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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Far Too Long!

Welcome back to the MMSC U16 Blog!

And I have gone just about as far as I could possibly go without a post on here and have discovered just how quickly, yet again, that time can fly by whilst in the midst of ski season. February flew by at the speed of a Super-G racer careening down Main St showing little concern for the transition and has made a rather noticeable dent in the month of March.

Since my last post, the MMSC U16 crew has raced now 13 times, (more for some) including two more regular Northern Vermont Council events, two consecutive weekends of Vermont State Competitions which planned to cover three different disciplines, The Eastern U16 Championships, and we are now half-way through a two day series over in Lake Placid known as the alumni race. It has been an incredibly busy time for us as we have worked all season long to accomplish our goals. Some of us are still working towards them, and others have already revisited the goals in order to adapt them for the remainder of the season. Please bear with me as I have a fair amount of information to publish and hopefully the vocabulary to avoid redundancy.

Way back on February 3rd, the MMSC crew got to sleep in their own beds the night before racing Giant Slalom on our home hill. As always, the snow at Stowe held up very well allowing for an optimal day of GS. Our racers displayed solid skiing and accomplished some good results, some tough crashes, but an all around great day. On February 10th, we again were able to stay in our own beds as we were making a short trip over to Sugarbush for another NVC race. Competing in Slalom, arguably one of our stronger events, athletes achieved more good results as the day went on. Some tricky course sets challenged our U16 competitors, but we drove away from Sugarbush on the 10th excited as a good time was had by all.
Setting a course for some training on Main St
Upon the completion of our final NVC race at Sugarbush, athletes began preparing for our state competitions. The state competition was slated to consist of two SL races, two GS races, and a SG race. Due to poor snow conditions however, we were unable to fit a SG that could allow a fair and safe surface for all competitors. The first weekend had the male athletes racing at Okemo Mountain Resort while the female athletes were racing at Killington Mountain Resort. While our boys competed in both a GS and a SL, the female schedule was changed so that they would have two days of SL racing. Due to the warm temperatures leading up to the races, conditions did not hold up as well as we would have hoped making it very difficult for our athletes to "attack from the back of the pack." Despite the conditions however, our racers had some good results helping them to qualify for future races.

The following weekend provided round two of our state competitions with the girls racing at Sugarbush for their remaining two GS events and the boys racing both a SL and a GS on our home hill at Stowe. The snow was able to set up a little better for us as temperatures were slightly colder at nights allowing the surface to become more firm. Due to the success of our athletes throughout the course of the weekend, MMSC athletes Sandra Schoepke, Grant Gutstein, and Trent Gutstein qualified for the Eastern U16 Championships at Sugarloaf, ME, and Dash Kim qualified for the Eastern Finals at Attitash Mountain in NH.

Before heading up to Sugarloaf, and down to Attitash, some of our athletes competed in the John Kearns Memorial race at Mad River Glen on March 5th. While the field was rather small, our athletes totally dominated owning all three spots on the podium as well as the fourth position as well. For their success, our athletes were each given a bit of swag in the place of a medal.
Our boys at the John Kearns Memorial(Sorry it is blurry!)
On March 6th, we packed the van to the gills and began our journey up to Sugarloaf through the winding roads of VT, NH, and ME. Competition began on the morning of the 7th with our first super-g of the year, and our athletes displayed the ability to put the pedal to the metal on command. With speeds approaching 60 miles per hour, the slightest mistake or lapse in focus could have resulted in a mess of a crash, but all of our athletes were able to safely and rapidly make their way across the finish line. On March 8th, our athletes again competed in a SG known as the Sugarloaf Schuss which has been a tradition for nearly 50 years. Again, all of our athletes made their way safely to the finish line through a course that was even faster than the one set the day before.

On the 9th of March, Girls were given the day off to allow for the boys to run their GS. An incredibly difficult course set knocked nearly 50% of the field out on the first run, but the 2nd course setter was much more friendly providing a course that allowed athletes to push their limits without the fear of blowing out of the course. March 10th gave the boys a day to rest and recover for the final SL event, and hosted the girls GS with a much friendlier first run set than the boys. The second course also provided an opportunity for our single female competitor to excel and push her own personal limits while throwing down a very solid day keeping her right where we wanted to be going in to the SL, our strongest event.

