During the early days of US Skiing, US Ski Team Head Coach Marty Hall came to the realization that one of the most unique challenges to creating a competitive national ski team in the United States was just how big that nation is. In Europe, each country might be drawing the best skiing talent from a nation of 5-10 million citizens, all skiing the same terrain. In the United States though, the rolling hills of New England were a different world from the high country snow fields in the West or Alaska, and any or all could be home to US Skiing’s breakthrough pioneers.

Over the years, that proved to be exactly the case. New Englanders like Martha Rockwell and Bill Koch, alongside Montanan Alison Owen-Bradley won the first World Cups and Olympic Medals during Hall’s time coaching the US team, and when a new generation of US skiers started meeting their marks in the early 2000s they came from even further flung. There was Alaska’s Kikkan Randall, Vermont’s Sophie Caldwell and Andy Newell, Colorado’s Simi Hamiliton and Minnesota’s Jessie Diggins. 

Somewhere in that half century of development, US Skiing had learned to connect all the dots on its big map, and come away with a program that bound up all the unique places and communities tha color Nordic skiing in America under one competitive program.

One of those keys, it turned out, was starting early in the development pipeline.

Last week, NNF and US Ski and Snowboard’s Regional Elite Group (REG) camp series started with the western region in Truckee, California.

REG camps were conceived as a way to bring the National Training Group and US Ski Team model of joining together peer competitors for concentrated blocks of training under the guidance of top coaches to each and every exceptionally talented junior skier across the country.

Over the course of June, July, and August, US Ski Team coaches combine with top regional coaches from the collegiate and club circuits to give these skiers a true training camp experience. These groups provide crucial cross region cohesion among top athletes and start to build a common language for development and training methodologies across the whole US skiing community.

As was also clear when the Western region camp took place in Truckee, California last week, REG camps are also just plain fun. After a winter of competing against each other, the region’s top athletes got a chance to come together and bond over a shared love of skiing and the unique atmosphere that results when you put together a group of juniors willing to devote hundreds of hours a year to ski training to do just that.

The Western juniors were met by US Ski and Snowboard Sport Cross Country Sport Director Bryan Fish, who has fine-tuned the mix of camaraderie and competitiveness that REG camps provide for their participants. The REG athletes trained together – on long runs surrounding Lake Tahoe and while fine-tuning technique on rollerskis – and competed with each other too – the traditional agility course and double pole time trial also featured. Off skis, there were sports education presentations on nutrition and training methodology, along with games, downtime to hang out, and lots and lots of trips to the Sugar Bowl Academy dining hall.

With a week of concentrated all-out training, most of the Western REG athletes are in a recovery week, waiting for the next opportunity to get out, train hard, and look forwards to next winter!

Meanwhile, athletes selected for REG camps in Alaska, the Central Division, and New England can all look forward to their own experience upcoming over the course of the next few weeks. REG camps culminate in nominations for the National Elite Group (NEG) camp, which participates in the US Ski Team’s fall camp in Park City, Utah this October. Selections are based on a combination of results from last winter, and in the competitive components of REG camps. Read more here.

Next up on the REG schedule:

New England, held in Craftsbury, Vermont July 2nd-7th.

Central, held in Marquette, Michigan July 5th-10th.

Alaska, held in Fairbanks, Alaska July 18th-23rd.


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