For a high-level alpine athlete, training on snow in the summer is an opportunity to develop strength, slow down and get a feel for the surface – it’s a chance to focus on fundamentals and movement, and to build an athletic base for the upcoming winter season. Seven SVSEF alpine FIS athletes are taking advantage of the fact it’s winter in the southern hemisphere; they’re nearing the end of a three-week training trip in Argentina. The coaching staff is comprised of Scott McGrew, alpine program director, Nate Schwing, FIS head coach and Tanner Farrow, a SVSEF alumni, former U.S. alpine D Team skier and current alpine athlete at University of Denver.
Ushuaia, nicknamed “the end of the world” because of its geographical location (the old exile community sits on the southern coast of the South American continent), has been a collision of beauty and functionality for the FIS group. “The mountains meet the ocean in a ‘raw’ (Tanner’s adjective) display of giant snow covered peaks, stark winter greys, and friendly people,” explained McGrew. “Although it hasn’t been particularly cold, the humidity penetrates everything and creates a magnificent place to train. The snow is hard, and getting harder. The trails are long, with terrain changes; primary slopes are closed for race training; everything culminates with a feeling of total commitment from the resort to support high level alpine training.”
McGrew also commended the high quality of the training venue – French, Italian, Austrian, Slovenian, Russian and other National Ski Federations have poured millions of dollars towards the creation of A-netted training slopes with high water content snowguns lining the sides. To McGrew, who has traveled to a number of places in the southern hemisphere over the years, “this place stands alone with regard to its attention to detail and surface conditions.”
The layout of the trip has been straightforward and focused: the athletes went through specific training blocks in Ushuaia, before moving on to northern Patagonia and Bariloche for training and competition the final week. A daily schedule for the athletes has looked something like this:
7:30 a.m. – Breakfast
8:15. – Depart for the hill
9:30 – Load chair
Warm up for one hour (which, said McGrew, “drives a deeper sense of professionalism and attention to detail. This has been a big objective of the camp…warmups are an essential part of creating a mindset and approach to productive training.”)
10:30-2 p.m. – Train (“Being at sea level,” McGrew pointed out, “we have the opportunity to push hard. Volume and quality are the goals, and this venue affords us the opportunity to pursue both.”)
2:30-3:30 – Lunch at the mountain
4:30 – Arrive back at the hotel, followed by downtime or light dryland and recovery
6:30 – Video review
7:30 Dinner and team meeting
9pm – Rooms and shut down
The first block of training focused on giant slalom, with daily sessions on a full-length GS hill called Las Rocas. This was followed by a day off (and some exploring of the local area), and then the start of a slalom block, where sessions featured paneled slalom and timed training, with an emphasis on intensity out of the gate and speed generation. On monitoring and improving upon the athletes’ progress, McGrew said, “we have timing, splits, and video in the daily lineup, which has provided a solid framework for the athletes to benchmark their progress and compare themselves with their teammates. The pace is fast and the group has done a great job of staying engaged and focused.” Another six-day giant slalom block was followed by a well-deserved day off. McGrew shared this anecdote about a foray into Argentine culture by way of an indoor soccer venue:

This was a special treat and there is no question we were the first foreign ski racers to ever step foot in the facility. Our bus driver, Pepe, and his 16-year old son helped set up the friendly match with a local high school team. It was a unique experience and one that we won’t soon forget (they provided the jerseys). We were the center of a lot of attention; something you eventually get used to…

The athletes and coaches were also able to get a feel for their surroundings with a tour of the Beagle Channel, which McGrew said “was a nice way to get some perspective and appreciate the massive expanse that defines the Tierra del Fuego.”
Another slalom block began, but was disrupted by a stomach bug that made its way through the group. With a strict regimen of good hygiene and rest,, the FIS athletes resumed training and moved onto Bariloche, where there are currently competing at Cerro Catedral (click here for results).
All in all, it’s been an eventful trip, with value that comes not only with training on snow, but with the experience of travel. McGrew summed it up nicely:

The experience of international travel is, and has always been, a test of patience and of one’s ability to focus on finding creative solutions to new situations. Being in Argentina comes with a host of new scenarios – the language barriers, the general dysfunction, and the flair for living in the moment often takes us off guard as we tend to operate on a different set of infrastructural expectations. This is a colorful way of saying that South America is a totally different scenario from what we are used to, and can be unpredictable.

Being comfortable with unpredictability will translate on and off the snow; among other things, this trip has been a lesson in that.