March 11th came about quicker than one could imagine and there was definitely a sense of urgency in the air. The first course set for the girls was exceptionally difficult as it was a grinding course forcing athletes to work from the second they left the start to the very last gate of the course. In other words, to be successful, you had to stay focused and move dynamically from gate to gate without blinking until crossing the finish line. While most coaches were grumbling about the difficulty of the set, members of the NVC smiled as our female competitors held 9 of the top 10 positions after the first run. The boys first course was rather different as it was a wide open "all or nothing" styled set. One after the other, boys came down with great runs stacking the field for an exciting second run. MMSC athletes executed the plan on their second run beautifully allowing everyone to move up in the ranks. Sandra Schoepke finished the day with a bronze medal around her neck and Trent Gutstein held down the 11th position when all was said and done.
The top 10 Finishers for the girls SL
The results achieved up at Sugarloaf allowed all of our athletes to qualify for more racing back up at the Loaf  in the Am-Can race series. Coaches were biting their fingernails as Alex Krebs, Eastern Junior Development Program Manager, called off the names for everyone who had qualified for the Am-Cans. For her second consecutive year, Sandra qualified not only for the Am-Can competition, but also for the Park City project where she will get to work with the United States Development team. Trent also qualified for the Am-Can series with his results in the SL on March 11th.
Group Shot at the end of the Eastern U16 Championships
Today we began the first of a two-day Alumni series at Whiteface in Lake Placid, NY in the pursuit of a good points race and a great time at a historic site. For those of you who do not know, Lake Placid was the host site for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games that produced stories like Disney's Miracle. Well all of the ski racing for those games went on at Whiteface. And for those who have never been to the town, it is worth a visit! Olympic logos are on everything here to this day as the town has become a destination resort. With one day in the books, all of the athletes that chose to be a part of this trip have made significant progress on their point profiles(a universal ranking system) and we were even able to make a top to bottom run on the old Olympic downhill race trail- what a riot!

With another day of racing to go here in Lake Placid, all are excited to head out in the morning and give Whiteface another run for its money!
Jack making a few turns down towards the top of Main St
That is all for now, until next time!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

This feels a Little bit more like Winter!

Welcome back to the U16 Blog!

It had been a little while since our last posting, it sure is amazing how quickly time can fly by in the ski-world! The past few weeks have been rather busy for the MMSC U16 crew as we have now competed in two Northern Vermont Council (NVC) races, and another USSA scored race while witnessing incredible conditions ranging from high heat with bouts of rain, to frostbite inducing sub-zero temperatures and rock solid snow. One could say that we have just about seen it all, but knowing just how unpredictable the weather tends to be in our region, one can say that only time will tell what is next for us. But as I have said before, every single day that we spend on skis offers its own unique learning experience to our athletes, some just may be a little harder to recognize.

On the evening of January 12th, The Schoepke family graciously hosted our first team social filled with great food, good laughs, and some very competitive video game duels. Thanks very much to Phil and Deb Schoepke for having us!

On January 13th, The crew traveled to Cochran's ski area to compete in our NVC season opener that featured a three run format for every competitor. The start list was set in reverse order for the second run before returning to its original format again for the third run. Due to the warm temperatures and recent moisture, the surface tended to get a little beaten up by the time those athletes running in the back of the pack were able to take their turn navigating the course. Our crew showed some very strong results as well as some potential areas that could use a little more work as we head into our next SL training block.

Excellent looking weather right after the MMSC crew finished fencing Main Street
This past Monday, 1/21, we had our second NVC competition at Burke Mountain. Our crew raced in a standard two run format GS in some radically different conditions for those we experienced at Cochran's. I do not believe that the temperature on Monday rose above zero degrees Fahrenheit for the duration of the day. Many chose to take on the new challenges presented by the cold in their own ways and maintain their focus for the race. I overheard an athlete at the start say that it was pretty difficult to psych oneself up for a high speed run when they cannot even feel their toes. I am sure many can relate to that situation. The first run showed great results by our athletes founded in solid fundamental skiing and tactics, the second run however proved to be a little more challenging. The unique terrain of Burke, when used to its full potential, can be very tough to navigate cleanly. But at the end of the day, athletes took the good with the frustrating, and walked away from the race having learned their own individual lesson.

