WANAKA, New Zealand (Aug. 4) - With a summer already full of rollerskiing, the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team is in the southern hemisphere to get some vital on-snow time prior to the start of the 2010 Olympic season. Based at Snow Park Resort in New Zealand, the athletes are getting some time to test new equipment as well as transfer their rollerski skills to the snow.
"The conditions down here at the Snow Farm represent what we often see in our northern hemisphere winter. The snow is can range from hardwax to hairies conditions, so we can test a fair amount of new equipment," U.S. Cross Country Coach Matt Whitcomb said. "The tracks are wide and long and the terrain is varied. Athletes will take what they've been tackling on rollerskis and transfer it to daily on snow technique and video work."
According to Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), the camp is one of the biggest components of the team's summer training period. The Team has thus far spent a majority of its time at the newly opened U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's Center of Excellence.
"This is such an important camp for us. You really can't beat the skiing in New Zealand. We train some of our biggest hours of the year during these weeks so to be able to be on snow is a huge bonus," Newell said. "We spend so much time cross-training during the summer that these few weeks of on snow training let us remember the real feeling of skiing. It reminds us what we're training for."
For Whitcomb, being on snow is also an important way to pinpoint parts of skiing technique that needs to be improved by each athlete.
"Rollerskiing is very similar to ski-specific movements, but nothing can compare to training on snow. The surface is faster and less-stable and can magnify technique deficiencies, placing a lot of dependency on balance and strength," Whitcomb said. "And, it's a nice break from the hottest part of the year in the states. These guys go home motivated and ready to tackle the tar until winter."
Morgan Arritola (Ketchum, ID) echoed her coach and teammates excitement for being back on snow.
"Being able to come to winter enables us to make a lot of progress on our skis," Arritola said. "Life is really simple at the Snow Farm; sleep, eat, train."
While he is getting his skiing technique dialed in, Newell said that he has seen his biggest strides in the fitness area.
"So far some of the biggest improvements have been in fitness. I will train somewhere around 24 hours this week with quite a few hard workouts. This is the time of year when the big progress is made," Newell said.
Morgan Arritola (Ketchum, ID) said that the athleticism she has seen at this camp has her eager to get the season started and see how her team contends.
"I know that I am bringing my best to the table every day and I know that all of my teammates are too. These weeks are filled with some hard days followed by some quality rest when we get home," Arritola said. "I believe in what I am doing and am confident in it. I can't wait to see everyone race fast this year."
With the camp going in such a strong direction, Newell said he's looking forward to showing the world what the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team can do.
"I think that the team is looking stronger than ever. After such an incredible World Championships last year it feels like the whole nordic team has a new motivation for the Olympics," Newell said. "Last year was just the beginning, we surprised a lot of people but this season at the Olympics we're going to make some serious noise."
The Team will remain in New Zealand through the end of the week before returning to their rollerskis in the states.