Much has been said of the tight-knit dynamic of the U.S. Ski Team. Whether it’s the closeness of its members or the fun-filled atmosphere created by athletes and coaches, the Americans are often seen as the perfect example of a well functioning team.
However, this recognition is more-often-than-not attributed to the women’s side of the team. Maybe it’s due to the small number of males on the actual U.S. Ski Team or their contained demeanors, but the U.S. men do not have the same reputation as their female counterparts.
The recent camp on Alaska’s Eagle Glacier underscores how wrong appearances can be.
The joint U.S. Ski Team and Alaska Pacific University on-snow camp was held on the glacier from July 21 to July 26 and included the five U.S. Ski Team Athletes: Noah Hoffman, Andy Newell, Simi Hamilton, Erik Bjornsen, and Ben Saxton. APU skiers Reese Hanneman, David Norris, Lex Treinen, Tyler Kornfied, Eric Packer, and Scott Patterson were also in attendance along with APU training partners Tucker McCrerey, Kyle Bratrud and Brian Gregg.
The group of fourteen skiers, who make up some of the best athletes in the U.S., used their talents to not only improve each other’s skiing but also to create a more cohesive environment for male cross country skiers in America.
“It’s not too often that we can get all the best male skiers in the country together for two weeks of training sessions so it was pretty unique and we took advantage of it by skiing a log of big hours but also pushing each other,” wrote Newell in an email to FasterSkier.
He continued, saying it’s hard not to grow close when you are living with 18 guys under one small roof.
Hanneman agreed, writing, “This camp was pretty unique in that it put the best American male skiers all together on snow together during the heart of the training year. That never happens.”
By all accounts the camp went very smoothly and athletes were able to get in roughly 25 to 27 hours of training in during the six days they spent on the glacier.
The week on Eagle Glacier marked the second week of the joint USST/APU men’s camp in Alaska. Previously the men had been training in Anchorage while the women were on the glacier.
According to U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover, on-snow camp was intended to be one of the year’s biggest training weeks for many athletes in attendance. In addition to the large volume of training, Grover said there were two other goals to the camp from his perspective.
The first was maintaining on-snow technique, which is often easy to lose during several months of rollerskiing.
“This is a critical camp in terms of adjusting technique mid-summer,” Grover wrote in an email. “We won’t be back on snow for a few months now so this was an important camp for touching base with good skiing,”
Hoffman felt the camp helped him do just that. The on-snow training allowed him to shift technique changes he made on rollerskis this spring and summer to his actual skiing.
The second goal of the camp was to hold several workouts in which the men could push each other to their limits. One such workout was a sprint simulation on a course modeled after the 2015 World Championship course in Falun, Sweden.
For Hamilton the soft, warm conditions helped him work on weaknesses he experienced in last year’s World Cup season. In addition, he felt the group training aided him in his tactical skiing, whether it was for sprinting or distance.
“We did a lot of group workouts – both distance skis and interval sessions – and to re-familiarize yourself with skiing fast in big, tight packs is always a great thing to do in the summer,” Hamilton wrote. “Whether it’s a sprint heat or mass start distance race on the World Cup, being comfortable with skiing in a tight pack of guys is a really important thing.”
Overall the camp was a huge success for both the U.S. Ski Team and APU skiers. However, there was a small mishap that ended the camp early for one APU athlete.
During one of the group sprint workouts, Hanneman tripped and suffered a concussion after slamming his head into the snow. The 2014 classic sprint national champion left the camp to ensure there hadn’t been any further damage, and while he was cleared to return to training Hanneman opted to not return to the glacier.
See Hanneman’s fall in his Instagram post documenting the accident (story continues below):
View this post on Instagram
DONG!!! My head was a bell, and it just got rung!!! I went down hard in this sprint workout with the US Olympic Sprinters @andynewellskier @simihamilton and @ebjornsen1991 on Eagle Glacier last week. – thanks to @usskiteam (C.Grover, J.Cork) for the video. #langrenn @alpineairalaska @thealaskalife @fischersports_alpine @swix_sport #five2falun #falun2015 @oakley
While the camp was an opportunity to increase fitness and improve technique, it also served as a time for few laughs.
According to several of the camp’s attendees, the comedic highlight of the camp was finding a vintage VHS tape filmed primarily by Kikkan Randall at the 2001 World Junior Championships in Poland.
“It was absolutely hilarious to witness what was regarded as ‘cool’ back then,” said Hamilton. “And of course seeing what people like Kikkan, Andy, Eric Strabel, and Colin Rodgers looked like 13 years ago gave us some pretty big laughs.”
Apparently Randall also had a weakness for the Norwegian men’s team at the time.
“We cracked up at Kikkan and her female teammates commenting on the looks of all the male athletes passing by in the race. Kikkan really liked the Norwegians,” Hofmann added.
The camp is now over and its attendees have left feeling both tired and accomplished. Not only did they make several big steps forward to achieving their personal goals, they also demonstrated that the American men can be just as cohesive as the women; which can only mean good things for the future of the U.S. Ski Team.
“Between my APU team-mates and the US Ski Team guys, I believe this is the group that, for the most part, is going to represent the US in international competition for the next few years,” said Hanneman.
Check out video footage of the camp from Newell and a photo gallery of the camp from Newell and Hamilton below.
Newell’s Eagle Glacier camp video, Alaska XC with Andy Newell:
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.