Skiing in May: On-Snow Training Camps

Megan Harrod
2015-05-26 13:58

While most of us are busy thinking about mountain biking and hiking, the U.S. Ski Team has already kicked off the 2015/16 season with on-snow training camps in California and Colorado. Heading to places like Mammoth Mountain and Arapahoe Basin, the Team looks forward to these low-pressure spring camps with no big races looming. So, what goes on at a U.S. Ski Team training camp?


On the men’s side, Head Men's Tech Coach Forest Carey and assistant coaches Scotty Veenis and Ian Garner made their way westward to Mammoth Mountain, accompanied by an eclectic crew including Ted Ligety (Park City, UT), Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY), David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, CO) and Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA). Though it was a quick seven-day camp and there was certainly a lack of snow, the crew was able to get some high-volume giant slalom and super G training under their belts.

Full-length training meant the Team was on the lift each morning for early sessions—training under the rising sun at 5:30 a.m. The group had access to all of the main trails until 8 a.m. when the public arrived. Even after the mountain opened to the public, the Mammoth staff supported the team with staff to ensure they were able to get their training.

Weibrecht gave props to the Mammoth staff for their commitment to the group. "I thought the Mammoth camp was great for the snow that they had this year,” he said after the camp. They absolutely bent over backwards to make the best of the situation that we had. We had some great sessions that were really productive."

The low-pressure training environment mixed with the minimal snow conditions also meant the staff was able to get a little creative with training plans—for instance, training super G and GS in mogul fields, and super slaloms. Towards the end of the camp the guys were even gifted a powder day with 18 inches of fresh snow. That made slalom training challenging, but didn’t deter Bennett, who attended the camp primarily to get a feel for his new Fischer equipment set-up, and took six slalom runs that day.

Off-piste spring training at Mammoth Mountain.

“We’re just working on engraining the guy’s moves they’ve been working on all year and then trying to fix other flaws they’ve been dealing with,” said Carey. “They still have muscle memory, so they’re still skiing alright from the season, but at the same time there are no races looming over their heads so they could really relax and work on fundamental issues.”

Don’t worry—these guys were able to sneak in plenty of off-snow activities in Mammoth Lakes too, including fishing, mountain biking, hot springs exploring, and even walleyball when it was dumping snow outside.


While the men took on Mammoth, coaches Frank Kelble, Kris Shampeny, Thomas Erhard, Karin Harjo, and David Lyon brought 11 female athletes ranging from B Team to first year U18 National Training Group (NTG) athletes to Arapahoe Basin. This included Stephanie Lebby (Big Bear Lake, CA), Breezy Johnson (Salt Lake City, UT), Anna Marno (Steamboat Springs, CO), Alice Merryweather (Hingham, MA), Paula Moltzan (Lakeville, MN), Nina O'Brien (Edwards, CO), Galena Wardle (Basalt, CO), Keely Cashman (Squaw Valley, CA), Storm Klomhaus (Boulder, CO), Jennie Symons (Vail, CO), and Nellie Rose Talbot (Vail, CO). Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO) also joined the crew on the final day of training.

Stephanie Lebby trains at A-Basin. (Adrienne Saia Isaac/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area)

The focus during the six-day A-Basin camp was early morning giant slalom and super G followed by freeskiing. Aside from the accommodating staff and local vibe, what makes training at A-Basin so unique is the high-alpine component. The whole mountain is above tree line, so it feels European. Its uneven and difficult terrain showcases the full gamut: changing fall lines, twists, blind breakovers, compressions and flats.

Lyon, a longtime coach in the Pacific Norwest Ski Association and former athlete, is very involved with coaches and instructor education. He leads Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) certification classes and has been a PSIA Demo Team member for years. All of this meant Lyon was a great addition to the crew to lead the directed freeskiing, including drills in challenging off-piste conditions.

Kelble noted the camp was challenging, but the ladies worked well with each other and the coaching staff during their inaugural camp. “This was the first time the group was together, and they showed tremendous ability to operate as a team and create a great, positive working environment,” noted Kelble. “They pushed and challenged each other on the hill, but when the day was done they had fun and a lot of laughs. The veteran athletes even organized a team dinner for everyone at the end.”

The teams will now descend upon the Center of Excellence in Park City, UT where they’ll dive into strength and conditioning programs before chasing winter once again to on-snow camps in New Zealand and South America.


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