As neighboring campers at the DH Day Group Campground huddled in tents to stay dry, a group of high school Nordic skiers grab their ski poles and jog over to the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb for a training session that will leave their legs burning. Andy Liebner, regional coach, starts them out with some simple agility drills which lead into dune climb suicide drills. After some friendly team competition in the suicide drills, all-out bounds up the Dune Climb begin to test max heart rates.
“Knowing your body and your limits is a huge factor in skiing,” Niki Roxbury, Traverse City Central team member said. “The dune intervals forced us to push ourselves to our limits and past, showing us not only our max heart rate but also giving us a guideline to our limits. This we can use every day in workouts to find how hard we are truly pushing ourselves.”
The dune workout was the morning of the third day of the First Annual Vasa Ski Club Summer Nordic Training Camp. A couple skiers started the four day camp by biking nearly 40 miles to the DH Day Group campground from Traverse City on Sunday while the rest of the group rollerskied on the paved Sleeping Bear Heritage trail right off the campsite.
Back: Clay Darling. Front (left to right): Reid Goble, Ian Durand, Jacob Dean, Erin Lipp, Dana Pflughoeft, Mary Lyon, Kelly Peregrine, Melissa Lance, Niki Roxbury, Sam Terrell, Heidi Schwab, Andrew Dyke (photo by John Kostrzewa)
The next morning started with fitness testing that is standardized across the US for Nordic skiing—pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, box jumps, and dips. Considering the group was camping, they were creative with their resources. Traverse City Nordic Ski Team head coach John Kostrzewa created a pull-up bar from a branch wedged between other branches in a tree and tied down with rope.
“USSA designed this testing to align with the strength a Nordic skier needs. The muscles we test transfer directly to those used in the ski techniques,” Erin Lipp, TC Central Nordic team captain said. “The coaches always remind us that we aren’t competing with each other on the test but rather against our own results from our previous test.”
As if two scheduled workouts each day were not enough, the group decided to hike the dunes to Lake Michigan. They followed side trails and created their own course in search of Devil’s Hole, which they never found. The refreshing jump in Lake Michigan mid-hike was rewarding enough though.
Upon returning to the camp site a few hours later, the skiers broke out the rollerskis and spent a few hours practicing their agility on an intricate course set-up by Liebner. Figure eights, tight cones, wide cones and tight circles were a few of the humbling challenges on the course.
“The agility was really fun and it forced us to become more comfortable making sharp turns at higher and higher speeds,” Clay Darling, TC Central Nordic team captain said. “Agility helps during a race in icy conditions or with a hilly course because staying on your feet can be a matter of winning or 20th place.
VSC U16 - U20 XC-ski summer training camp at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. 14 athletes in attendance. Clay Darling demonstrates his jumping technique after the fitness test.
The next day consisted of the Dune Climb workout in the morning and a four and a half hour classic rollerski session in the afternoon. Liebner spent time on classic agility, striding, and double poling with the group, as well as allowing the skiers to ski down the trail as he spent time with each individually.
The last morning of camp the skiers used the rest of their energy on a three hour skate rollerski session with Liebner that focused on each technique—V1, V2, and V2 alternate, as well as cornering and transitions. Throughout his sessions Liebner shared the ski path he traveled and the skiers learned from that as well.
“Perseverance was the main thing I learned from Andy and his ski sessions,” Jacob Dean, Traverse City West team member said. “If you are dedicated to something, it could be anything, don’t give up on it no matter what. If you keep working to improve, you can accomplish amazing things.”
These skiers’ dedication comes through in their eagerness to work at one of the most challenging sports not only in the winter, but all year round. One night while the group gathered around the fire, Liebner was discussing the dedication, discipline, concentration and pain tolerance needed to be a Nordic skier.
During this discussion he said, “When people are looking for an easy sport, Nordic skiing is not what they choose. When people try it, they form a new level respect of Nordic skiers.”
Vasa Ski Club Mission Statement:
To promote and encourage cross country skiing in the Grand Traverse region through recreation and competition.