Fresh off their first training camp in Park City, Utah, the U.S. Ski Team is taking a new approach to summer camps in the 2015 season. Due to a need for more on-snow training, increased funding from outside sources, and the fact that the upcoming racing season does not feature a major championships, the Americans are trying out a new camp schedule that includes a lot of travel. Increasing their the number of training camps from four to five, the team’s most notable travels will include trips to New Zealand and Norway.
Return to New Zealand
The USST is no stranger to New Zealand training camps. With the exception of 2014 the team has taken part in some form of organized camp at the Snow Farm in Wanaka for many years. For several years prior to 2014, the American trip to New Zealand was solely a men’s camp, while the women’s camp was held at Eagle Glacier in Alaska. For the first time in 2014, both the men’s and women’s on-snow camps were at Eagle Glacier, with Noah Hoffman being the lone USST member to travel to the Southern Hemisphere.
Upcoming USST Camp Schedule:
- New Zealand: July 7 – 24
- Junior Camp in Norway: August 2 – 15
- Norway: August 9 – 24
- Lake Placid: September 13 – 20
- Park City: October 12 – 28
While the 2014 Eagle Glacier camp was lauded as a success, the team had limited time at the venue and was forced to log many hours of skiing each day to make the camp worthwhile. Although New Zealand has challenges of its own, namely the many hours of travel it takes to get there, it allows for more on-snow time over the course of two weeks. Because the team missed its typical spring skiing in Bend, Ore. this year, coaches decided their skiers needed more midsummer snow time than usual.
“We really felt like that it was critical for us to get a little bit longer on-snow opportunity than we had in the past few years for a lot of these guys simply because we missed Bend and the on-snow time we would have logged at Mt. Bachelor,” USST Head Coach Chris Grover said of the choice to return to the Southern Hemisphere. “We chose to go to New Zealand instead to get a little more skiing over a longer period of time, which is more viable down there.”
Both the A- and B-teams will travel to New Zealand July 7 and remain until the 24. The Alaskan members of the team (Kikkan Randall, Rosie Brennan, Sadie Bjornsen, and Erik Bjornsen) will not partake in the camp will take advantage of skiing on Eagle Glacier two to three times throughout the summer.
Measuring Up in Norway
The biggest change to the USST summer schedule is the addition of a two-week camp in Norway taking place in mid-August. According to Grover, the camp is something coaches and athletes have talked about for many years. With no championship races in 2016, the USST decided to explore the benefits of a camp in Europe.
The team will have an acclimatization period in Aure for eight to nine days where they hope to train with several local skiers or other European national teams. According to Grover, the USST reached out the Norwegian National Team but due to schedule conflicts the two teams will have no official training sessions together. The U.S. skiers will attempt to train with several individuals on the National Team who live in the area, however.
After the acclimatization period, the USST will participate in the annual Toppidrettsveka rollerski races that take place between Aure, Kynken, and Trondheim from August 20 to 22. The set of three races, which are often attended by the best Norwegians including Marit Bjørgen, Therese Johaug, and Petter Northug, were a major motivation for the Americans to have a training camp in Europe. According to Grover, they will allow the attendees to measure up against the competition at a crucial time in the training season. Furthermore, all three days of racing will feature classic rollerskiing – a technique the U.S. is looking to improve upon in 2015/2016.
“We have a pretty big goal with a lot of the athletes to improve classic technique in particular, especially on the women’s side,” Grover said. “This is an opportunity for us to go and measure our classic technique against the best skiers in the world so people can measure where their double pole is right now, where there striding is, etcetera.”
2015 Toppidrettsveka (website):
- August 20 – Aure: Uphill running race and classic sprint
- August 21 – Knyken: 15 k skiathlon
- August 22 – Trondheim: 15 k classic pursuit
Given the American successes in recent years, organizers were eager to have the team compete in the series of races. According to Grover, the trip was made financially viable due to organizers providing lodging, food, and transportation for at least part of the camp.
