Back to basics: Women's speed team hits MammothTweet
The athletes still have their ski legs under them, not their beach legs, according to Women’s Speed Coach Chip White, which makes the May training block at Mammoth unique compared to other off-season camps.
The U.S. women’s World Cup speed team, including Leanne Smith, Stacey Cook and Laurenne Ross, wrapped up an abbreviated training block last week in Mammoth. The camp was shortened compared to previous years as the girls were fresh off an additional weeklong training period in Beaver Creek last month. Lindsey Vonn and Alice McKennis are, of course, rehabbing injuries, and Julia Mancuso opted to take some time off snow after recently testing in Norway with Head.
“It’s a good opportunity to get back to basics, the basic fundamentals. We do some ski school-type drills and freeskiing drills and things like that,” said White. “We also try to get some special terrain built with the cooperation of Mammoth Mountain. They do a lot for us in terms of making special terrain, things that we see during the race season and we can try to simulate different race situations, like sidehill traverses, dips and rolls, jumps and being able to do repeated jumps. Returning to basic skills is the main focus when we come to this camp.”
The athletes had a chance to run nearly full-length super G and downhill courses with several different elements built into each run, targeting a different skill or tactic from day to day. They struggled a little with weather, but still got a lot out of the camp, said the coach.
PSIA’s Michael Rogan, who serves as the U.S. Ski Team’s fundamental skills development coach, was on hand to contribute his expertise in the area of fundamentals.
“We really get back to basics working with Mike Rogan here at this Mammoth camp,” said Smith. “We ran three days of super G and one day of downhill, so you take what you learned in the morning and bring it into the course. And if there’s anything you need to tweak, you go right back with Rogan and do some more work. … He brings a different outlook. We’re with ski racing coaches year-round, and he brings a more fundamental, back-to-basics approach, which sometimes we lose sight of. It’s good to hear things a different way. It’s really fun working with him.”
“Leanne has matured so much in her approach to learning about the sport,” said White. “She’s become a much better student of the sport, and she’s skiing really well and understanding some of the things we’re trying to target.”
And Rogan has aided immensely in that process, according to her coach.
“He’s one of the best ski teachers that I have ever seen,” said White. “He takes a simple approach. He’s a great listener, and he understands what people are saying.
“Prior to any camp in which I’m going to use Michael, we sit down and show him either through video or on the snow what I’m trying to accomplish. Then he thinks about it and we collectively get together and come up with some drills that are going to target that specific area. And then we hammer that. Actually Michael is the one who goes and hammers it.”
Stacey Cook, training on her home mountain, where she’ll be hosting a speed camp of her own at the end of the month, was also working closely with Rogan.
“It’s always good for [Stacey] to revisit the basic fundamentals,” said White. “It gives her confidence and gets her just more balanced over the center of the ski. With the new skis coming out, we’re also trying a lot of equipment, maybe different flexes in a boot. The idea is to get it dialed in now, so when we go to the Southern Hemisphere, we’re not messing around with equipment so much.”
Meanwhile, Laurenne Ross has been testing skis and considering a company switch (she’s currently on Atomic), according to her coach.
“She’s skiing extremely well at the moment and is very driven,” said White. “It’s been a really, really good camp for her. She’s settled down with some of her wildness in terms of her upper body.”
The Europa Cup speed team, including Julia Ford, Abby Ghent, Katie Ryan, Jackie Wiles and Katharine Irwin, also attended the camp and received invaluable training time with the A-teamers.
“These younger athletes have an opportunity to train with the World Cup athletes to get an understanding of work ethic and professionalism. It doesn’t happen all the time because of the logistics, but at this camp in Mammoth we have the opportunity to have that crossover and it’s great for both sides.”
In terms of rehabbers Vonn and McKennis, both are doing extremely well, said White. McKennis had a small setback and had to spend a couple extra weeks on crutches to make sure the bone was healed completely. “She was a little disappointed about that, which is understandable, but she’s been working really hard.
“Lindsey’s rehab is also going well. She’s been getting stronger, has a lot more range of motion. She’s able to do some double-leg squats and things like that. She’s very motivated to be back, so we’re looking forward to both of their returns as soon as possible,” said White.
Story by Geoff Mintz
Photos: Sarah Brunson/USSA