New Zealand offers great snow, and great eats, for U.S. nordic team


New Zealand offers great snow, and great eats, for U.S. nordic team{mosimage}WANAKA, New Zealand — A handful of U.S. cross-country skiers are back on snow for the first time since the end of last season, midway through the U.S. Ski Team’s fifth consecutive preseason trip Down Under while other athletes nominated to the 2007 squad are training at home.

“It’s awesome. The weather’s been super again,” head coach Pete Vordenberg said Friday at The Snow Farm. “We’ve had tons of skiing and there’s more snow than ever; really, this is our best year in terms of snow. The training’s been perfect … and, maybe most important, all the athletes are healthy. It must be our clean living.”

Two-time Olympians Andrew Johnson and Torin Koos are joined by their ’06 Olympic teammates Chris Cook and Andy Newell plus Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen, who sparkled at world junior last season as well as the U.S. championships. Each has been nominated for the 2007 ski team, which is expected to be finalized by late summer.

“Yeah, it’s only August, but I’m really pleased with what I’ve been seeing,” Vordenberg said. “And The Snow Farm is like coming home — great trail prep, super-hearty meals — vegetables, lots of meat, great hearty stuff. It’s good sheepherder food … and perfect for us.”

While the athletes are piling up on-snow time, Vordenberg said others nominated to the U.S. Ski Team are training on their own or with their home clubs. Two-time Olympian Kris Freeman is training on his own, Vordenberg said, while Kikkan Randall, another two-time Olympian, is training in Alaska.

“We left a lot of people home. Some need to focus on their base fitness, and travel like this makes that more difficult. You have to have a lot of self-discipline to treat yourself right but not overdue it,” he said.

Some members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation program also are training at The Snow Farm, led by coach Abi Holt. “It’s awesome to have other clubs down here,” according to Vordenberg, “because they get to see what we’re doing, we can all work together … and it adds to the sense of our nordic community.”

The camp runs for another 10 days, Vordenberg said.

— USSA

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