EAGLE GLACIER, A.K. – This summer is the most important off-season for U.S. Olympic skiers.
The Alaska Pacific University ski team takes the medal-hopefuls and their training very seriously.
While others rest on sandy beaches in the summer sun, these elite athletes are training on their snow away from home.
“This has been the foundation of our success up here at Eagle Glacier,” APU Nordic Ski Head Coach Erik Flora said. “Probably its best kept secret, is our teams come up here and train about three to four times a summer. Typically what that means is every two years, we get another winter worth of skiing. And so for every two years, we are getting a winter ahead of everybody.”
The results are evident.
Led by Kikkan Randall’s two World Cup Spring titles, the U.S. women are experiencing unprecedented success.
The extra winter is just one component.
“We have really turned cross country skiing, which is an individual sport in a lot of people’s minds, into a team sport,” US Nordic Ski Team’s Holly Brooks said.
“I don’t think there is any coincidence we are so successful because of the positive dynamic we have,” Randall said. “And what I’m most excited about heading into this next winter is that while I have some really big goals and expectations personally, I think we have equally good chances in some of the team events.”
Eagle Glacier simulates more realistic Olympic conditions for the approaching Sochi winter games.
“It’s not always ideal skiing but the thing is, the last couple championships we’ve been to it’s not ideal skiing either,” Brooks said. “2011 World Championships in Oslo, it was so foggy, you couldn’t see anything. We don’t get that in Anchorage but we get that on Eagle Glacier.”
“Right now we’re training at about the same altitude as the Olympics we will be competing in this winter, so to be up here and have the same sensations and feelings we will have at the Olympics is huge,” Randall said. “So the more accustomed we get with that feeling, the more comfortable we can make it feel, the better we will be prepared at the Olympics.”
Better prepared to increase their chances of a first U.S. women’s podium finish.
“All these ladies have grown up in a place where the US has been good in sports but maybe not the best in Nordic skiing,” Flora said. “So they’ve had this long-term goal of bringing success to the United States and kind of a pride along with it. Ultimately they are all on this journey to see what limits they can find.”