Bulls on Snow in Summer?!

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While many people in the Holderness community consider the summer to be a time of rest and relaxation, two groups of Bulls chose to do various camps to improve their skiing skills quite literally all around the world. Those two groups were the Eastern Nordic and the Eastern Alpine teams.


The Eastern Alpine team traveled to Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where they skied on a glacier and had many other adventures while they were there. The Nordic team, however, stayed more local with a camping/training in the White Mountains in June and ended the summer with a camp at Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) in Waitsfield, VT.


This past week, I had a chance to catch up with the two coaches of these teams to ask them a couple of questions as to why this summer training can be so important to the winter season which is still many months away.


In speaking with Ivar Dahl, Director of Snowsports, he offered a very detailed explanation about the importance of summer training. The first reason is that it helps to get some extra time on snow before the competitive season because it helps to give the skiers an edge on their competitors. Holderness is not a school solely focused on skiing, like Burke Mountain Academy, and can’t take the whole school to a snow-filled foreign country during the fall of the school year. Instead, opportunities such as summer camps and the November Copper Mountain, Colorado camp allow for extra time on snow.


The second reason is that since the alpine team is large there is limited time for one-on-one coaching with the skiers. With the smaller groups that go to these camps, skiers get more time to work with coaches.


When asked why the team goes to Saas-Fee for training, Mr. Dahl said that they go for a couple of reasons. The program was orignially set up by the former head alpine coach and snowsports director, George Capaul, who had family connections in Switzerland. There are also many professional teams that train in that area at the same time. For example, Mr. Dahl shared that they were training close to the Austrian National Team; after they left, the Holderness team got to go test how the Austrian course was different from theirs. The team also goes to Saas-Fee to experience a different culture.


For the skiers who go to Saas-Fee a typical day usually begins with an early wake-up and  breakfast. Then, they usually take the long journey up to the glacier. From there, they usually get in about 3 hours of skiing. This, however, is punctuated by many breaks because they are training at such a high elevation. At heights over 10,000 feet, athletes lose their breath much more easily. The length of this training session can also vary depending on how the snow conditions are for the day. Such as if the snow was to become slushier earlier in the day they may shorten the training session, but if it stays hard packed they may stay for longer. Then, after that morning session, they eat lunch and take time to rest. In the afternoon, they can do a variety of activities such as hiking or wandering around the city. They end the day with dinner, maybe another activity, and are in bed with lights out by 10:00 PM. The goal of simply getting in extra training time gives the team an extra edge is similar to that of the Nordic team; however they way they go about it is different.


Speaking with head Nordic coach Pat Casey, he shared why summer training is so important. Summer training helps build base endurance. Instead of doing many sets of intervals like the alpine skiers, Nordic skiers focus on long workouts at a slow sustained pace. It helps to have time to focus on technique and develop good habits that will stay through the coming season. 


The car camping camp is one that takes place in the White Mountains. It lasts for five days during which the team is not allowed on their phones except for select purposes, and they spend those days camping and training. Mr. Casey says that the importance of this camp is not only to help to build base endurance, but also to build upon the team dynamic. The team dynamic is built by the fact that everyone cooks, cleans, and plays games together like ultimate frisbee. Despite the fact that Nordic skiing is an individual sport, Mr. Casey feels that most of the best skiers in the world also have the best team. He said that you see many of the best teams in the world rising together, so he wants to build a team that will do just that. Therefore, he feels that it is important to build the team as a support system for each athlete.


As for going to the GMVS camp, there are nationally ranked skiers and even international skiers, like a group of Italians our age, and it can help to show us what we are up against in terms of rising talent.


A typical day at the Nordic camp is pretty different from that of an Alpine camp. At the GMVS camp, the day would be started by waking up early and going for a jog and doing some stretching before breakfast. Then the skiers would eat breakfast and have some time to get their stuff together for the morning workout. The workouts were between 1-3 hours and could include strength, roller skiing, running, bounding, or even biking. After the morning workout, it was lunchtime and then the skiers had downtime for a couple of hours to rest and recover for the afternoon workout. The afternoon workout would then last for 1-3 hours, then the skiers would come back and shower before dinner. After eating dinner the skiers would either have some sort of meeting or have time to hang out with people in dorms.


The Nordic and Alpine teams have been working very hard this summer, and now they will be ready to pack a punch to their competitors this winter.