The final list of participants for the camp is still being confirmed, but several athletes are excited at the prospect of training and racing in Norway. Kikkan Randall, three-time sprint World Cup winner, said she believes the camp is an excellent opportunity for the team.
“Getting in and being able to do some intervals and some racing with World Cup level field really helps me fine tune things and get a good picture of where I’m at,” Randall said. “It increases motivation after a long summer of prep… I think it will be a perfect fit because it’s in August and it will give us a couple months before we go into the race season.”
The remaining USST camps will take place in Lake Placid and Park City. The mid-September camp in Lake Placid will be reduced from two weeks to one week, while the Park City camp will remain at its usual placement in the middle two weeks of October. Both camps will be open to athletes receiving invitations based on National Training or Elite Group status, or other qualifications.
International Junior Camp in Norway
A- and B-teamers are the only Americans headed to Norway this summer, as a squad of juniors will attend the 2015 International Junior Camp in Norway from August 6 to 14. The camp, which is organized by the Norwegian Ski Federation, will start in Oslo and eventually move to Sjusjøen. The U.S. juniors will arrive prior to the start of the camp to acclimatize and participate in tunnel skiing in Torsby, Sweden starting August 2.
With 120 spots available, the Norwegian Ski Federation invited nations to bring a maximum of 10 athletes and two coaches to the roughly week-long camp. Last year 90 athletes from Germany, Canada, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Norway were in attendance. The 2015 event will mark the first time that American juniors have been selected by the national team to participate in an international training camp of this caliber and size.
The camp will include a high volume of running, rollerskiing, and strength in addition to an uphill running race in Olso and a rollerski sprint race in Sjusjøen.
According to trip-leader and USST Development Coach Bryan Fish the camp will serve several purposes, including the sharing of training philosophies and developments skills. “Most important, is the opportunity to for hands-on learning through physical training with one another,” Fish wrote in an email.
Through a detailed selection process (see below) the USST selected 10 athletes for the event. Nine accepted the nomination and include Katharine Ogden, Julia Kern, Hannah Halvorsen, Hailey Swirbul, Alayna Sonnesyn, Zak Ketterson, Max Donaldson, Lars Hannah, and Karsten Hokanson.
Prioritized International Junior Camp Selection Criteria:
- One top 20 women’s / one top 30 men’s result at the 2015 Junior World Ski Championships
- One top 15 women’s / one top 20 men’s result at an overall Scandinavian Cup or OPA Cup that has been scored to the USSA National Ranking List (NRL)
- One top 10 women’s / one top 15 men’s result in the Junior division at a Scandinavian Cup or OPA Cup that has been scored to the USSA National Ranking List (NRL)
- One top 10 women’s / one top 15 men’s result at the Under-18 Nation’s Cup competition (formerly known as J1 Scando Cup Trip)
- Qualify for Junior World Ski Championships
- Highest ranking on the USSA overall National Ranking List (athletes born on or between 1996, 1997 or 1998)
International Junior Camp Athletes Accepting Nomination:
- Katharine Ogden
- Julia Kern
- Hannah Halvorsen
- Hailey Swirbul
- Alayna Sonnesyn
- Zak Ketterson
- Max Donaldson
- Lars Hannah
- Karsten Hokanson
The USST is attending its first International Junior Camp in 2015 because of unique circumstances that allowed for participation. According to Fish, one of the biggest reasons is funding. The National Nordic Foundation (NNF) will aid in the cost of the trip, so that athletes’ and coaches’ expenses are minimal.
A second reason is the increased desire to continue development for young U.S. athletes. Fish wrote that the U.S. will continue to support its domestic programs for up-and-coming athletes, but that more international exposure will aid in future development.
“It is cliché but true that cross country skiers are made in the summer, however there is no better way to learn what and how the best juniors from around the world are training than to join them in a place where the vast majority of the world’s best juniors are at,” he wrote.
“I believe every camp has information each athlete can take home,” Fish continued. “I hope we all come into this camp with open-minds, respective to new ideas. The goal is for each and every one of us to come home with at least a few ideas or strategy (big or small) that can augment and improve personal training and performance.”
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.