The Adventures of Chile

AUGUST 29, 2019 — The U16s are home from Chile and the SOD Ski Team touch down early Friday morning. Both teams are travelling the equivalent of a New Zealand – Toronto trip when you factor in the 10hour bus ride plus the 10hour flight. They will be tired!

With so much news about the Chile snow conditions prior to their departure, it is great to read the positive reports below.  This is partly due to the decision to put AOA HPP Director, Kip Harrington in charge of logistics. Not only did Kip travel down to Chile before anyone arrived (to confirm there was, in fact, adequate snow) he made decisions on the fly for 50+ athletes and coaches to move 10 hours south in search of snow. This is no small feat. Think of your own family vacation and then add in 45++ people and 4 pairs of skis per athlete. Add to this the fact they are ALL teenagers!

Next time you see Kip please be sure to thank him.
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U16HPP CHILE CAMP…. Submitted by AOA Athletic Manager Duncan Gibson-MacLean
Photo by Cam Powell

The AOA U16 High-Performance Program’s (HPP) 2019 Chile camp is in the books. The camp ran from August 11th – 27th with portions of the camp at both El Colorado and Pucón Ski Area. The camp, led by AOA’s High-Performance Director Kip Harrington, consisted of 21 athletes from six AOA clubs.

The camp was run with a focus on slalom and giant slalom training with a good progression from freeskiing drills, to brushes, panels and finally full gates. The conditions varied from hard and icy to soft and rutty, but they were all excellent conditions for the tasks. The kids remained very positive and focused throughout the entire camp. The athletes were challenged by multiple environments each day providing a variety of gates, turn shapes, speeds, and vertical distance and offset to work on strengthening the key fundamental skills required for all ski racers.

This group of athletes was great to work with both on and off-hill. They worked extremely hard and made excellent progress.

The camp was also lucky to have NCAA athlete and AOA Alumni, Stephanie Currie join us for the entire camp. Stephanie was able to provide great mentorship to the young athletes, providing them insight into what it takes to be successful (from drills on snow to dryland training and recovery) at this level and beyond.

Over half of the athletes also took advantage of obtaining their grade 10 academic history course. This course was a blend of online and in-class teaching offered by Collingwood teacher and CAST alumni/Osler Coach, Kevin Gosselin.

On behalf of Kip and myself, I’d like to thank all the coaches involved in the project – Kevin Gosselin (Osler), Brent Gazarek (Craigleith) and Curtis Eades (Toronto Ski Club) for a great camp.

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SOD SKI TEAM CAMP REPORT …Submitted by SODST Head Coach Jacques Reid
Photo by Ben Williamson

This report covers the 2nd half our camp that changed significantly due to the fact the El Colorado Ski Resort, near Santiago, was dealing with its driest winter in 50 years. As I write this towards the end of our camp, there are no more teams training at El Colorado. La Parva ski resort, another popular spot for teams to train at right next to El Colorado is now closed for the season.

This brings us to Pucón, situated in the Araucania region of Chile which is a 10-hr. drive south of Santiago. The climate is completely different here where the region is known for its lakes, national parks and volcanos. The Town of Pucón sits at the base of the Villarica volcano and the ski resort of Pucón is a 20-minute drive up the volcano from the town.

The Villarica volcano, known locally as Rukapillan meaning “Devil’s House”, is the most active volcano in Chile. It also provides a ski area that gets a lot of snow in the wintertime. The ski hill of Pucon is very basic with a lodge, 3 lifts (1 T-bar & 2 old double chairlifts) but has been incredibly supportive in hosting us and other teams for the first time in a long time.

I must give a shout out to Sebastian Cartes who is the ski club head coach and coordinator for teams coming to Pucon. Sebastian went above and beyond to make sure we had a productive training camp environment. Putting this all together – at the last minute as we were scrambling to find a different location, while in El Colorado, was no small feat and are forever grateful to Sebastian and all his hard work.

Kip Harrington, AOA High-Performance director also deserves a lot of credit for brokering the deal and considering many other options. In the end, our ability to come to Pucon saved this camp in Chile and we all have Kip and Sebastian to thank for making the camp was a great success despite adverse conditions.

Now for the training…. The training lanes on the side of the volcano were very productive. We had multiple days where we were able to train 25 to 30 GS turns in a row, on steep to moderate terrain. This is something we cannot even do at home in the middle of winter in Ontario! For Slalom, we set multiple stations with 60 – 80 turns per run. Pucon had ample amounts of terrain to help our athletes prepare for the ski season.

Another hidden benefit (but equally important with busy, active teenagers) were accommodations in Pucon. The Grand Hotel Pucon was a very comfortable environment for our athletes to call home. This “grand” old hotel was built in 1934 and gave our athletes a very different experience. During the summer is a very busy spot for Chileans looking for a warm getaway on the lake with all kinds of adventures very nearby. In the winter it is practically empty. It was helpful that the ski hill is owned and operated by the same company that owns the hotel. This makes for very interesting accommodation, meal, lift and training packages. The hotel also provides a full indoor gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and weight rooms, yoga studios and indoor swimming pool. The dining hall has given our athletes an opportunity to choose different foods within each meal. The buffet-style set up allows our ski racers to eat as much as needed for our long days of training (and they are hungry!!)

A large ski tuning area allowed our skiers’ ample space to store and work on skis for training. Waxing the bases and sharpening the edges daily is a big part of any training camp.

Our athletes have been able to enjoy the first-class set up for a training camp that is usually set up for National Teams to use. We have been able to take advantage of this set up at a very fair price and will certainly consider this option when booking our camp for next season.

Lastly, I would like to recognize the coaches and staff who have made this camp a very positive environment for the athletes. Bebe Zoricic and Jenn Warren went above and beyond to ensure the athletes were well taken care of away from home. Melissa Wheatcroft, our teacher who ran the Kinesiology course during the camp, also provided us with an extra hand on and off the hill to provide an even more inclusive environment where schooling and learning was part of the daily routine for many team members. Chris Tepera, joined us as an “Interface” coach and provided a bonus to the staff and the athletes. Chris is currently coaching U14’s at Craigleith and we’re thrilled to have given him the opportunity to work with FIS athletes and be part of a “high performance” training camp.  This interface opportunity allows coaches like Chris to learn “on the go” at little cost to the skiers on the camp. Chris’ club (Craigleith) pays for his travel and SOD simply covers his living expenses while in Chile.

As for me, I am very excited about what comes next for this group of SODST athletes. This camp has shown us as coaches that we have a very cohesive team that is willing to work hard and respect all the little things that are important for the success of an individual in ski racing. Fall will provide another window for physical training and soon our next team training camp in Panorama will be upon us. I am very much looking forward to being involved with this special team of athletes and coaches for the upcoming season.

Jacques