have so many friends and supporters and sponsors in the Bow Valley, specifically in Banff and Canmore, and it’s just nice to see everyone and be back here.
It’s a great training venue so I think training wise, it makes sense for me to come back here and train on snow. It’s also nice to go back; Banff is still sort of my home base. I still have an apartment even though I’m renting it for the whole winter because I’ll be racing so much.
FS: How was training with M.S.A. in Québec?
DG: It’s a really nice environment to train in. The coaches are excellent and the training group of the athletes is really good, too. Aside from obviously [World Cup skiers] Alex [Harvey] and Len [Valjas], you’ve got Raphael Couturier, Frédéric Touchette and a lot of really promising up-and-coming girls. It’s a cool group to train with, and I really enjoy spending time in Québec and training with them.
FS: Whom do you train with at B2ten in Montreal?
DG: Sometimes I’m in a group with athletes from other sports and sometimes I’m on my own depending on what I’m doing and what other athletes are doing. It’s never the same; with every workout it’s different. It’s kind of fun that way, too, because sometimes you get to train with somebody from cycling background and somebody from alpine ski background and somebody from swimming background or diving or something else … soccer. It’s really cool to see all the other people training there, too.
FS: Where did you spend most of your time?
DG: This summer I was basically just going continuously between Mont Sainte-Anne and Montreal and coming to Banff once in a while so it was just a repeated circle. It’s hard to tell how much time I spent in each place because it feels like I’m always switching it up. Most of the time it was a week at a place, but never more than two weeks before then I have to go somewhere else (laughs).
FS: How did your training change?
DG: If you look at the overall picture, it’s been a lot more sprint focused. There’s been a lot of things I’m doing more with a clear sprint purpose in mind and I think that’s been the biggest shift. This year, it’s like, let’s focus on one thing and do one thing well.
The whole program, training with Louis Bouchard’s group at Mont Sainte-Anne and B2ten and when I’m with all the national ski team training camps, it was all integrated into working on sprinting and power and speed.
FS: How have all these changes – moving, switching coaches and hammering the sprint training – affected you?
DG: I was thinking a year ago I missed all of the training camps and I was in Banff all summer, and this year is like a 180-degree turn because I’ve done so much with the team and it’s worked so well with everybody on the team and I’m traveling nonstop and it’s working well too. It’s interesting to see how much change there has been, and that’s why I want to get on skis and see how that’s going to translate into ski racing.
FS: What’s changed with the national team?
DG: On the girls team, there’s been a lot of changes. We’ve got a dedicated girls coach [Eric de Nys] and some camps are girls specific so I think the team itself is developing and seeing we need to address some specific needs for the girls and work on that. The team has been changing, for sure, for the better.
FS: Have you missed being in Canmore for some team events, like the Frozen Thunder Classic time trial a couple weekends ago?
DG: It would’ve been really fun to be part of the sprint race, and I talked to the coaches and it just didn’t work out with the scheduling. I said, ‘You know it’s fine, it’s just a sprint race and I have five months of racing ahead of me and I’ll just focus what I’m working on.’ That was the reason I wasn’t there for that sprint race, but it was really cool to follow it because there was so much feedback on Twitter and Facebook and there were live results updating. There was a really cool video … it was really cool to see everyone racing and follow it.
FS: Whom do you train with at CNEPH?
DG: I train with girls, with boys and some workouts I have to do on my own, so it’s a variety of everything. When I go train with the girls I can grab slower rollerskis and they can go on a little faster rollerskis, if it’s a speed workout we get staggered starts. When I train with the boys I do it the other way around. I grab my fast rollerskis and try to hang onto the boys as much as I can, and the boys have been really nice to me about it, and the girls are always thrilled when we can all do our workouts together.
I feel like I’m able to be an inspiration for developing girls. A lot of them are juniors, the youngest one is , Anne-Marie Comeau, so it’s really cool to train with them and provide inspiration. On the other hand, I feel like I’m learning so much from the guys as well.
FS: Do you think you’ll continue training with Bouchard and B2ten in the future?
DG: I don’t really know. I have to see how the winter goes and what comes out of it. I don’t have much time left so I have to make the right decisions. I can’t plan so far in advance. You’ve got to be quick and agile and changing directions and adjusting to situations, but I think for this year it worked really, really well, like incredibly well.
All the summer of training and all the dryland training went really well, and if it all translates into great results, better results and faster performance, then for sure, I think this would be the path for me to follow. It’s easy with cross-country skiing, you get results and a number and you know if you did well or not so I think it will be easy to see the changes.
FS: What are you hoping to accomplish this season?
DG: We’ve got these two weekends of world cups in Canada and one is in Québec and that’s a brand new venue on the circuit, nobody’s raced there before. Two weeks ago, I drove down to Québec City because the sprint is going to be downtown. I had a race profile and I actually jogged and walked the race course, and it looks really fun and I got so excited. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait to ski this.’ It’s gonna be so cool and the venue is incredible, and the people who are organizing the event put on a great show. I’m really looking forward to racing in Québec; it’s a sprint so it’s going to be perfect for me.
Canmore World Cup as well, it’s always such a treat to be back in Canmore and race in front of old friends and supporters and family and all these people who watch us train here actually get to see us race live. That’s an important race for me. And then of course the World Championships, the sprint and the classic, I love classic skiing and I love Italy so it should be a good match for me.
FS: How are you feeling with the season about to start?
DG: Looking back a year ago, there was a lot of doubt and a lot of uncertainty about my season after a not-ideal summer of training and this year I feel like I couldn’t be more prepared. So it’s easy to get excited and it’s just like everything’s been going so well. I can put all my energy into ski racing and just enjoy the ride.
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.