Loving Zermatt by U16HPP coaches
Submitted by AOA’s Duncan Gibson-Maclean who is enjoying Zermatt for his first time. These daily updates are a good insight for families considering a summer ski camp in the future. AOA sent 5 coaches on this 12-day camp to oversee 26 U16 athletes from all 4 AOA Divisions.
More information on the new U16 High Performance program here>>
After a long day of travel including a couple of delays before we left the country we have all arrived safely in Zermatt. Due to our delayed flight out of Montreal our bags will not arrive until early tomorrow morning, we anticipate heading to the hill around 8:30am, for a great day of free skiing. The conditions are winter like at the top so we anticipate a full day of great skiing.
The athletes were well behaved, organized, and great in getting through all our hurdles on route to our final destination.
All of our equipment arrived this morning just before 8:00am, so athletes got a much-needed sleep in and then headed out on the snow. Every new camp is an adventure, especially when you are in a new location (country) with a different culture; it takes a bit to get familiar with the surroundings and how things work. After the day of free skiing with the coaches to get acclimated to the elevation, snow, and any new equipment we will settle into a schedule with much earlier mornings starting tomorrow.
Weather is beautiful and scenery from the top of the world is amazing.
After a late evening thunderstorm last night, we awoke to clear blue skies again this morning and headed up the mountain early with a 6:15 departure from the hotel. Athletes are learning how to manage lift/ tram and gondola lines with the European athletes.
We free skied several runs first thing and trained paneled slalom and some stubbies later in the morning. It was great to see the effort and focus from the group and everyone becoming more and more confident and comfortable. Conditions remained excellent all morning and lift lines up top were surprisingly short.
After lunch/ rest time and some tuning the group went for a walk into town to grab some souvenirs and snacks.
Groups all met together to watch video and do a tech talk about Slalom. They also read a letter from Jeff Lackie (former OSTW/CAST Coach) who now works with Mikaela Shiffrin. Jeff provided some excellent advice on training, skill development and focusing that he was happy to share with the group.
We got off to a slow start this morning with wind and weather delaying the running of the glacier tram; fortunately our athletes put the delay to good use and struck up some conversations with current Alpine Canada athletes also waiting to head up. We finally got to head up around 8:30, where we were greeted with another beautiful day on the glacier. Today the athletes went back to work on some panelled slalom, putting into practice the tips and tricks they developed with their coaches during yesterday’s video sessions.
DAY 5 & 6
We have completed our first on snow block of 5 days having had 3 days of Slalom and 2 days of GS – the last couple of days have been excellent with hard snow to start out and courses holding up extremely well. Athletes are really working hard and making noticeable gains. We have had the luxury of watching some amazing racers over the last few days with the German Men’s team in the lane beside us running paneled slalom and slalom, several World Cup speed athletes training on the SG track and many others free skiing and training across the various lanes.
After skiing yesterday all athletes participated in the “Terminator Challenge”, a run/ hike to a little restaurant perched high up on the mountain. The pictures really don’t do it justice, as it is quite a steep climb. The goal was to beat the coaches’ time as a standard and we had 6 athletes achieve that – with many coming quite close. It was as much about mental toughness as it was fitness.
Most went out for dinner last night and all enjoyed a sleep in this morning, which was a nice break from the 5:15 alarm. Currently athletes are touring the village on a scavenger hunt and will spend the rest of the days with some fun afternoon activities, tuning, stretching, updating their journals and reviewing video.
The weather over the next few days looks excellent so we hope that we will have some great training. Overall the group is getting along very well, has been really well behaved, and maintained a high level of focus and effort.
We are really excited to have CAST Alumni/Georgian Peaks racer Larisa Yurkiw joining us for the last 5 days.
We had an amazing day of Slalom training yesterday with conditions holding up exceptionally well through the whole session. Athletes were looking confident and working hard. There was a mechanical issue with the T Bar that takes us out of the training area so some of the kids got a snow cat or snowmobile ride instead, just adding to their experiences in the mountains.
With lifts opening 1 hour later starting today we enjoyed a little bit more sleep and headed out at 7:15am. The lifts were on hold for wind, and while we were optimistic that we would be able to get up, the resort did not open and we ended up heading back to the hotel at about 9:30.
We have had time to get all skis tuned, stretch, do some dryland, go for an incredibly scenic hike, and have some time with Larisa Yurkiw, who joined us last evening. The athletes had a chance to get some insight into Larisa’s career, training, philosophies, strategies, etc. It is an amazing opportunity to spend some time with such a great ski racer and wonderful person.
DAY 8 & beyond…
The weather has most certainly been on our side after our 1 day off. We have had sun, no delays getting up and hard smooth conditions for most of the mornings. We have had GS sandwiched between Austrian and Swiss National teams, GS next to the Germans. Today we had a sunny and “bullet proof” freeski slalom day, which included at trip to Italy (the other part of the glacier) for snacks and a little break. We now look forward to GS tomorrow to finish off our on snow sessions.
Our time has flown by and it is hard to believe that we are now started on packing and prepping our skis for travel! We are seeing some impressive gains with the athletes, as they have been able to benefit from the excellent conditions, terrain, visibility, and environment with so many incredible skiers and racers all together. The Italian Men’s Speed team including Peter Fill and Dominik Paris just arrived at out hotel last night so athletes are hoping for a photo op. We have also had some Austrian and German teams here; it is excellent for the athletes to watch their work ethic, organization and professionalism.
Athletes have had the chance to spend time with Larisa on and off the hill, which has been an amazing learning opportunity. She has shared many stories and provided insight into the sport from all phases of her career.
This has been a great group of athletes – they have been well behaved, polite, focused, and enthusiastic. We are sure they have made some amazing new friends that they share a common passion with and will support each other in the sport for years to come. On Behalf of all the coaches and staff – we have really enjoyed the kids and the opportunity to spend this time with them both on the hill and through dryland, video, tuning, stretching, meetings, etc. We believe it has been an eye opener for most as an introduction to the level of high performance ski racing and training. Taking ownership and responsibility for their own career is one of the strong messages they have received; it is a very tough sport that requires a huge commitment and strong work ethic to succeed.