It was like déjà vu all over again. This year’s Comp Team Thanksgiving training camp was a mirror image of last years. With the snow conditions running the gamut from cold, new snow, to frozen ice and bulletproof conditions. Most of you saw that for yourselves. A couple of events that I had never witnessed before at West Yellowstone at Thanksgiving were rain and 45-degree temperatures — now I can say I have seen it all at West Yellowstone during the Thanksgiving Camp.
Getting Back on Snow
Katy Bonacci was back giving me hand with the coaching duties. The first few days the Comp team focused on getting that snow skiing feel back and dialing in the technique. Mornings were classic and afternoons, skate. We did no-pole and one-pole skiing to help with balance, core stabilization, and technique, and did a few sets of speeds, with one really good session with teams from Boise and McCall. By Tuesday we were into the first set of intervals.
After not bringing klister to West a few years ago and needing it, I have always brought the box, and this year I even threw in the klister pot, thinking if I brought it we wouldn’t need it. I am glad I did bring it, as it started to warm up and turn to klister conditions. As it got warmer, and with overnight rain the snow on the Rendezvous trails started to get thin. Luckily, the organizers and groomer decided to groom the road up to the plateau. What a brilliant idea! The road was the perfect pitch to get into a really nice striding rhythm. With the sun out, and warm temperatures, it was one of the nicest Thanksgiving Day skis since before they started plowing the park road, thus ending the tradition of skiing into the park on Thanksgiving Day.
Speaking of tradition, the TUNA Thanksgiving feast was a great time. Donna stuffed more people into a smaller space and fed them great food prepared by the TUNA members. Some of the athletes and family from Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy showed up for the feast. It was great to have them there to share a meal. The Comp Team had a small silent auction, which allowed for people to get some good deals on gear while putting a little money into the TUNA Junior Programs.
The temperatures dropped overnight, turning the trails around the trailhead into a mix of rock hard snow and blue ice. Once you got farther out on the trails, the snow got nice again, and we were treated to classic East Coast skiing. I am sure I have said this before, but we are spoiled with cold temperatures and snow, not to mention the exceptional grooming performed by the Mountain Dell crew. Skiing on less than ideal conditions is something we don’t do often, but makes us better skiers when we do. Doug Edgerton, the longtime groomer at West, did a great job of making the frozen tracks skiable and safe.
TUNA Juniors at the Races
Thanksgiving Camp always ends with a race. It is one of the toughest races of the season, because the Comp Team had upwards of 25hrs of training with multiple interval and speed sessions. They were headed into this race with less than ideal rest. Expectations were low, and the goal was to ski big, and use technique and brains while racing. From what I saw, the racers exceeded expectations and made their goals.
The Junior Comp camp started on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, bringing the total TUNA Junior athletes skiing the Rendezvous trails to almost 30. Coaches Noah Brautigam, Don DeBlieux, and Caden MacFarlane ran the Junior Comp athletes through their paces, getting them ready for the upcoming race season. Noah organized an evening for the Comp and Jr Comp athletes and invited three of the Sun Valley Gold Team athletes and Leah Lange from the U of U ski team. Everyone came to the coach’s house for pizza, and to listen to the elite skiers and ask questions. It was a great time, and I think every athlete came away with a new understanding of how cool Nordic skiing is, and everything you can achieve from this great sport.
Back to the Grind
The Junior teams returned to Salt Lake and went right back into dryland training. At least it was warm and dry. The Comp Team was rollerskiing at Soldier Hollow in short sleeves just days after returning from West. We have been making the best of a dry situation with quality training sessions at our local haunts, plus exploring a few new ones. The Intermountain Division races are on the horizon, and in the next article you will hear stories and see results from our quick training camp to Sun Valley and the IMD opener in Bozeman.