On the Following Tuesday, 1/22, some of our athletes competed again at Burke in a scored USSA open event that has come to be know as the "Burke 100". This race also featured a typical 2 run format, but at the end of the day offered athletes the opportunity to improve upon their USSA point profile. In a nutshell, over time athletes will develop their point profile which essentially represents the historical success of each competitor. Each scored race that a competitor participates in offers them the ability to improve their points, thus qualifying them for the upper-level races down the road. Because most of our athletes are just beginning to shape their profile, our main goal as we enter the course is to get to the finish line as quickly and cleanly as possible- finishing the course is absolutely essential as we can only compete in so many scored events.

Trent displaying his new head-warming product
Wednesday featured a trip to the Green Mountain Freestyle Center in Williston, VT. This facility is often used by the MMSC Snowboarding program and offers a variety of challenges from trampolines to a foam pit. While the main goal is to have fun in the GMFC, we were also working on some very important aspects of ski racing such as balance, risk taking, and training in how to fall correctly. This was a great trip and a good time was had by all.

Looking into the near future, our crew will be taking full advantage of the incredible snow conditions currently covering Stowe and training a bit of GS before moving into Super-G. Everybody is fired up to go fast on the big boards. That will begin on Tuesday.

Our Next race will be on 2/3 on our home trail! We are hosting the NVC U16 GS right on Main Street! Time for a Home Field Advantage!

Until Next Time!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cruising into 2013

Welcome back to the MMSC U16 Blog!

It has been a little while since our last update so this post should cover a fair amount of the activities that have taken place since returning to the East. Upon our initial return from the Vail, snow coverage was not exactly at it's best, but the holiday season sure has changed that here in Stowe. With snow falling nearly every day since December 20th, MMSC is proud to report that we have begun training on our race trail, Main Street. After a couple days with some heavy snow and wind, drifts had begun to form around the trail, but dry conditions have allowed the surface to set up very well providing a "chalky" feel that will hold well for training.

On December 27th, MMSC traveled to Cochran's for an "afternoon" SL under the lights. First run was set to begin at 3 PM, but a snowstorm caused for a slight delay. After much maintenance, trenches had been dug through the deep powder for the athletes to race down. Visibility proved to be a tricky challenge because the new snow that wouldn't stop falling caused athletes goggles to fog up quite a bit, and the time of day in which the race took place allowed for some dark conditions. At the end of the day, some of our athletes scored some great results, and a good time was had by all.

After racing at Cochran's, we received a fair amount of snow here in Northern Vermont thus warranting a whole lot of fun bouncing around the mountain finding powder stashes and leaving our marks. The nights here in Stowe only offered more snow each morning so we spent a few days on some fatter skis in order to float on top of the fresh snow.

On the 31st, MMSC hosted the Cruise into the New Year Dual GS race over on the SL Hill. The race featured two courses essentially mirroring each other down the mountain. With racers ranging in terms of age from 5 to 55, the course offered a fun challenge for all. Once we had all finished racing, athletes, coaches, and parents alike returned to the club for a barbecue lunch before awards were handed out for the respective age groups.
Racers in the finish Corral

We are picking up training again tomorrow with some GS practice on Main Street after using the 2nd to get our lives in order.

Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Back in the East

Welcome back!

We have now been back in Stowe for just under a week and conditions have been slightly different than what we had in Vail. We have seen a little bit of rain, a little snow, heavy fog, and chilly evenings, but alas, the surrounding mountains are white again after a good morning frost.

Since returning from Colorado, our crew has been working on Slalom technique in an attempt to refine our skiing style and "touch" for the East coast snow. After a couple days of getting our feet back under us, athletes are beginning to work on eliminating old habits and building on new feelings as encouraged by coaches.

We have also been in the Gym located in the lower level of the MMSC clubhouse up near the base of the Sensation Quad on the Spruce side of the resort. With an emphasis on building our aerobic threshold, and some agility work, our time has been catered to best prepare athletes for competitive ski racing. Similar to our plans for skiing, our time spent in the gym follows a progression designed by coaches to steadily build over the season.

