By Todd Brickson, Rowmark Program Director
Our Rowmark team, which consists of many of the top junior alpine ski racers and student-athletes nationally and internationally, has been working very hard on a daily basis this past spring, summer, and fall in our rigorous on-snow and conditioning program. This program prepares our athletes to be in optimal physical condition as they prepare for the fast-approaching race season. Our coaches are seeing solid technical/tactical improvements and strong bonding across our team.
One of the special attributes of Rowmark is the way in which the athletes work together and support one another through all aspects of their experience. This was exemplified during our 11th Rowmark Ski Academy Bear Lake Challenge in early September. The orientation weekend is designed to test the Rowmarkers physically, mentally, and socially; to identify and develop leadership, spirit, and cooperation skills; and for team bonding. The event also helped identify our team captains for the year, as elected by their peers. This year’s captains are Mary Bocock, Layla Hijjawi, Ford Hodgkins, and Mason Schlopy, and we are looking forward to their leadership.
A commitment to year-round physical conditioning is a critical component to optimal performance on snow. Foreste Peterson, our new head women’s FIS coach and head conditioning coach, directs a dynamic, periodized daily physical training program that includes facets such as strength and power, cardio, plyometrics, quickness and coordination, flexibility, and cross-training and games.
We also are thrilled to have Brian Morgan move into our head men’s FIS coach role and, at the same time, Lyndsay Strange move up to work with our FIS team. We also welcome Jeremy Jakob to round out our FIS staff and the return of Skip Puckett to our U16 staff.
The theme of Rowmark Ski Academy’s summer and fall training period has been an ongoing exercise in flexibility and creativity as we piece together plans that have been constantly changing due to warm temperatures and lack of snow. We have been able to pull it off with a lot of patience and willingness to change plans, and we appreciate everyone’s ability to adapt on the fly.
Rowmark had an interesting start to our summer ski camp plans when, back in April, it became clear we needed to cancel our annual June trip to Mammoth Mountain, California. Normally a location with ample winter snowpack and excellent race-training conditions into late June, Mammoth had a low snow season (as did most of the western US) and had to close in late May. Instead, we skied eight days, over two Fridays and three weekends, at Snowbird in May, which turned out to be a productive alternative. We are thankful to Snowbird for providing terrain on the upper mountain, the Road to Provo bowl, where we were able to free-ski, kick off our drill progression, and train gates over the eight days.
We experienced a similar challenge for our next ski camp, scheduled in August at Mt. Hood, a dormant volcano and the highest peak in Oregon that normally has good snow for race training throughout the entire summer. The already low and quickly melting snowpack was devastated even further by a record heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, where temps reached into the 110s for several days in early July. We were fortunate to be able to reschedule our dates in mid-July before the snow completely disappeared, and we had an excellent camp for the Rowmarkers who were able to change their summer plans in order to attend.
Thankfully, our third ski camp, in Schnalstal, Italy, located in the heart of the South Tyrol Alps, went off as scheduled in early October, with excellent snow conditions. Our FIS team had a great camp and also enjoyed the two-week immersion in Italian mountain culture, with its stunning beauty and delicious cuisine.
Our most recent ski camp in Copper Mountain, Colorado, in late October also went off very successfully despite the continuing unusually warm fall weather. The 12,000-foot elevation of Copper’s training venue, located at the very top of the mountain, was well prepared with man-made snow, and both our FIS and U16 teams had a very productive giant slalom camp.
Our final on-snow camp is after Thanksgiving in Aspen, Colorado, before we begin our local training after Thanksgiving at the Utah Olympic Park and Park City Mountain. Aspen’s training venue is much lower in elevation, at 9,000 to 10,000 feet, and they are having challenges with the warm temperatures to make enough snow. So we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to pull off the Aspen camp. Stay tuned!
As the winter season approaches, the Rowmarkers are looking forward to putting their summer and fall on-snow training conditioning to the test. Their days will soon be filled beginning to end. Morning academic classes are followed by afternoon ski training, video review, ski tuning, and evenings of homework. Their race schedule takes them all over the country and, for a few, to Canada and Europe as well. The extensive travel causes Rowmarkers to miss several weeks of school throughout the winter, which tests their organizational, communication, and time-management skills. Their success hinges on the support of the Rowland Hall faculty and their extra efforts of frequent communication and consultation sessions, which allow the Rowmarkers to not only survive the academic load but often to excel. A big thank you goes out to these teachers for their commitment to making this happen.
In any case, the double whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have made the past year and a half particularly challenging for the sport of ski racing. It has certainly been an exercise in flexibility, as well as a true character-building period of time. We are proud of our Rowmark student-athletes for their ability to adapt and flourish in the strangest of times, and we can’t wait for the fast-approaching winter competition season.