CCAK & US Ski Team Run Successful Regional Elite Camp

Cory Smith
Jun 15, 2024

Cross Country Alaska (CCAK) and the US Ski Team hosted a dry-land training camp in Anchorage July 11 - 15, 2006 for elite junior and senior skiers. This was a step toward fulfilling CCAK’s mission “to create and support a cross country skiing culture and environment that allows Alaskan cross country ski racers to succeed in regional, national, and international competitions.” Invited athletes included those that qualified for the 2006 Alaska Junior National Team, NCAA Championships, World Junior Championships, or U-23 World Championships, as well as top-3 J2 finishers at Arctic Winter Games. CCAK hosted the camp free of charge, and arranged for out of town athletes to be hosted by local families to keep costs down.

The invitation went out just one month before the camp, but the response was tremendous. More than 40 athletes from across the state participated. Many local coaches helped plan and run the camp, including Ben Arians, Holly Brooks, Jan Buron, Stan Carrick, Gretchen Carrick, Joey Caterinichio, Ja Dorris, Brian Erickson, Dave Feeken, Erik Flora, Jon Kehler, Sara Miller, Charlie Renfro, Cory Smith, Eric Strabel, Mark Strabel, Adam Verrier, and Rob Whitney.

US Ski Team Development Coach Matt Whitcomb was on hand to help lead all the workouts. Matt’s energy and enthusiasm set the tone throughout the camp. He was always quick to offer a joke or an encouraging word, and the athletes clearly enjoyed working with him. Matt, along with the Alaska coaches, kept a watchful eye over the athletes and gave each of them plenty of new ideas to work on in their own training.

The camp kicked off Tuesday morning with a ski walking and hill bounding session at Kincaid Park. Tuesday afternoon consisted of a double-pole technique session on rolllerskis at Kincaid. The afternoon workout was followed by a barbecue and a talk by Matt Whitcomb. Matt let the athletes know what will be expected of them as they continue to progress towards the US Ski Team level.

Wednesday morning, the athletes were separated into groups for skate technique work on rollerskis. The coaches set up four technique stations and the athletes spent 30 minutes at each station. Coaches Erik Flora and Cory Smith instructed the no-poles drills, Matt Whitcomb and Eric Strabel focused on V2 alternate technique, Jan Buron worked on V1, and Ja Dorris coached V2. Dave Feeken took video of the V1 and V2 stations. On Wednesday afternoon, the athletes (and some of the coaches) were put through a rigorous circuit workout designed by Jan Buron. After circuits, the athletes watched video from the day’s skate session and footage from the 2006 Olympics.

On Thursday, the athletes attacked the Gasline Uphill Time Trial at Hillside Park. This race was only 10-14 minutes in length, but the challenging uphill course was a real test of fitness. A number of other top skiers, including 2006 Olympian James Southam, also came out to participate in the time trial. Incoming UAA skier Andy Leibner set the fastest time, while Justin Singleton and Caitlin Patterson were the fastest juniors. On Thursday afternoon the skiers put on their classic rollerskis for an hour of distance skiing and another hour of technique drills run by Matt Whitcomb. US Ski Team member Tazlina Mannix joined the girls for this session. The rollerskiing was followed by video analysis and pizza in the Kincaid Chalet.

Friday morning, the most advanced skiers went with Matt for a skate rollerski session, while Ja Dorris lead the others in a run and technique drills session.

While the athletes had Friday afternoon off, the coaches used the time to review the camp, as well as discuss the broader subject of athlete development, with Matt Whitcomb. Everyone was very pleased with the week and agreed that CCAK should continue to do these camps in the future as part of the long-term development plan.

After having great weather all week, the camp finished up with a soggy OD run/hike in the rain on Saturday morning. During the five-day camp most athletes trained between twelve and fifteen hours.

Matt was very encouraged by what he saw at the camp. He noted that Alaska has great depth in its junior boys. The junior girls currently have a higher top-end than the boys, but the field is not as deep. Matt was particularly impressed by the training venues located in and around Anchorage.

“You guys have the whole package,” he said. “Many places have either great rollerskiing, or great ski trails, or lots of hills, or plenty of snow. But you guys have it all.”

Matt was also impressed by the expertise of the local coaches and their respective ski programs. On Friday, he told the skiers, “You basically have a US Ski Team infrastructure up here. With the coaches and programs you have, it’s just like what we are doing in Park City. You guys are really lucky.”