Today we are getting back onto our GS skis to do some freeskiing over on the Mansfield side of the mountain. With limited coverage, we will be keeping speeds down so as to minimize the risk of an injury.

I will be maintaining the blog throughout the course of the season, and while there are no pictures for this particular post, I will begin to snap some shots periodically to compliment the posts yet to come.

Check back soon!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Whirlwind of Adventures!

The Birds of Prey Finish
Welcome back to the U16 Blog!

Please excuse my recent lack of posts, as noted in the title of this post, the past few days have been quite the whirlwind!
Athletes reviewing their video
After completing a mandatory study hall on Friday morning, Athletes made their way up to the Golden Peak Race Arena for some more guided GS training. The set was very similar to the apex drill that we had been doing, but coaches replaced the bottom brush with a GS gate in order to continue the predetermined progression. Our athletes demonstrated even more growth as they began to make moves  within the course that resembled the form and precision that they had executed while freeskiing. Coaches were impressed with the moves that they were seeing, but also convinced that athletes held better skills than those demonstrated. Once we had finished skiing for the day, everyone met around a TV to review our video from the day in comparison to that of some upper-level athletes from within the program. We then proceeded to go out for a light jog before doing some dynamic(with movement) stretching. After that, we headed back to our respective rooms to freshen up before dinner and nighttime study hall.

Some athletes getting pointers from coaches
Saturday offered another beautiful day here in Vail as we experienced some spring skiing temperatures on snow comparable to glacial ice. The result of such a combination you may ask? Very grippy snow with minimal course deterioration throughout the session. We began Saturday's session with a full length GS course running right down the heart of the Golden Peak Race Arena. Yet again, our athletes showed significant improvement and most demonstrated the skills that had been executed in all of our freesking practice. Many of the athletes were working on moving the turn shape up the hill vertically, allowing them enough space between turns to patiently build their outside ski pressure and drive their center of mass down the fall line. After we had completed our morning session of training, everyone headed in for lunch and video review before heading back out for the annual U16 single-ski competition. Each athlete was paired up with a partner on the beginner slope with the intention of producing the most creative synchronized run to be judged by their peers. From a zombie attack to a highspeed (fake) gunfight, the creative juices really were flowing.
Phil doing some skating
After our single ski synchronized competition, everyone headed back to the lodge to freshen up for a trip into the Lionshead village for either ice skating, or shopping. Those who participated in ice skating raced around the rink for a few hours and even took up a game of ultimate hat (ultimate frisbee with a hat instead of a disc). Those who took up shopping enjoyed some delicious hot cocoa and a couple hours to peruse the ritzy shops of Lionshead. Once everyone had finished up, it was time to return for dinner at the Manor Vail Lodge which never disappoints!
Some U16 boys and a coach at the ice rink
Everyone awoke this morning eager to make our way over to Beaver Creek, a neighboring resort, to witness the Birds of Prey Giant Slalom World Cup Race. We enjoyed yet another hot breakfast at 7am before catching the 8am shuttle over to Beaver Creek. Once we had arrived, those who had never seen the arrangement before were struck by the quantity of vendors stands, and those who had been before, raced to each of these stands in pursuit of free stuff. From toy cars, to free chapstick, no one left the area empty handed. The race began at 9:45 am with American, Ted Ligety, dominating the field by over seven tenths of a second. Everyone was amazed by the athletic maneuvers performed by the best racers the world has to offer, and the intermission offered a fascinating display of skydiving into the finish corral. The second run began at 12:45 pm with a flip-30 meaning that the racer who finished in 30th place after the first run, was the first racer to make his way through the course for the second run.
Shuttling our way to Beaver Creek
Because Ted Ligety had won the first run, fans waited patiently for him to take his run in the 30th position, and it was well worth the wait. Watching many of the other competitors make their way through the course, it seemed as though the spread would be much less significant, but Ligety had different plans. Ted dominated the run and expanded upon his already large lead by a full second. At the end of the day, Ted Ligety had won the Birds of Prey Giant Slalom by a margin of 1.75 seconds! A seemingly impossible margin! With the USA chant going strong, fans roared as they cheered their star to victory, although he seemed pretty capable of achieving it himself!
Bryce with US Team Sensation, Mikaela Shiffrin
Connor, VT Native-Robby Kelley, Trent
The GoPro Bombsquad landing in the finish after 2nd run inspection
Bryce, Tommy Ford, Nicole, Caroline, and Sophia
Ted Ligety AKA Mr. Giant Slalom crushes the field yet again
Thanks for reading, until next time!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Great Day to be Skiing at Vail!


