Skiers are made in the summer, and one of the hallmarks of summer training is periodic training camps. But as with racing, the coronavirus pandemic has upended summer group training.
In April, the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) opted to turn their June regional elite group (REG) training camp into a virtual event. Part of the US Ski and Snowboard development program, REGs have a standardized format that helps evaluate athlete development.
“[The virtual REG] is a work in progress,” NENSA Competition Director Justin Beckwith wrote to FasterSkier.
In normal times, the Eastern REG brings together junior athletes from New England and New York. Beckwith generally gathers 40 to 46 athletes, evenly divided between men and women, together for an intense week of training, testing, and education. This year, 34 campers participated in the virtual REG. However, NENSA shared the REG program template as part of its #juneterm program. Clubs across the northeast integrated the template into their June training.
“Athletes are ranked by World Cup points for the 3 tests and along with NRL ranking allows a second route to National Training Group (NTG) camps,” Beckwith wrote.
“The virtual setting will also allow us to gather more data throughout clubs as many will be performing a similar training schedule this week and next.”
Beckwith shared the REG schedule with FS. With eight workouts over seven days, – and the option of two additional easy sessions – it’s not for the faint of heart. The schedule includes classic and skate technique days, and an over distance day.
Each session comes with a video link demonstrating the workout goals. There were also evening education sessions with Andy Newell and US Ski and Snowboard coaches Bryan Fish and Kate Barton.
Typically, Beckwith explained, the camp includes three tests: a double pole uphill test, an uphill run, and an agility test. This year, in an effort to standardize workouts in the virtual world, he’s programmed a 3000-meter track run, a double pole test using a Ski Erg, and the Canadian Strength test.
The Canadian strength test is as follows: one minute of pull-ups; one minute of sit-ups; one minute of push-ups; one minute of box jumps on to a 16-inch / 40-centimeter box; and one minute of dips. There’s one minute of rest between each exercise and guidelines for correct technique.
“I think we are lucky in the East because we have high buy-in from athletes and coaches – this gives us the best chance for good data and to be able to do something with it,” Beckwith wrote.
What about the stoke that comes when skiers gather from all corners of the northeast to push each other? “What kid wouldn’t be psyched to log in [to Zoom] and have Andy Newell talk to you about training and technique!” Beckwith wrote.
Beckwith focused on workouts that felt would keep athletes engaged, even though they weren’t training in a traditional camp setting. While some organizations are planning to run brick-and-mortar summer camps, Beckwith is planning for a ski season out of the ordinary for the coming year.
“Realistically, we will be operating under different guidelines for what I like to think of as a year – which brings us right to the end of this season March 2021. The key is adapting and creating motivating and competitive events for skiers of all ages,” Beckwith wrote.
He added that as of this writing, Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) and Stratton Mountain School (SMS) are close to deciding whether to hold their August camps. An internet search showed that CXC’s REG, scheduled for early August, includes a COVID-19 waiver as well as a regular liability waiver.
“We’ll get through it but we need to be nimble and think outside the box for what camps and competitions will look like,” Beckwith concluded.