In 2005, Fast and Female sprung to life as the brainchild of Chandra Crawford and the Canadian women’s cross-country ski team. The idea: get more girls skiing and help them build confidence in the process. The slogan: Empowerment through sport.
Within two years, Fast and Female events – which included days filled with skiing, yoga and “good eats,” according to the organization’s website – had become so big the nonprofit established a board of directors and continued to expand its reach through regional leaders across Canada. With the help of the U.S. women’s nordic team, movement trickled down into the states and is now a household brand among North American female skiers ages 9-19.
That got the men’s U.S. Ski Team (USST), specifically Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton, thinking: how can we replicate Fast and Female’s success and provide a similar service for young males?
In an email, Newell explained the light bulb came on while training in New Zealand; they’d call it Speed Camp. His goal was to create a new type of clinic that would be exciting for junior boys and help the USST elevate the sport.
“Speed Camp is different than other traditional clinics because it’s specifically designed teach the kids how to move fast and improve their overall athleticism, which will translate over to skiing more comfortably at high speeds,” Newell wrote.
Most importantly, pushing those limits of speed was fun so the kids would likely find it more enjoyable than most practices, explained Newell, one of the world’s top-ranked sprinters.
With the help of the USST and assistant coach Jason Cork, Newell and Hamilton picked a time and place for their inaugural Speed Camp. On Sunday, the same day Fast and Female attracted some local 140 girls to Park City, Utah, the USST hosted its first Speed Camp at Soldier Hollow in nearby Midway with about 15 boys and five instructors (Newell, Hamilton, Cork, Skyler Davis, and Nick Hendrickson) participating.
Newell explained the camp was as “great success” thanks to local coaches that helped spread the word and allowed them to use the paved rollerski track at Soldier Hollow.
“The goal of Speed Camp is definitely to focus on quality and make sure we have one on one interaction with each young skier,” he wrote. “It was a good instructor-to-athletes ratio so that we could really focus on our goals of going fast.”
While the girls attended seminars Sunday from 1-5 p.m., exploring fitness stations, dancing or doing yoga, and making their own tutus, what exactly did the boys do? For a couple hours, World Cup skiers Newell and Hamilton led a dynamic warmup then some fun on rollerskis, with an emphasis on safety, and finished up with a Question and Answer session.
The junior boys practiced high-speed skating and learned techniques for fast cornering, sprint finishes, transition skiing, tucking, drafting, and slingshotting past others, “all types of fun racing techniques they might not be able to learn at their typical ski practice,” Newell explained.
“Distance racing, sprinting, all types of XC skiing require athletes to push high speeds at one point or another and sometimes the best way to learn some if these techniques is from the World Cup skiers themselves,” he wrote.
In an email, Hamilton wrote they couldn’t have asked for better weather or a more enthused group.
“It’s always fun to do things like this with some of your teammates, and I felt like we all contributed a diverse array of technical knowledge,” Hamilton wrote. “I was very impressed to see how much the boys improved throughout each of the drills, and it looked like they were having a great time … especially during some of the friendly head-to-head races we had set up.”
Many might wonder when and where the next Speed Camp will be. With the World Cup season kicking off next month, there won’t be anymore this year with Newell and Hamilton, but they’re focused on continuing it.
The idea is to complement Fast and Female, Hamilton explained. “Give the boys an opportunity to do something fun and valuable!” He hopes they’ll be able to watch it evolve into a program of similar caliber.
“We really admire how that program has grown and we’ve seen firsthand how the hard work from the women on our team and other female athletes throughout North America has been able to shape the lives of young people in great communities,” Hamilton wrote. “I think we were all pretty psyched about how [Speed Camp] turned out and are super amped to continue this momentum for another Speed Camp next year and further into the future.”
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.