Today offered our athletes an opportunity that few ski racing enthusiasts ever get to experience. Riding up the chair lift this morning after being able to sleep in and enjoy a hot breakfast at 9am, one couldn't help but notice how incredibly crowded the hill was with training. Not any run of the mill training however, With the Beaver Creek world cup races starting up tomorrow morning, the Golden Peak Race Arena was overrun by worldcup athletes from all over the world. With names like Marcel Hirscher, Resi Steigler, and United States Slalom Specialist, Nolan Casper, it was hard to believe that we were able to be running our training on the very same hill. Coaches were able to capture some of these incredible athletes on film in between shooting our own athletes- clips can be found on sprongo.

Connor, Dash, David, and Trent waiting to take a training run
The focus of this mornings training session was an apex drill again involving two brushes in a vertical line about two meters apart marking where a gate would normally be located. As mentioned before, this drill is intended to show athletes where the optimal turn shape should be performed in accordance with USSA regulations. Our athletes began with slight difficulty completing the course, but by the end of our session, everyone was attacking the course with aggression.

We finished skiing for the day at 11:30 am before heading into the lodge for a hot lunch which was quickly followed up with a video analysis session. Our crew watched their video from yesterday, as well as some of the skiing that they had performed in the morning. Once we had finished video, athletes were given the rest of the day off, with instructions to tune their skis and relax as much as possible. Some of the kids went into town to do some shopping while others chose to enjoy a movie and doze off. Athletes and coaches reconvened at 5 pm to check skis for tomorrows session before heading up to dinner.

Tomorrow morning we will be participating in a mandatory study hall before heading out to ski in our designated training lane from 11:30 am to 2 pm. Because we will be sharing that space with the entire program, the exact focus of the session is not yet known, but the time will be used very productively.

Dash showing off some great angles!
Until Next Time!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Day We Met Benny Raich

Welcome back!

This was by far one of our most active days as we began with a rather competitive early morning game of soccer before some stretching and breakfast. After a quick meal, we headed out to the Lionshead area to do some more Giant Slalom freesking for a few highly concentrated runs. While the past four days have been filled with lots of mileage, today's focus was more on the quality of our skiing as opposed to a high quantity of runs. We finished our morning session and returned to the lodge for a hot lunch before heading out to the Golden Peak Race Arena for some training with the U18 Women's program.

Ready to Run!
Our group fit right in as we were both working on developing an understanding of the apex in a Giant Slalom turn. The apex drill involves replacing the gate with two brushes placed in a vertical format spaced about 2 meters apart. The key is to have the skis pointed out above the top brush and to be building pressure on the outside ski and having the skis moving back towards the next apex as the racer passes the bottom brush.

After a great afternoon session, athletes returned to the lodge to perform regular maintenance on their equipment to ensure that they would be ready for the next days' adventures. Once everyone had finished tuning and waxing their skis, we headed out for a quick jog through a park located right behind our lodge. After running around for a little while, we began to play an adapted version of dodgeball that kept everyone moving very fast. It seemed as though we could have played the game until dark fell around us, so we decided to head into town to complete some holiday shopping for family and friends.
Oh and didn't I say something about Benny Raich? He only has 88 FIS worldcup podiums...

Tomorrow morning we will be training on the Golden Peak Race Arena following the progression that has been put into place. We will begin again with the apex drill with a few gates placed in between the two brushes, and hopefully will be able to add more gates to fill in the desired apex of each turn. After that, we will be enjoying some well needed rest as we will be taking the afternoon off.

Not a bad view!
Until next time!