As the saying goes, skiers are made in the summer. If that is the case, then many are forging their way to success in Stratton, Vermont this season. Depending on the year, various clubs around the country may play host to an increased number of athletes for a summer; from Bend, Oregon, to Anchorage, Alaska, to Stratton, the “hot spot” shifts periodically. This year, as SMS T2 Team Head Coach Perry Thomas put it, “we’ve had a lot of talent in southern Vermont.”
As the summer of training kicked off out east, it was primarily members of the SMS T2 Team for the first month or so. Thomas explained that the team had a couple of mini camps so far this summer, the first being at Green Woodlands in New Hampshire. In an email to FasterSkier, Thomas wrote, “we had a lot of great training including some long mountain bikes, rollerski intervals in Lyme, and a Presidential Traverse. It was somewhat “camping” style as many of us stayed in these rustic cabins on the water. We cooked great food, played a few games, and hung out on the water.”
More recently, the team had a second mini camp in the Waitsfield/Warren area, north of Stratton. Highlights from this camp included a 5 k hill climb pace project on the Appalachian Gap, combining with the Eastern and Midwestern U16 camp, and Team Birkie who also held a camp in Vermont recently. About this activity Thomas shared, “the team had a great time chatting with the U16’s after App Gap, and we had a fun run/hike on part of the northern section of the Long Trail.” He extended his thanks to Justin Beckwith and NENSA as well as Colin Rogers and Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) for their efforts in putting together some great events.
Joining the SMS T2 Team for varying lengths of time this summer are a number of U.S. Ski Team and college athletes. This list includes: Sydney Palmer-Leger (new member of SMS T2 team, University of Utah (UU), U.S. Ski Team), Novie McCabe (UU, U.S. Ski Team), Sophia Laukli (UU, U.S. Ski Team), Weronika Kaleta (University of Colorado (CU), Polish National Team), John Hagenbuch (Dartmouth, U.S. Ski Team), Gus Schumacher (Alaska Winter Stars, U.S. Ski Team), Luke Jager (UU, U.S. Ski Team), Adam Witkowski (Michigan Tech University (MTU)), Zander Martin (Bates College), and Asa Chalmers (Dartmouth).
Thomas, who took over as head coach of the SMS T2 Team this past spring, expressed his enthusiasm for the crew of athletes saying, “I feel very fortunate to be working with such an accomplished group of U.S. skiers. It has been fun and rewarding to say the least!” He’s had some assistance in the coaching department, U.S. Ski Team D-Team Coach Kristin Bourne, and Head Coach Matt Whitcomb have come through to work with the U.S. Ski Team athletes, but also help support everyone. Annika Martell and Steve Monsulick of Williams College have come to help at Thomas’ invitation, and with the additional support from the SMS junior coaches, Matt Boobar, Alex Jospe, and George Forbes, the coach to athlete ratio has been pretty good. Thomas also said, “I feel very fortunate to be able to work with Pat O’Brien, Jason Cork, Sverre Caldwell, and Matt Boobar this summer (among many other great coaches). Having such an excellent coaching staff to work with and learn from has been such a privilege. Everyone is very open, hard working, great to get along with, and they are all massive resources for myself as well as the team.”
For many of the athletes, this summer has been their first time in Stratton. Thomas reflected, “I think many of the athletes that have never been to Stratton before, or maybe haven’t trained with the T2 team as much, have realized how great a place it is to train here. It seems like everyone has been really enjoying themselves, and we hope to continue having a strong summer training group in the future.”
One of those athletes is Sydney Palmer-Leger, who is not only spending her first summer in Vermont, but is also the newest member of the SMS T2 Team. When asked about her decision to come east this year, Palmer-Leger shared, “Last year I spent two months in Anchorage, Alaska. I had a lot of fun exploring a new beautiful place with the APU group and working with Erik Flora. I had never spent a period of time out East besides a couple bike and ski races. I had heard amazing things about the SMS T2 Team so I decided to try something new. I packed up my car not knowing what to expect and drove the three days out to Vermont.”
