New Zealand Camp: Wrap-Up

Megan Harrod
2015-09-04 17:53

Ask any U.S. Alpine Ski Team athlete or staff member, and they’ll tell you that training in New Zealand is unique. Sure, the skiing is world-class and there is top-notch support provided from the three partner ski areas, Ohau, Coronet Peak and Roundhill, but both athletes and staff seem to agree that the New Zealand camp was particularly productive this year. Now that the teams have all returned and the women’s World Cup speed team is back on snow in Portillo, let’s take a deeper look at what went down, down under.

Call it El Niño, the conditions in the Southern Hemisphere this year have been supreme. The snow gods paid a visit to New Zealand for both the men and the women, giving them the chance for some powder days and heli-skiing adventures at Mt. Cook for the ladies and Mt. Aspiring for the men, respectively. The winter snow provided for some good technical training across all groups as well—from the development group to the World Cup level.

The first on-snow training camp of the season is all about dialing in the equipment and making big technical improvements. New Zealand is perfect for this kind of training. The winter snow, demanding hills, varying terrain and different venues require strong technical skills. Head Men’s Coach Sasha Rearick noted that the staff did a tremendous job of varying the course-setting to really challenge the athletes to get out of their comfort zones and dial it in. 

Mikaela Shiffrin, Ted Ligety and the U.S. Ski Team train at Coronet Peak in Queenstown, New Zealand (Cape Productions)

The Women
Changes to the coaching staff at the World Cup level with the addition of Head Women’s Coach Paul Kristofic, Head Speed Coach Alberto Senigagliesi and Head Tech Coach Brandon Dyksterhouse have provided for a great overall team dynamic and collaborative environment. Kristofic credits this vibe to the athletes. “I’m most impressed with the athletes’ respect for the new staff and willingness to engage in discussion on how we will best work together to achieve all our goals,” he said, “Every day we build towards becoming a powerful, cohesive unit. The commitment, engagement and gratitude to these efforts speak to the strong character of this team.”

The focus for the women at this New Zealand camp was primarily on individual technical improvements. The team trained slalom, giant slalom and super G across the three training venues. Roundhill and Coronet Peak provided the speed and technical teams with great conditions and terrain, while the technical team achieved a productive slalom and giant slalom block at Ohau. Each of the New Zealand venues offers generally low-altitude, and therefore high-volume training, which is the optimal at this point in the prep period. “The operations staff at Ohau, Coronet Peak and Roundhill were all extremely accommodating during our stay in New Zealand,” commented Dyksterhouse. “We had everything from flat to steep, watered to perfect corduroy. Minus a couple of weather days, I don’t think that we could’ve asked for anything more.”

Alice McKennis and Laurenne Ross were all smiles at an early morning training day at Coronet Peak. 

What was Kristofic’s biggest takeaway in his first on-snow camp? First, the clarity the U.S. Ski Team athletes have in their performance expectations, followed by the great staff of committed professionals that have the will to do what it takes to win. "There are no short cuts," Kristofic said. "You have to put in the work and take every opportunity to be faster. That’s the grit and drive I expect from U.S. Ski Team athletes.”

Up Next: Both the women’s speed and tech teams are back at it in Portillo, Chile. And yes—you guessed it—this includes Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO), who will also be getting some mileage on the speed skis.

The Men
On the men’s side, Head Coach Sasha Rearick echoed Kristofic’s sentiments about the team environment and heavily credits the coaching staff. “Each group of the men’s team has its own unique and super-charged positive environment,” said Rearick. “We have an amazing balance of personalities in each group who all work hard in their roles towards specific objectives.” When every aspect from athletes and staff to weather and venues are clicking, magic is made.

From development to World Cup groups, the biggest takeaway for Rearick was the great effort all are putting into increasing upper body stability/discipline and lower body separation. This focus is helping the guys to be much more balanced in a greater variety of situations, and therefore the ability to move in the right way.

Hig Roberts snapped a shot of the morning glow at Coronet Peak.

Ohau was brilliant to work with in providing a watered giant slalom course, which offered character and challenges similar to many World Cup venues. Roundhill provided something different for each group: For some, it was a place to start first camp of the year; for others, it was a place to find speed in the turn. Coronet Peak provided good technical slalom and giant slalom training and some easy super G where the guys were able to get up to 14 runs by 10 a.m. “We are very fortunate for our three great partnerships we have in New Zealand these past years,” said Rearick. “Each venue has something unique, which we use to its fullest capacity to provide opportunities for the athletes to master their craft.”

U.S. Ski Team athletes were even able to participate a night slalom, a slalom and a GS in the Winter Games New Zealand at Coronet Peak. “It was nice to see Coronet Peak put on a big event like this in a location where so many people could have easy access to some of the best in the world,” noted Rearick.

Up Next: Time to get the long boards back on the feet for the American Downhiller crew, transferring the technical elements honed in New Zealand to downhill and super G. This means training at both Portillo and Corralco, with special focus on terrain “rolls” to address the changes FIS officials have taken with this approach to course-setting. The World Cup tech team will take advantage of super G and giant slalom training at Portillo, while the Europa Cup team heads to Valle Nevado to focus on tactics and pushing for speed in technical events. The development group travels to La Parva for a four-event camp.

American Downhiller Steven Nyman and team physio Tiitu Romar prepare for a SUP session near Ohau.

Don’t you worry, both the men and women were able to enjoy their fair share of off-snow activities, including go-karting, stand up paddleboarding, hiking, golfing and more. That’s the icing on the cake with the New Zealand camp. In fact, when asked what he thinks about training in New Zealand, Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) said, “New Zealand’s awesome. This is actually one of my favorite trips every year to come down here, because the skiing is great, it’s good training for us, and it’s nice to go down and play golf or tennis, or go on a hike. There’s so much more to do than just the skiing side of it, so we really love it down here.”

A big “thank you” on behalf of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team to the staff at Ohau, Coronet Peak and Roundhill for working so well with each of our groups. Now let’s hope El Niño brings lots of fluffy white stuff to the Northern Hemisphere as we prepare to kick off for the 2016 season.


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