On Saturday July 26th, I left at 5:00 AM from Charlevoix Michigan, where I was vacationing with my family and drove to the nearby airport. I was on my way to the USSA U16 camp in Jackson Hole Wyoming, where I had been invited due to my performance at JNs. After a long flight passing through Denver (It’s so flat there!), I crossed big mountains (WITH SNOW), and landed at the small airport in Jackson Hole. The first thing I noticed was Jackson’s climate. The air was dry and the ground was covered in grassland. The altitude was about 6500 feet above sea level, Hanover is around 500. I arrived at the Teton Science Schools (the location of the camp) midday Sunday. We went for a easy run. I noticed that at the altitude made my heart rate jump about 20 above normal and I would reach higher levels of effort more easily.
Monday morning we went for a bounding workout up an alpine ski run. We did short L5 bounding intervals. My main goals were to avoid heel striking, having good hip position, and maximizing airtime. We went out in pairs to push each other. After the bounding, we did ski walking intervals at L3 (4*4 minutes with 2 minute rest). We went up a narrow singletrack gravely trail. Nearby were downhill mountain bike trails. All the downhill mountain bikers had no idea what the swarm of neon dressed people were doing going up a mountain. On the way down, our steps kicked up dust from the trail. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen skiers kick up a dust cloud. By the time we got down to our vans, my lower legs and shoes were covered with dust. Afterward we jumped in a freezing river and headed back for lunch. After lunch we went on a skate ski with agility. We skied along a bike path, jumping over occasional drainage grates. The agility involved backward skiing (the coaches were impressed that all the New England and Mid Atlantic skiers could do 180s on rollerskis which we learned at the Lake Placid REG camp), off/on road slalom, skiing in circles, and really long gliding on one leg.
Tuesday Morning we went to the Teton National Park to do a classic double pole distance ski. We skied on a bike path with spectacular views of huge mountains topped with snowy glaciers. We did some double pole speeds. I had a lot of fun in the speeds working on fast acceleration.
That afternoon we went to a field right outside the school to do core. We did all sorts of fun core and balance exercises including rollerski rollouts, jumping between bosu balls, passing a medicine ball while balancing on foam rollers, and all sorts of fun things. It started to rain right after we started our workout. By the end it was pouring. Some of the exercises such as doing a skate motion from bosu ball to bosu ball and pausing on top of each one became very hard when wet.
After our pre-breakfast run/stretch/specific strength and breakfast, we went to the National Elk refuge (saw no elk though) to do a moosehoofs workout. My main goals for the workout were to keep it L3 and to keep good technique (no run/no heel strike). After a warmup with nice views and some 100 meter speeds, we started our 4*4 minute L3 interval. At altitude, the L3 pace (for me around heart rate 165 bpm) was hard of achieve and usually ended up being around heart rate 176 bpm. After our fun intervals we walked down and enjoyed the view.
That afternoon came the strength test involving push ups, pull ups, sit ups, dips, and box jumps (1 minute on, 1 minute off). I improved my score from REG, doing one more pull-up, 10 more push-ups, 10 more dips, 2 more sit ups, and one more box jump. After the strength test we were all sore and tired. I foam rolled everything and that evening we did sone yoga.
After breakfast Thursday morning, we went on a skate distance rollerski. We started in a parking lot doing drills designed to make us commit our weight to one ski including slaloming on only one rollerski, normal slalom, and V4 (2 poles per glide). We skied on a bike path with nice pavement through the Teton national park with spectacular views of high mountains. We rollerskied sections of no poles for five minutes at a time and did 15 second sprints. Right before the halfway point I was doing a speed when my left pole started skidding on the ground. I had broken the tip. I skied for another ten minutes with one pole functional. I got to do 2 one pole speeds (good practice for mass starts) before I stopped at a van to borrow another pole. I did another 5 minute speed to catch up, and rollerskied down the hills in the pack. Many tourists lowered their windows or got out of their cars to get pictures or video of the rollerskiers, it was kind of weird and I was worried about running into some of the ones who stepped into the bike path to photograph the skier herds with expensive cameras. That afternoon, we went white water rafting down the snake river. We hit huge waves and drenched everyone in the boat. We saw muskrats, adorable river otters, and one big fat beaver. It was super fun. At the end, everyone was freezing so we ran from the river back to the parking lot where the vans were and had burritos.
