Wednesday Workout: Live High, Train Low in (Smoky) Sunny California

FasterSkierSeptember 5, 2018
Kili Lehmkuhl (l) and Lilly Murnane of the Auburn Ski Club Training Center striding on Iowa Hill Road near Colfax, California, on Aug. 26. (Photo: Gus Johnson)

This Wednesday Workout came to us just over a week ago from Gus Johnson, nordic program director and head coach at the Auburn Ski Club Training Center (ASC-TC) on Donner Summit in California. Have a workout of your own (or one of your club’s) that you’d like to share? Send submissions to with the subject line “Wednesday Workout”.


August proved to be smoke season in California for the Auburn Ski Club Training Center athletes, but a few days of clear air has given us the opportunity to put in some late summer intensity. Like many athletes across the west, ASC-TC athletes have had to adjust their training to be flexible with the wind and smoke patterns this summer. When the smoke outside became unhealthy, workouts consisted mainly of focusing on technique and shorter sessions, or finding alternatives for indoor training.

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Auburn Ski Club Training Center is located on Donner Summit at 7,200 feet above sea level, but has easy access (within one-hour drive) to rollerski locations at elevations around 1,000 feet. This week, with a change in the weather and the sunny skies California is famous for, the Auburn Ski Club Training Center Comp Team headed down to Colfax, California, to rollerski Iowa Hill Road for some Level 4-5 (L4-L5) intervals.

Max Roske of the Auburn Ski Club Training Center striding on Iowa Hill Road near Colfax, California, on Aug. 26. (Photo: Gus Johnson)

With Junior Nationals at sea level this year in Anchorage, our altitude athletes are looking for ways to inject some pace into their normal ski preparations. Our team typically plans at least one week-long training camp on the California coast, and several mini camps at low altitude for hard rollerski intervals and speed sessions. We’re lucky to be able to hop in the car on short notice and find cheap campgrounds to stay at for low-altitude over the weekends. It spices things up whenever we feel things getting stale at home in the mountains.

The base of Iowa Hill Road starts around 1,000-feet elevation in the river gorge of the North Fork of the American River and climbs up to Colfax at 2,100 feet. We find the session to be both a test of mental toughness and a great opportunity to challenge our fast-twitch muscles.

The workout:

Blackberry picking doubles as a warmup for Auburn Ski Club Training Center athletes in California. (Photo: Gus Johnson)
  • Warmup (on foot): 10-15 minutes of easy jogging (hunt for blackberries)
    – 5 minutes of dynamic warmup (A-skips, B-skips, agility ladders, and dynamic stretching)
  • Change into the rollerski gear
    – 4-6 short speeds, starts, and lunges, each about 8-seconds long
    – 4 x 1-minute classic rollerski intervals (L4+) uphill with 1-minute recovery, followed by 2 x 5 minutes with 3-minute recovery, and another set of 4 x 1 minute intervals.
  • Cool down


Auburn Ski Club Training Center skiers warm up on Iowa Hill Road near Colfax, California, on Aug. 26. (Photo: Gus Johnson)

About the Auburn Ski Club Training Center:

The ASC Training Center is a premier training and racing venue in the western U.S. with programming for all ages and ability levels across four ski and snowboard disciplines (alpine, cross country, biathlon, and snowboard). Our institution’s roots go back to the club’s founding in 1928 (we were instrumental in the development of ski culture and ski tourism in California), and that legacy continues today with a bid to host the 2020 xc junior national chamionships. We have hosted the XC Junior Nationals four times to date, the US Ski and Snowboard Supertours twice, as well as the NCAA National Championships and the US Biathlon Nationals.  Whether it is as a  training and racing venue for the region or as a part of our programming, it is safe to say ASC-TC plays a significant role in the development of all Far West Nordic skiers

The ASC-TC Competition team is made up of athletes from all across the greater Northern California and Nevada region and is for athletes ages 14-19. The majority of Comp Team athletes live and train near the Truckee and Tahoe area, but some athletes are based out of the sierra foothills (Grass Valley, Colfax, Nevada City, and Auburn) and even some as far away from snow as the Bay Area will come up and ski with the team on weekends or gain race support at events. Our programming is year-round and strives for flexibility to support both elite junior racing as well as participation for athletes whom skiing is only one of their many passions.

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