While many skiers will be spending the first couple of weeks of winter getting their ski legs back under them, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) racers will be ready to compete when they line up between the gates for their first race of the season.
A group of 20 FIS and U16 athletes returned home from a pre-season training trip to the Hintertux Glacier in Austria last week, where they spent 10 days on snow working on “mainly technical foundations,” explained Rob Boyd, WMSC’s program manager. “Some of the kids who had been skiing a lot through the summer, whether up on the Whistler T-bar for those camps or having gone to Chile, it’s a continuation; a refinement of those skills they’ve been working on.
“For the others who are maybe just getting back onto snow after a long break, it’s maybe taking their new dryland strength and development they may have done over the summer on the fitness side, putting that into action on snow and training the muscles to move for skiing movements rather than just gym-type movements,” Boyd added.
To that end, the fall camp also served as an opportunity for the skiers to see what more they need to work on if that off-season training didn’t exactly go as planned.
While Boyd said the entire group put in an impressive effort, “You could see the ones who have been doing the fitness work and really working hard, they can push all the way through for almost 10 days straight,” he said. “They had a rest day in the middle — it’s always advisable to do that — but in the second half of the camp, the last five days, they were still able to push really hard with really good focus.”
That second half of camp “wasn’t as productive” for those who may have taken a more relaxed approach to summer training, he added. During a debrief following the camp, “Those who had been training really hard said, ‘I could see how much the training I did over the summer; how effective it was for my skiing here,’” Boyd explained. “Those who maybe didn’t work as hard, in their debrief, (said) ‘yeah, I should’ve worked harder over the summer’... It’s really important to put the work in ahead of time, because it’s really hard to catch up.”
However, one thing not lacking on the Austrian peaks was inspiration to keep pushing forward. In addition to the glacier’s impressive vertical, the WMSC members also got to witness some talent on the slopes.
“There were days where they were training right beside other racers who may have been preparing or ready to go to the Solden World Cup (race), so there’s a spectrum of levels there,” Boyd said. “The great thing is they’re able to train right alongside them.”
The Whistler contingent was also planning on travelling to Solden to take in the first men’s World Cup event of the season, before that was cancelled due to weather.
WMSC staff and coaches are hoping the racers can turn that inspiration into success on the slopes ahead of the upcoming competition season. Following a solid series of results for the local club on last year’s regional, provincial and national race circuits, “We’ve got to keep focused on the performance and the process and the results will take care of themselves,” Boyd said.
But before any of those results can be clocked in, 55 WMSC members are heading to Sun Peaks on Nov. 17 for one last bout of on-snow training before the season ramps up.
While the camp will overlap with Whistler Blackcomb’s highly anticipated opening weekend, “what we’ve experienced is it’s really difficult to get a lot of skiing in a large group on opening weekend,” Boyd explained. “Especially when it’s American Thanksgiving weekend and there’s so many people up here to charge and try out the new skis or the new ski legs. It’s often limited terrain and space so we’ve gone ahead and planned to go to Sun Peaks where they have an early season training run specifically for race training, where there’s safety on the sides and really good manmade snow. So we’ll have a controlled surface and a much safer environment for our racers to go fast early season.”
The FIS season kicks off with slalom races on Dec. 2 in Norquay, Alta.