The challenges continue to mount for the U.S. Men’s Alpine Ski Team as they hold their pre World Cup training camps this month. After being forced to move their second planned on-snow camp from Portillo, Chile to Mt. Hutt, New Zealand; the Team hasn’t found much better luck in the new location.
A gusty start welcomed the men to their second on-snow camp in New Zealand as a particularly nasty batch of weather system the size of Australia hammered the south island throughout the first training block. Regardless, coaches report the Team is adjusting to ensure the best possible training opportunities.
For the men’s technical programs, including two-time Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom champion Ted Ligety and Olympians Tommy Ford, Will Brandenburg, Nolan Kasper and Tim Jitloff, that meant shifting their focus to the familiar slopes of Coronet Peak where the Team spent much of August.
“We lost three straight days at Mt. Hutt and decided to refocus at Coronet,” said newly named technical Head Coach Mike Day. “It’s a bit more protected here and they have a surface lift which can run in high wind. We’re making it work, but looking forward to some better weather.
Joining Day’s group is Forest Carey’s Europa Cup athletes with things just getting under way thanks to some hefty work from the U.S. Ski Team staff.
“The coaches did a ton of work on the slope and it’s starting to pay off,” said Day, while ducking out of the wind Thursday. “It took being on the snow cat until midnight, but we’ve got the surface scraped down to the hard layer we had last time around.”
After a solid first day of lapping the surface lift, Day already tipped his hat to Carey’s program for upping the intensity.
“Forest’s boys are definitely making our guys work,” he said. “They’re putting together some solid turns and the older guys are feeding off that energy. It’s a cool dynamic and is something you like to see as a coach.”
For Ligety, it’s another chance to put some more miles on his new equipment from Head. The 2006 Olympic combined gold medalist switched his ski, boot and binding set-up in late spring and reports good feel as he works through his new quiver.
“It’s definitely not ideal to get blown out for three straight days, but we’re rolling now,” said Ligety, who plans to max out his pre World Cup opener training in Saas Fee, Switzerland next month along with the Team. Soelden, Austria will host the traditional launch of the World Cup season Oct. 23-24 on the Rettenbach Glacier.
“Ted has some more work to do before everything is dialed, but we’re making all the adjustments necessary to get him and the boys the training they need,” added Day. “It’s day-to-day right now with weather, but we do have other options. It’s possible to train at Cardrona or Treble Cone too. We’ll make it work.”
Speed Head Coach Chris Brigham opted to keep his program based at Mt. Hutt, since it’s the only feasible option to run full-length downhill training.
“We came in later than the tech boys for this camp, so we’re just getting things started,” said Brigham, whose team plans to stay in New Zealand until early October. “We’ve been blown out a few days, but we’re keeping the boys busy with a lot of dryland and some drills.”
So far, Olympic bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht, Olympians Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman, Erik Fisher and Co. have been able to get in one solid day of super G.
“We’ve got a lot of time left down here, so I’m not worried,” said Brigham.