When you train in the same spot for nearly decade, a change in scenery can be an adjustment. Such was the case for the U.S. Ski Team when it was forced to abandon the annual spring training camp in Bend and Mt. Bachelor, Ore., and instead prepare for the upcoming year in Park City, Utah. Despite an unusual amount of rain in the Wasatch Mountains, the National Team’s skiers and coaches took well to the familiar Utah terrain.
USST staff was in communication with Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort in early spring and the word from the slopes wasn’t promising. Organizers reported roughly 20 percent of average snowpack at the time, and the resort eventually made the call to suspend grooming for the late spring months. Although the decision left the USST without a location for on-snow training, it appears Mt. Bahelor made the right call, as its trails were bare come May.
With spring skiing out of the picture, the USST coaches switched the May camp to Park City due to the vast resources available in the area between the Center of Excellence and rollerski trails at Soldier Hollow.
“As disappointing as it was to not be in Mt. Bachelor and Bend, we have the Center of Excellence in Park City so that gives the chance to utilize the full staff there, in terms of sports medicine and sports science team,” USST Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover explained in a phone interview.
Much like previous Bend/Mt. Bachelor spring camps, the 2015 USST gathering focused on the technical aspects of each skier. Through technique work on rollerskis, strength in the gym, VO2 max testing, and general goal-planning, the camp’s purpose was to create a solid platform for athletes to use as they jump into the training season.
Each athlete received physicals from the two main cross country doctors in addition to specialized attention from the sport science and strength departments at the Center of Excellence. Skiers were given individualized programs after the results of body functioning screenings, blood work, body composition tests, and sessions with on-site nutritionists
While there were no reports of major injuries from Utah (such as Sophie Caldwell’s broken elbow from last year’s spring camp), several athletes worked to correct areas of physical weaknesses. “Obviously there are small problems – an achilles here or lower back pain there – so there are chronic issues that everyone is dealing with,” Grover explained. “We use this camp to come up with individual strength, mobility and flexibility programs for each athlete based on what their needs are.”
When it came to actual workouts, the team was forced to abandon traditional Bend programs and adjust to the Utah landscape. Skiers logged many hours in the gym, which Grover said worked in their favor due to frequency of rain. Other workouts included double pole rollerskiing intervals on a gradual incline, threshold bounding and ski walking at the Canyons Resort, and modified rollerski speeds that the team normally does at the October in Park City. While a day of mountain biking was on the schedule, the persistent rains prevented the team from finding dry trails.
Grover said one of the most notable workouts from the camp was a threshold and aerobic capacity skate rollerski time trial. Athletes began by individually skiing a timed 5 k loop at threshold. They would then recover before attacking the same loop at level 4 or race pace. According to the USST coach, the goal of the workout was to help athletes differentiate between threshold and race paces. If an athlete’s times were similar or only separated by a couple seconds, it meant their threshold pace was too fast.
The spring camp also allowed for some post-training fun. Between homemade dinners and bonding sessions the A- and B-team members appeared to make the most of their first meeting of the year. After the camp several athletes went skydiving, as documented by Jessie Diggins’ Instagram video below.
According to Grover the camp’s participants will enter a period of recovery before the bulk of their summer training begins. Most athletes will continue to build a base with level 1 aerobic efficiency and ample time in the gym. As they progress throughout the summer they will continue to introduce more threshold workouts in addition to speed.
The USST A- and B-teams’ next training camp will take place in New Zealand from July 7 to 24. The trip marks a return to the Snow Farm after the team scrapped their annual trip last year in favor of a camp on Eagle Glacier in Alaska. The Alaskan skiers on the National Team will not travel to New Zealand, and will instead take advantage of on-snow skiing at Eagle Glacier.
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.