Alpine athletes take part in overseas off season ski training

Training lanes on a glacier where athletes were training in Saas-Fee. Photo provided.

While most people are trying to squeeze every last drop of summer, Sun Peaks Alpine Club ski racers spent 17 days training on snow in Europe from late August to early September.

Wade Rettie, Sun Peaks Alpine Club program director, spoke with SPIN all the way from the lift line in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he was loading early to help prepare the course for athletes who were busy fueling themselves with croissants, chocolates and cheeses ahead of another long day of training.

The training, which focused on Slalom and GS technical improvement, consisted of a morning session on the hill alongside 54 other training lanes (in comparison, OSV has five), followed by lunch and ski tuning, a dryland fitness session at the base of the mountain, capped off by dinner and a video before turning in.

Not only has the training camp been important in getting athletes on snow, with the goal of increasing their “race pace” for the upcoming season, it has also been an important cultural experience, according to Rettie.

“[They] are learning a lot. We have everything from the Swiss, German, Slovakian, French, American, Canadian National teams, both World Cup and Europa Cup athletes training on-hill as well. So they get that mentoring as well as [physically] applying themselves right beside them. One day we were training right beside the number one overall World Cup skier Mikaela Shiffrin.”

While skiing and training beside big names can be intimidating, Rettie said his athletes are pushing themselves to improve regardless of who’s nearby and the trip has been a positive source of motivation.

“You want them to want to push themselves instead of the coach telling them to push themselves. This is the first time they’ve had this sort of exposure to the best skiers in the world and they’re 100 per cent positively reacting to that and loving it.”

Sun Peaks Alpine Club racers while on a hike during their time training in Switzerland, photo provided.

While the trip has been a positive one, it hasn’t come without logistics related to the pandemic.

Rettie said to get into Switzerland, they had to fill in an entry form stating they were fully vaccinated, and to get back home they were required to pass a COVID test which they took under doctor’s supervision in the hotel 48 hours before returning home.

The biggest thing for the Sun Peaks Alpine Club athletes, has been an increase in their confidence as well as an improvement in their technical ability.

“If we get a normal season, we’ll be racing in late November, early December and we’re hoping to get most of the technical work done now for that faster pace,” Reattie said.

“Everyone has made big improvements. Everyone’s starting to look more confident already, the plan is to come here, get them to realize what they can expect from themselves, gain some fitness and then apply those skills in Sun Peaks come November.”

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