There’s no magic number of days, runs, or hours a coach can prescribe that will guarantee an athlete gets the right amount of on-snow summer training. There’s no single perfect place for athletes to go either, but the women of the U.S. Ski Team and their coaches are searching for perfection, or at the very least, high-quality offseason training.
“As far as the overall volume, it’s very much individually tailored for the scope of athlete that you have whether it’s someone that’s a junior like a Breezy Johnson who’s a ’96 versus the number of 32-year-old girls that we have on our team that are born in ’84,” Kristofic says. “There’s a 12-year difference between those athletes, and that’s where you need to really tailor that overall volume and load.”
Kristofic, better know as “PK,” believes in scheduling a substantial number of days on snow in the offseason because a critical volume is necessary for athletes to dial in new tactics and equipment.
To reach their targets, the coaching staff made some changes to the spring training schedule this year, adding more high-quality days to the April training calendar. While the men’s team headed to Norway, the women of the U.S. Ski Team started their offseason training closer to home, skiing at Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley in California.
“Quite honestly, most of those reservations and blocks of time are done a year in advance because there are only a handful of places you can go to get the best-quality training out there.” – Paul Kristofic
Most athletes might be inclined to take some time off after a long, grueling World Cup season, but the U.S. Ski Team opted to carry its momentum from the winter straight into spring training camps.
“Athletes at the end of the season have a very good feeling for the snow, so it’s a perfect time to create meaningful change in their technique because they still have a really good feeling and connectivity to the snow,” Kristofic points out. “It’s also perfect time to test new equipment whether it’s boot set-ups, whether it’s new ski models coming from the ski companies. That’s a gigantic opportunity where the athletes have such a good feel and usually on winter snow conditions, so it’s a massive advantage.”
Moving forward, the women’s team plans to stick together for summer training – both the tech and speed teams. They will hit their usual summer training spots like New Zealand and Chile, but also stop by USSA’s Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, for physical conditioning sessions.
In fact, the ladies just spent two weeks together back in the gym with the trainers.
“The head coaches of each group essentially build the program out together with me,” Kristofic explains. “Alberto Senigagliesi does the speed program, Brandon Dyksterhouse oversees the whole technical program, and Thomas Erhard oversees the development. We do most of those planning meetings at the beginning of April in Park City when we bring all of the coaches together and do our debrief and planning week.”
How far in advance do the coaches plan their summer training? It can depend on the venue they’re hoping to utilize and the size of the group.
“The things that we look at are where we can optimize the best training over the summer and fall. We also have some traditional places that we go to where we’ve established relationships in New Zealand and in Chile, and over in Europe in October. Quite honestly, most of those reservations and blocks of time are done a year in advance because there are only a handful of places you can go to get the best-quality training out there,” notes Kristofic.
Preseason training for the team will end in November at Copper Mountain in Colorado, just as many younger athletes are first returning to snow and the White Circus has started pitching its tents.
While the summer and fall goals are individually tailored to each athlete, there are some things that the entire team will work on in the offseason.
“I think we have a number of athletes on the speed team who have a tremendous amount of experience and we’re looking to sort of bring a little more consistency to their results,” Kristofic says. “They have capacity to ski into the top 10 consistently. We’re not always achieving that, so building out a program and targets that develop that consistency at a high level where they can create some repeatability in those really fast runs.”
Only time will tell if the entire women’s ski team, which will be announced in full this July, will bring the winning consistency of their teammates Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin.
Cover image from USSA