Born and raised in Utah, Palmer-Leger said she is used to bigger mountains and a drier climate than you find in the East, but the SMS T2 Team was welcoming from the start and made her feel at home. She wrote, “I am used to working with many different coaches so that was an easy transition. I had been on a couple trips with Pat (O’Brien) and met Perry (Thomas) in Bend, so I wasn’t super uncomfortable joining a new team. I felt I belonged in this group from the beginning and loved training in Vermont so I decided to join the SMS T2 Team.”
Palmer-Leger pointed to a number of highlights from the summer, including the mini camps in Craftsbury, Warren, and Greens. She reflected, “[the] camps were fun ways to get a lot of training while exploring new parts of the East. I have also loved being close to water where we have gone paddleboarding and waterskiing with the Ogdens. I am very fortunate to have this group to come back to every summer. In addition to running and rollerskiing, I have been able to explore more bike trails. Biking used to be my other sport so I have loved going out with the team every week. I went to Burke the other weekend and helped with the Little Bellas. It is inspirational to see these young girls out on the trails shredding.”
Gus Schumacher also made his way east this summer, though for a few weeks rather than the whole summer. Initially, the motivation for this change in scenery was a way to break up the jet lag on the way to Norway for the U.S. Team camp happening next week. But when Schumacher decided not to go to Norway he realized he still wanted to train with Ben Ogden and SMS to “return the favor” of him coming to Alaska last summer. Schumacher said, “I also wanted to hopefully get some rollerski racing and rollerski track skiing in but I didn’t really do my research on when/where to come.”
The summer climate in southern Vermont is typically different from that of Alaska where Schumacher spends most of his summer. “[It’s] definitely a little hot and humid but it’s kind of nice to get a little sweaty,” wrote Schumacher, “the biggest issue is that our dryer doesn’t really work so there’s not a great way to dry washed or wet clothes.” (A problem which anyone who has spent a summer in the East can identify with).
For his time in Vermont, Schumacher had a couple of goals he was focused on. The first, to stick to his general progression/training layout. This meant getting good group sessions, but not losing focus of his own process. The second was to keep up good daily habits like consistent bedtime, morning mobility, healthy meals and recovery stuff. Third, to take care of some body stuff that was acting up recently. And finally, to generally make use of being around a strong team and use them to push himself whenever possible. Schumacher concluded by saying that he is “very thankful to SMS and southern VT for taking us in and helping us figure out lodging and training, as well as getting us exposure to some races and cool mentoring opportunities.”
Approaching the final few weeks of August, as the summer winds down, athletes and coaches alike will be going their separate ways. Schumacher is headed back to Anchorage next week when the team goes to Norway. He said, “In sticking with my plan, I felt like it made more sense to take a recovery week and get back into my swing in Anchorage.”
Palmer-Leger, who has spent two and a half months in Stratton with the SMS T2 Team, is heading back to Utah for school. After having finished summer school this past weekend, she has a little break before going back to classes in Salt Lake.
Thomas reflected that the summer has flown by, saying “it’s crazy how fast time goes by when you’re training hard and having fun.” With many of the summer athletes heading back to school or back to their main club, the crew in Stratton will be dwindling.
A couple athletes will be traveling to Scandinavia for the U.S. Ski Team camp in the Torsby ski tunnel and competing in the Toppidrettsveka rollerski races. Jessie Diggins, Julia Kern, and Jason Cork are headed to Australia for a three week on-snow camp there. Thomas will be headed to Oberhof, Germany with SMS T2 athletes Lina Sutro, Lauren Jortberg, and Alayna Sonnesyn for a ten day camp in the Oberhof ski tunnel. Eventually, the core T2 team will reconvene back in Stratton in early September before heading to the U.S. Ski Team camp in Park City in early October.
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.