Last month, Andy Newell of the U.S. Ski Team traveled to Norway to train with several Norwegian skiers. Why, you might wonder? Why not?
“I chose to travel to Norway to train with some friends in Lillehammer for a few main reasons,” Newell explained in a recent email. “First — to learn a little about how a lot of these guys are training for double pole and second, just to have a cool new change of venue to put in some of the big volume hours I was training for those two weeks.”
Lillehammer, a popular training base among World Cup skiers and the new home to his friend Øystein Pettersen, seemed like a perfect fit.
“There wasn’t any real official training camp with a specific team that I was joining which made it kind of fun so I basically just got in touch with a lot of guys who lived in the area and lined up a big training schedule for two weeks,” Newell wrote.
He stayed with Petter Skinstad, a professional Norwegian skier and the son of Åge Skinstad, head of the Norwegian Ski Federation’s cross-country division.
“It was great to meet [Petter Skinstad] and his brother and do some training with them and learn a little more about the Norwegian ski culture,” Newell wrote. “To set a picture for you, Petter’s god father is Bjorn Daehlie so he really grew up in the thick of it so you can imagine he has some cool stories.”
Without any single club or coaches overseeing their workouts, Newell explained that the Lillehammer group coordinated via Facebook by posting their planned workouts and aligning them as best they could.
“It was a great way to meet some new training partners and connect with a few folks I already knew from skiing over the years like Erik Stange and Rune [Ødegård],” he wrote.
He spent the first four days training with sprinters like Great Britain’s Andrew Young and Marius Caspersen Falla, the twin brother of Olympic champion Maiken Caspersen Falla. They did Level 4 intervals at a rollerski track at Lillehammer’s Olympic stadium, as well as a skate speed session, and logged several hours on the roads — mountainous roads that zig-zagged up big climbs and included fast descents.
To focus on his double poling, which Newell estimates is 60 percent of these Norwegian athletes’ training (the remaining 40 percent being classic striding, running and “a little bit of skating”), he joined Øystein Petterson for some hard double-pole sessions. Formerly of Team United Bakeries, Petterson recently started a new team called Team BN Bank with Morten Eide Pedersen, Simen Østensen, and Nils-Ingar “Nilsi” Aadne, a famous comedian and now a professional skier. Newell trained with Petterson and Pedersen, as well as Team LeasePlan Go’s Kjetil Hagtvedt Dammen for the better part of a week.
“We did everything from 3 hour+ double pole sessions to uphill double pole intervals. One slightly different workout we did was a 45 seconds on 15 seconds off continuous intervals at the rollerski track,” Newell wrote. “That was a really fun fast workout to do in a big group. it felt a lot like a distance race. In general I would say that those guys train very similarly to the way we do just with a much bigger focus on double pole to prepare for the Ski Classics [marathon series].”
The Workout: Continuous Double-Pole Intervals (Norway style)
You’ll Need: 5 k rollerski loop and ideally a group of 5-6 training partners
Ready: Warm up together, then start the intervals together
Set: 45 seconds on (pushing hard, exchanging leads at the front) followed by 15 seconds recovery (ski easy and “make sure anyone who fell off the pace and re-group before starting to hammer again,” Newell explains)
Go: Repeat intervals continuously for 30 minutes. “It’s a lot like a mass start distance race, that builds in intensity until we are basically going all out by the end.”
While in Norway, Newell tried to do as the Norwegians do, honing in on double poling — a technique that’s having a big impact on classic World Cup races — while also logging some big hours. At the same time, he added in “a little more skating compared to some of the pure double pole guys,” he wrote. “I think everyone in the skiing world is continuing to learn how to train to be the best double polers. It’s clear that you have to double pole a lot to be strong enough for the races, but at the same time having a wide range of training modes… especially all body exercises, is the best way to get fit.”
While Newell explained that he’s certainly upped his amount of double-pole training this year, he’s also trying to improve his skating to achieve his all-around goals on the World Cup.
Looking back, he reflected that the skiing culture in Norway — in the heart of summer — was one of the best parts of his trip.
“You could go out roller skiing and see at least 2 or 3 other groups of good skiers out for a training session as well, and all the people driving tend to respect the roller skiers on the roads over there because it’s their national [pastime],” he wrote. “I think those two weeks were some of the most productive training I’ve ever had.”
Outside of training, Newell was in Norway when the news broke about the country’s defending World Cup champion Martin Johnsrud Sundby being suspended and stripped of his 2015 Overall World Cup and Tour de Ski titles.
“I was out skiing with the guys on my third or fourth to last day there and they were doing that thing when they started to speak a lot more Norwegian than normal,” Newell reflected. “Typically our training talk was in English. So I could tell something was up, and all I got was ‘tomorrow sh*t is going to hit the fan in Norway’ referring to Sundby and his doping ban. So I guess the word was already starting to spread through the skiing community and it was defiantly big news when the story broke.”
The news was all over Norwegian TV, and Sundby appeared on a multitude of televised interviews and press conferences.
“I would say that most of the skiers support him as would most teammates in an instance like that,” Newell said of the Norwegians he was with in Lillehammer. “If anything I’m sure they were worried about how it would reflect on the ski federation.”
A day or two later, all the chatter about Sundby faded.
“I don’t know if thats good or bad but that’s what you have to do if you are an athlete,” Newell said. “We are all the same in that regard. No need to worry about what others may or may not be doing, there are only so many hours in the day and focusing on your own training is what we have all learned to do over the years.”
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.