Wednesday Workout: Sand Hills TT with the UNM Ski Team

FasterSkierMay 3, 2017
UNM junior nordic skier Petteri Vaherkoski during the Sand Hills time trial in Albuquerque, N.M., last September. (Photo: Christian Otto)

This week’s workout comes from University of New Mexico (UNM) sophomore Julia Devaux, who recently wrapped up her second season with the UNM nordic team. Devaux, 23, is originally from Grenoble, France, and grew up training in Villard de Lans. She was previously a member of the French national team but sought out new motivation to continue skiing.

“[UNM Head Coach] Fredrik [Landstedt] gave me the opportunity to come at UNM 2 years ago,” Devaux wrote in an email. “I chose UNM because it was crazy and unusual to be part of a Division 1 ski team in the desert! I needed something new, and I totally found it here.”

Devaux is studying business, with a concentration in marketing. She shared the following team workout:


“As a member of the University of New Mexico Nordic Ski Team, you are put through workouts that you could have never imagined doing as a skier. Here is one of the craziest, toughest and most unusual workouts that I know: the Sand Hills Time Trial.

We are located in Albuquerque, N.M., and what do we have around us? A desert! This is where Fredrik, our head coach, decided to set up this unusual running time trial.

A few minutes’ drive from campus are some sand hills. Extremely steep hills. Think about some hills you can barely walk up. Add in soft sand and it feels almost impossible (see pictures )

Julie Ensrud doing the Sand Hills time trial during her freshman season with the UNM nordic team last September in Albuquerque, N.M. (Photo: Christian Otto)

This workout is a great reference of fitness for us. We do it four to five times a year, so we can keep track of our performance. Running is a big part of nordic training, so this is a good intensity workout to improve our base.

One lap is about 1.5 k, with five huge hills that we run up and down. We use nordic walking poles (hip height). Using poles is a good way to balance weight and use upper body as well.

Women run two laps, men three. To give you an idea, the women’s record is 20 minutes, 41 seconds (Kati Roivas), and the men’s is 25:43 (Aku Nikander). For 3 k and 4.5 k, this will give you the right idea about how steep and sandy these hills are!

We warm up by walking the course once, which takes about 30 minutes. We usually start individually, but every once in a while, we will do a mass start. We cool down on our way back to the vans, where we dump piles of sand out of our shoes.

I love that the Sand Hills Time Trial is unique to our team, a workout where we push our limits, fight with our teammates and run after the clock as we do when ski racing. Training in such an unusual environment for a ski team makes it so much more exciting!

The Workout: Sand Hills Time Trial

You’ll need: Running shoes, Nordic walking poles (hip height), a hilly course (preferably sand)

Warm up: Walk the course once (should be about 1.5 k long with several big hills)

Time trial: Individual start or mass start. Women race 2 laps, men race 3. Record times and compare each time you revisit this workout.

Cool down: Jog back to your car (or team vans). Dump sand out of shoes.

The decision to cut the UNM ski team program next fall was made a few weeks ago, and we are fighting this decision with all we’ve got. Please help us by visiting, sign our petition online, share with your friends…

Every piece of support is helping us, we need to show how great we are, and we need you!”

UNM skiers (from left to right) Eva Severrus, Kati Roivas, Brenna Egan, Julie Ensrud, and Julia Devaux getting ready for their team’s Sand Hills time trial last September in Albuquerque, N.M. (Photo: Christian Otto)



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