One of the most successful men on the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Team last season, Lt. Dan Cnossen cut right to the chase when asked about his training this summer and fall.
“I think we’re going to find out real quick when I go up against the Russians,” Cnossen responded in a phone interview before the first International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, from Dec. 9 to 17.
According to U.S. Paralympics High Performance Director John Farra, Cnossen, originally from Topeka, Kansas, is relatively new to the sport. He joined the team after the 2010 Winter Paralympics, and in the three years since he’s been living and training in Winter Park, Colo., Cnossen has risen to lead the U.S. men’s sit-ski team.
“He trains unbelievably professionally,” Farra said. “He really puts everything into it.”
A Navy SEAL who lost both his legs in an Afghanistan explosion in 2009, the first day he was promoted to lieutenant, Cnossen, 33, has full use of his core.
“He is a ‘V’ cut, super-strong … looking guy,” Farra said.
This summer, he ventured down to Argentina to train and race the 21-kilometer Marchablanca and 42 k Ushuaia Loppet. “That trip really reinvigorated my training,” Cnossen said.
Skiing on snow is important to Cnossen, because he describes his mountain board (a sit skier’s equivalent to rollerskis) as a “strength machine.”
“It’s very hard to work my cardio on it because it doesn’t roll very fast,” he said.
Using prosthetic legs, Cnossen has devised other ways to raise his heart rate.
“You do what you can, and for me, I was a big runner before my injury,” he said. “I’m very lucky that I can do it, and I’m really lucky that I can walk too. ”
He mostly runs 5- and 10-k races, which helps with his nordic training.
“Plus, running gives me a chance to rest my shoulders,” he said.
Cnossen is testing in a new custom sit ski this year, a lighter model that he hopes will help him ski faster.
“It’s a really important part of the sport; you have to be comfortable, you have to be well secured … not only for power transfer, but for ski control,” he said. “I found a group of engineers who were willing to work with me and they’ve done a great job.”
Summing up his thoughts about the season ahead, Cnossen said he was confident in his skiing abilities.
“I’m hoping I’m a little better tactician,” he said. “I know I’m stronger physically this year and I have better equipment so it will be exciting to see how I end up on the results list.”
In terms of tactics, he said he needs to work on sprinting.
“I try to be a sponge,” he said. “Since this is only my third year, every time I go to a World Cup I try to watch the Russians and the athletes from other countries. I watch what lines they take. Are they in the track are they out of the track? Their rhythm of double poling, the nuances of ski handling. I hope it pays off.”
Also a biathlete who’s tweaked his training, Cnossen predicts improvement there as well.
“I think you’ll see some improved hit rates,” he said. “I knew the first couple of years, even if I shot perfectly I wouldn’t ski fast enough, no where near it. First and foremost, I thought the strength and conditioning would take the longest to develop. I have a background in shooting and I can tweak that in a relatively short amount of time compared to how long it would take do develop the strength to conditioning to be fast enough to keep up with the top guys.”
What: IPC World Cup at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta
IPC Cross Country World Cup
- December 9 10:00am Men’s 10km/Women’s 5km Skate
- December 10 11:00am Sprint Classic (Heats start at 12:00)
- December 12 10:00am Men’s 20km/Women’s 15km Classic
IPC Biathlon World Cup
- December 14 10:00 Biathlon Sprint
- December 15 10:00 Biathlon Middle Distance
- December 17 10:00 Biathlon Long Distance
FasterSkier’s Para-Nordic contributor, Mark Vosburgh lives in Missoula, Mont., where he works as a Wildfire Scientist for the US Forest Service. In addition to being a chemical engineer, Mark is a cross-country and backcountry skier, bluegrass musician, and biker. He’s also a freelance writer for numerous publications including for 48 Degrees North and MakeitMissoula.com.