Anne Kyllönen is an exemplary skier. The Finnish athlete’s technique – both flawless and efficient – has served as an example for the USST and other American club teams over the 2014 summer to help visualize improvements.
But why watch a video when the real thing can be right in front of you?
Such was the case for Ida Sargent, who had the opportunity to mimic the 2014 Olympic medalist’s technique in-person during the Craftsbury Green Racing Project’s (GRP) training camp in Ramsau, Austria.
This is the first year that GRP has made the summer trip to Austria, and so far the team’s skiers have given the experience rave reviews. While traveling across the globe to find on-snow training opportunities has become a rarity in U.S. skiing in recent years (Noah Hoffman was the sole USST member to make the trip to New Zealand this year), Austria might be closer than it seems.
According to GRP athlete Liz Guiney, it is just as demanding to travel to Europe from the East Coast as it would be to go to Haig or Eagle Glaciers, which are located in Canada and Alaska.
“Once we made it to Munich, it was an easy three hour drive to Ramsau, and we were all set,” Guiney wrote in an email. “Logistically speaking, it makes more sense for our team to come here, because anyone is welcome to use the Dachstein (Glacier) and you don’t have to take a helicopter up there.”
The team arrived in Austria Sept. 8 and will remain until the Sept. 27. The squad of GRP athletes in attendance includes Gordon Vermeer, Pete Hegman, Alex Schulz, Andrew Dougherty, Ethan Dreissigacker, Jake Barton, Mike Gibson, Caitlin Patterson, Kaitlynn Miller, Guniey, USST member Sargent and the coaching staff of Pepa Miloucheva and Nick Brown..
The Dachstein Glacier, which boasts an elevation of 2,800 m, or just under 9,200 ft., is one of several European glaciers that is groomed for off-season skiing. Each year skiers from around the world take advantage of the 9 k of groomed summer trails.
According to Sargent, the glacier’s conditions have been better than expected with hard and fast tracks. Even though the team endured some rain and fog during the camp’s first week, she said the sunny days have been spectacular.
“The skiing conditions have been really good… The past couple days have been those magical days when you have to pinch yourself to see if it is actually real,” she wrote in an email. “It is sunny and warm but the tracks were staying very firm and fast. I didn’t even know that was possible.”
While the afternoons can be too warm for skiing, the team often runs on one of the many trails that take them straight from the door of their house in the Austrian Alps. The lower elevation running also helps diversify their training.
According to Sargent, the main purpose of the Rasmau camp is to implement technique changes made during the summer to on snow skiing. With the Austrain camp, Canmore’s Frozen Thunder, and the start of the World Cup season in November she hopes to eliminate as much off-snow training as possible.
GRP coach Miloucheva explained that partaking in on-snow training for an extended period of time in the summer and fall can aid her athletes in avoiding the technique mistakes of the previous season.
“Back in U.S. we normally have only a few days to a week on snow before we start racing and this isn’t enough, so normally everyone goes straight to same mistakes they did last winter,” she wrote in an email.
Guiney explained that the Rasmau camp helps skiers like herself have a seamless start to the season because it allows for a low-pressure transition from rollerskis to snow.
“That real snow feeling is very hard to replicate, and making technique changes in, say, West Yellowstone, when you also have to prepare to race a few days later, can be challenging,” she said. “This way we can make and implement changes, and it will make the transition to snow in November that much easier.”
GRP isn’t the only team hoping to take advantage of early fall skiing. The Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Estonian, and Japanese national teams have been training alongside the American team – an experience that has proven to be extremely valuable for some of GRP’s athletes.
“It’s really inspirational to share a training venue with the best skiers in the world; technique lessons are just a matter of looking around you or hopping in behind someone and hoping they don’t mind,” explained Guiney, who said that she spent time skiing behind both Swedish star Charlotte Kalla and Kyllönen.
Guiney said that one of the highlights of the camp was witnessing GRP skier Andrew Dougherty jump in behind Olympic champion Giorgio Di Centa of Italy.
“Andrew is always wearing hats with pom-poms – it’s kind of his ‘look.’ We always joke that he looks just like Di Centa, and seeing them ski together was priceless,” she said.
Despite the many skiers on the glacier’s trails, Sargent said that space wasn’t an issue. The 26-year-old, who has been regularly skiing with several Swedish and Finnish skiers over the course of the camp, said that it has been great to catch up with friends from the World Cup.
GRP continues its Rasmau training camp until Sept. 27, when it returns to the U.S. for the rest of the fall training season.
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.