With snow melting and birds singing, most skiers have turned their attention to other mountain pursuits like biking, hiking and climbing. That’s not the case for the men’s and women’s U.S. Alpine Ski Teams.
After the long World Cup season, the teams have very little downtime before delving into a rigorous spring and summer training schedule. It began earlier this month at Mammoth Mountain in California and will go all the way until the first World Cup race this October in Sölden, Austria.
The entire U.S. Alpine Ski Team from World Cup racers down to development program athletes descended on Mammoth Mountain for a week-and-a-half of on-snow training in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
“It’s a well-oiled machine over at Mammoth,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Spokesperson Doug Haney said. “It’s one of many great training partners that we’ve harvested over the years.”
Ted Ligety is mounted with a pair of GoPro cameras to capture training footage at Mammoth Mountain. Photo by Shannon Camp.
Mammoth local and U.S. Ski Team Women’s Head Speed Coach Chip White spent countless hours moving snow around to provide the perfect training setting for the athletes. Upon reviewing tape from last season’s World Cup downhill races, the U.S. coaches noticed that their athletes were losing time on side-hill traverses like the ones found on the 2014 Olympic track in Sochi, Russia as well as Schladming, Austria. So, White crafted a side-hill traverse on the Mammoth downhill course for the racers to practice on.
The remainder of May will be spent at the Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah working on dry land conditioning and testing. The coaches focus on core strength and making sure the athletes are in top physical condition.
The men's Alpine Slalom team takes to the hardwood at the Center of Excellence during the 2011 training camp. Photo by Sarah Ely/U.S. Ski Team.
In June, both the men’s and women’s teams head to Mt. Hood, Oregon for more on-snow work. The training at Mt. Hood focuses on fundamentals. With full race schedules during the season, the athletes don’t have time to work on fundamentals, so they really get back to the basics in Oregon. This year, particular emphasis will be put on dialing in the right equipment for each racer at Mt. Hood.
“The ski regulations [pertaining to equipment] changed after this season,” Haney said. “Every athlete has all new equipment so they have to go through an amazing amount of skis to find out what works best for them and what feels right.”
Many of the athletes return to Park City in July for further conditioning and physical testing with the team’s sports science crew.
“At the beginning of the year we do physical testing and set benchmarks and then in mid-summer they do the same tests again to see where they are with those marks,” Haney said. “We then see where they improved and where there is still room for improvement.”
The teams return to the snow in August at Coronet Peak in New Zealand. The athletes focus on slalom, giant slalom and super g since Coronet Peak isn’t long enough to run downhill.
“At this point they have their skis down to what they think they will be using during the World Cup season,” Haney said. “So they’re fine-tuning their gear and starting to get the mileage on snow.”
Women's U.S. Ski Team athletes Julia Mancuso, Julia Ford and Laurenne Ross enjoy a bit of downtime in Portillo. Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Ski Team.
“Portillo has one of the best downhill training tracks in the world,” Haney said. “It’s really the only place you can run great downhill at that time of year.”
After Chile, the teams head back to the northern hemisphere to ramp up for the upcoming season. The first few weeks of October are spent at their facility in Sölden. With the Olympics looming in 2014, this summer and the upcoming World Cup season will be critical in preparing the alpine team for Sochi.