Friday was probably our hardest day. We got up in the morning for stretching and breakfast, then ran an uphill running time trial. The trail was dusty and steep and I found it hard at the high altitude. Afterward we went swimming in a stream (fun) and then headed back for lunch. In he afternoon we went for a long skate ski workout. We skied for about 30 minutes along relatively flat bike paths and then did drills in a big parking lot. Our first drill was to see how long we could balance on one moving rollerski (two double poles). Hopping was allowed, but touching the ground with poles was not. The goal was to glide as far as you could, the optimal goal being all the way across the lot. We tried harder variations over time including taking off a ski while gliding and putting it on again and not hopping. Our second drill involved doing circles around cones on rollerskis (agility). We also had to avoid artfully drawn chalk illustrations (such as a t-Rex, flying elephants, and banana peels) by dodging or jumping over them. The third activity was a head to head race starting with a one leg only slalom, 720s around cones, doing 180s and skiing backward, and jumping over chalk drawings of angry coaches. The last, and most fun in my opinion was another head to head race, starting through a tight slalom of cones. Then breaking into a wider slalom. Each skier had their own lane of narrow cones, but the wider slalom had only one lane. It was really hard to pass on the wide slalom though I did manage two passes by leaning way into the corners and in some cases skidding/drifting the rollerskis. At the end we lunged for the finish. All 4 of the drills were good for balance and agility as well as being really fun. On the way back a lot of the group rollerskied in a train (holding the person in front of them’s poles).
That afternoon we also saw two moose (photo taken in low light, made brighter so moose more visible):Sunday Morning we left for a really long L1 hike/run. We drove to a mountain pass, then started hiking. I hiked with a group of new friends from all around the country. The terrain was a gradual uphill through long grass meadows and pine forests. We could see snow on nearby mountains. We continued hiking along switchbacks as our altitude continually rose higher. Once we reached the ridge, we hiked along rocky trails along the mountain’s edge, before passing through boulder strewn meadows and entering the pine forests again. As we ran/hiked, we chatted about training, racing, food, skiing, other sports and hobbies, and where we lived. We also talked with one of our coaches, Bjorn (from Norway) about Norway and skiing there. We came out into a field about 2.5 hours in where we stopped for snacks, then continued hiking through beautiful alpine meadows. The meadows were full of short grasses and scattered with tons of beautiful flowers. I’d never seen anything quite like them in New Hampshire (admittedly, we were over 8000 feet at the time).
We kept hiking through the meadows until we got to a ridge at the top of a valley. Across the valley, we could see out destination, an aerial tram at the top of a mountain. We ran along a flower surrounded rocky trail cut into the side of the mountain leading down into the valley. At the bottom of the valley, we found a huge pile of SNOW 🙂 The snow was surprisingly firm though not icy, a really nice corn snow. I really wanted to ski. We had a snowball fight, then made snow angels. We then left the snow 🙁 and hiked up out of the valley. Eventually, we climbed to the top of the mountain, reaching over 10,000 feet of altitude.
The coaches brought up our lunches on the tram, so we ate lunch and then took the tram down from the mountain. The hike was tiring, taking over four hours, and my quads got very tired by the end. After our hike we stopped at the snake river to jump in and swim.
It was great to get to get to train with so many like minded, dedicated, focused people, and it was fun to put people behind the names on result lists. There were so many good skiers who I could model my technique on. I’ll really miss the new friends and training partners, but I now know new things I can focus on and more ways to improve as a skier.
I left late Saturday night, staying at the condo my family was renting. Sunday we went for a hike where we could pick huckleberries (tasty), and went for a scenic raft float down the snake river where we saw 13 bald eagles. Monday I flew out of Jackson on my way home, watching the snow on top of the mountains disappear into the distance and hoping that I’ll see it again in Hanover soon.
And, of course, the food photos: you can eat without training, but you can’t train without eating.