Forty two of the top U16’s from across the US West and Alaska assembled in Sun Valley, Idaho from August 9 through 14 for a week of training and sport education supported by the National Nordic Foundation, US Ski Team staff and top level club coaches. The U16 camp is always full of energy and excitement as this is often the first national level camp that many of the participants have attended. They get to put a face with the names they have been seeing on the result sheet and they learn that all of their fellow skiers share the same goals and focus, namely to push themselves to excel in the sport of cross country ski racing.
This year, the camp started off with a classic rollerski technique and distance session. The skiers had a worked with Simi Hamilton, USST and three time Olympian, USST Development Team Coach Greta Anderson as well as Andrew Johnson, Head Coach of the fabled Middlebury College Ski Team and the stoke was palpable as this was the first chance for kids to ski shoulder to shoulder with their new ski friends. Day two brought a hard effort up the Harpers Hill Climb Time Trial. Uphill tt’s have long been a staple of fitness development and assessment and we saw many kids posting solid times in comparison to the results of thousands of skiers who have challenged themselves on Harper’s in years past.
Day three was for many of the skiers, the most fun and unique workout of the camp. One of the main benefits of bringing together this level of skiers is that we are able to replicate on rollskis a full sprint event complete with the prelim and rounds. The camp utilized the “King’s Court” method of managing the rounds so that each participant was assured of racing three rounds. After the workout was completed, many of the skiers said that this was the first time they were able to do an actual sprint race on rollskis.
Undoubtedly, all of the participants have done many velocity skate workouts with their home clubs, but when the race bibs go on and you are racing kids from other programs, a new gear is of always found. The final day found the squad running through the backcountry of the Pioneer Mountains on a spectacular 4 hour OD session. One of the best things about being a cross country ski racer is getting outdoors and exploring the mountains, valleys and trails. Its like the whole world is our gym !!
Our cross country community has worked through many challenges over the past year, from no travel and reduced race schedules to needing to develop unique training methods that accommodated the realities of living through a pandemic. So, its no surprise the skiers at the NNF U16 Camp were turbo charged to make the most of this experience. Of course, many sport leaders from across the US have been pulling kids together in much the same way as the Sun Valley U16 Camp and we all see that our community of young skiers are still charging ahead, hot on the heels of the top skiers who have forged top international results in recent seasons.
Thanks to the National Nordic Foundation for their support of top level US junior development camps and competitions. Always Forward!!
U16 Camp Director
(Images by Greta Anderson – USSS)