Training is a year round endeavour for Black Jack Ski Team members and becomes even more important once the snow melts.
Led by Black Jack ski coach David Wood, local skiers stepped up preparations for winter cross-country ski racing with eight members attending an eight-day training camp split between Kaslo and the Haig Glacier in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country earlier this month.
“The summer training is crucial,” said Wood. “We say that the skiers are made in the summer.”
Fifty-five athletes from Black Jack, Canmore, Calgary, Foothills, Kimberley, and Comox met up for four days of rigorous dryland training in Kaslo, before ascending to the Haig Glacier for another four days of snow training.
In Kaslo, athletes trained on roller skis, road bikes, running and hiking along scenic Kootenay Lake with coaches and parents providing support. The dryland aspect provides high-intensity training that simulates cross-country skiing and is critical for elite athletes competing on the Haywood Nor-Am cross-country ski circuit.
“A typical training season will have a skier doing 70 per cent of their training volume by Dec. 1,” explained Wood. “Once the racing season begins, athletes will actually train less as they use days travelling to competitions and cannot train as much with racing.”
Athletes then hiked into the Haig Glacier camp, which sits about 2,400 metres above sea level, their home for the next four days. The camp is a series of domed huts built for skiers with a steady stream of helicopters bringing in supplies.
Although the snow conditions were less than ideal this year, the glacier provides relatively flat and stable terrain with few crevasses, and is a favourite among cross-country ski teams and biathletes across North America looking for snow during the summer months.
The Black Jack athletes put in three solid days of training at altitude working on technique and fitness.
“Skiing on the Haig is like enhanced spring skiing,” wrote Daniel Merlo on the Black Jack skiing blog. “In the morning the track is bullet proof, fast forward two hours and it’s the complete opposite. Because of these challenging conditions it is the perfect opportunity to improve technique. In short, if you can ski with good technique on the Haig Glacier then you can ski with good technique anywhere in the world.”
The Black Jack skiers have another week on the Haig planned in August, a dryland camp for Juniors in September, and a long dryland camp in September-October with the senior athletes.
“After that we are waiting for the snow to fall,” added Wood. “The past few years we have gone to Canmore for skiing in late October. They store snow over the summer and spread it out mid to late October.”