After an untold number of bear sightings and many hours of quality training, the U18 National Training Group (NTG) camp wrapped up in Whistler, B.C. the third week of June. The first of the National Nordic Foundations (NNF) Summer Series, the goals of the camp were twofold: the first was to give these athletes a chance to meet and train together, particularly since the annual U18 Nordic Nations Cup trip was canceled in January due to high COVID-19 cases in Norway; the second was to familiarize the athletes with the venue and living environment in Whistler, as it will be the site of the upcoming 2023 Junior/U23 World Ski Championships in January.
The camp’s attendees earned a spot on this trip after selection by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard (USSS) based on their performances at last year’s Senior Nationals in Soldier Hollow, UT and/or other USSS sanctioned races. Hailing from all over the country, 13 athletes made their way to Canada for a week of training and exploration.
Six years after Junior World Championships were last held on North American soil (Soldier Hollow, UT 2017) – an event which resulted in a historic bronze medal from Katharine Ogden in the 5/5 k skiathlon and bronze in the women’s 4 x 3.3 k relay – the upcoming races in Canada offer an exciting opportunity. Additionally, the 2023 World University Games will be taking place in the U.S. this year, in Lake Placid, NY in January.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard Cross-Country Sport Development Manager Bryan Fish, explained in an email what this might mean for the American juniors. “Our teams have become very good at traveling well and executing overseas, however our first Junior World Ski Championship medals became a reality in 2017 when Park City, UT hosted Jr Worlds. Those home-field championships helped spark the successful trajectory of USA cross-country skiing. We are trying to build a similar positive environment for these 2023 Championships.”
In addition to Fish, the camp’s coaching staff was comprised of U.S. Development Team Coach Greta Anderson, Alex Jospe from Stratton Mountain School, and Naomi Kiekintveld from Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center.
After the recent conclusion of the NTG camp, Fish felt that the camp’s objectives had been achieved. He wrote, “the camp successfully achieved the goals of familiarizing ourselves with all aspects of the venue, the race courses, and the living arrangements. It was a great group of athletes which made for positive and motivating training sessions. The Whistler rollerski track is on a portion of the Jr World race courses, so we spent a great deal of time getting comfortable on the track at speed to understand how the course flows.”
Through collaboration with Nordiq Canada, the joint U.S./Canadian Spring National cross-country Championships were also held in Whistler in March, which Fish explained, “provide[d] our athletes with true on-snow race experience on these courses.”
As for the athletes’ perspective, in a blog post written for NNF, Midwest junior Cooper Camp reflected that for him, “one of the most valuable parts about this camp was being able to ski with the best juniors in the nation. Not only being able to get quality training in with each other, but also skiing behind others and learning from what they do, is one of the biggest benefits from camps like these.”
Although the athletes have returned home to their respective clubs, there may be more opportunities for them to train together before the summer is over with both Regional and National Elite Group camps still to come. As to who will be returning to Whistler to represent the U.S. at the Jr/U23 World Ski Championships starting January 27th, 2023, both athletes and fans will have to wait until the conclusion of Senior Nationals (Houghton, MI) at the beginning of January before the team will be announced.
For an on-the-ground look at the recent camp, a recap video made by coach Alex Jospe, can be found here.
Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.