Change is the constant in the growth of cross-country skiing.
Rick Kapala is entering his 26th season as the head coach of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Nordic ski team—glad that 150 skiers have joined the 2012-13 ski program.
He remembers a quarter-century ago when most Nordic competition took the form of interval start races or time trials. The racers would depart, disappear into the trees and return. Timekeepers would settle who had the best results.
Television and the video revolution have intervened.
Kapala said, “The FIS (International Ski Federation) keeps tweaking at the highest levels what we see in the World Cup. They decided to change race formats so that most are now mass start head-to-head, either sprinting or distances.
“Television had a lot to do with it, especially in Europe where cross-country and biathlon are so big. They started to make the loops shorter and wider to get cameras on events. So, producing and televising events have changed things.”
Kapala manages a staff of 14 experienced and knowledgeable coaches who oversee the 40-year-old SVSEF program. It has evolved with the changes in the sport. Training has reached a year-round regimen. It is more and more targeted to meet all the new challenges.
The coaches are training the higher-end athletes for maximum speed. Kapala said, “We’ve had to develop our ability to get to higher top-end speeds. We’ve changed our approach to training and tactics.
“Staying on your feet is very important when speed becomes so important, so we work a lot more on ski agility.
“We need the ability to recover from hard efforts and shift gears in a short period of time. For us, living at altitude, it’s been easier to train for big aerobic challenges. Where we’re challenged at altitude is doing high-end velocity work. We have to be creative to train for maximum speed.”
Another major change in the last 25 years has been the preparation of ski trails. The sport has morphed from wool knickers and skiing classic in the woods, to skin-tight suits and fast skiing on tight trails.
“Grooming by the PistenBully has made our surfaces harder and firmer,” said Kapala. “The new poles are lighter and stiffer, so we don’t use the energy we used to need in the bending of the poles.
“We get more return from the work we do to push our poles, which means we’re doing more upper body and core training to build that high-end speed. One day, we’re double-poling for upper body. The next day we’re working on the legs.
“Cross-country skiing is probably the most varied of all the endurance sports. And we haven’t even started talking about waxing yet, and the environmental concerns. The flip side of all this is, it really makes the sport attractive to the participants because there’s so much involved in it.”
November’s West Yellowstone (Mt.) early-season camp and December’s training used to be more devoted to training. This year, the SVSEF winter race schedule and locations have changed this approach.
Kapala said, “In the past we haven’t concentrated as much on racing in December. This year, the West Yellowstone camp was the earliest it has ever been. And with U.S. Nationals at Soldier Hollow (Utah) in January, it creates a bigger opportunity for our kids.
“Some of them will have raced seven or eight times before nationals the first week of January. I guess it’s like anything—many of the kids have made some real progress in their training this summer, but probably the best workout comes in the racing itself.”
In the past six years the Sun Valley team directed by Kapala and assistant program director Kelley Sinnott has instituted its Gold Team and post-grad programs to provide a training base and targeted financial support as a bridge between junior and national ski teams.
This year’s Gold Team headed by Colin Rodgers has seven skiers headed by Chelsea Holmes, Mike Sinnott, Matt Gelso and Reid Pletcher. The post-grad team has four skiers, and the Competition Team is rather large with 34 skiers.
Among the top racers on the Comp Team, all seniors, are Laurel Fiddler, Maranda Stopol, Maggie Williams, Ketchum Wilt, Zach Lindahl and Jake Adicoff. Juniors right behind them include Andrew Graves, Stephen Pfeiffer, Haley Montgomery, Katie Feldman, Grace Gorham, Annika Landis, Nate Thomas and Nate Nasvik.New to the program from Boise are Cole Greenberg and Eli Jensen. Kapala said, “It’s the largest-ever group of J2 boys (ages 14-15) we’ve had entering the program, skiers like second-year J2s Tom Gillespie and Danny Graves.”
The younger Development Team (ages 6-9) in Hailey has moved its training site from Quigley Canyon to Croy Creek Canyon, based at Lions Park. Between Lake Creek and Croy Creek, there are 71 young skiers in that program, plus the 32 Prep Team racers (ages 10-13).
2012-13 SVSEF Nordic Ski Team Roster
THIS YEAR’S COACHES
Program director and head coach—Rick Kapala (26th year).
Assistant program director—Kelley Sinnott (8th year).
Gold Team head coach—Colin Rodgers (2nd year).
Post-grad head coach—Chris Mallory (8th year).
Competition team coaches—Ashley McQueen (7th year), Nicole DeYong (1st year), Nancy Fiddler (1st year) and Rick Kapala.
J3/J4 Prep team coaches—Head coach Kelley Sinnott (8th year), Rob Landis (14th year) and Abbie Harris (3rd year).
Development team coaches—Head coach Dave Bingham (19th year). Assistant coaches—Laurie Leman (22nd year), Paddy McIlvoy (6th year), Svea Grover (6th year), Bob Coplin (3rd year), Mia James (2nd year), Kelley Sinnott and Nancy Fiddler.
THIS YEAR’S ATHLETES
Gold Team (7 skiers)—Women: Alexa Turzian and Chelsea Holmes. Men: Mike Sinnott, Matt Gelso, Simi Hamilton, Patrick Johnson and Reid Pletcher.
Post-grad Team (4 skiers)—Kevin Bolger, Luke Costley, Jesse Knori and Nicholas Lovett.
Competition team racers (34 skiers)—Jake Adicoff, Ben Brunelle, Sophia Deklotz, Sofia DeWolfe, Lukas DeWolfe, Katie Feldman, Laurel Fiddler, Thomas Gillespie, Grace Gorham, Andrew Graves, Danny Graves, Cole Greenberg, Xavier Haemmerle, Eli Jensen, Annika Landis, Kaitlyn Landis, Brooke Lawrence, Zachary Lindahl, Haley Montgomery, Nathan Nasvik, Stephen Pfeiffer, Carter Ros, Emily Siegel, Cheyanne Stopol, Maranda Stopol, Max Tanous, Nate Thomas, Derek Thompson, Jacob Truxal, Loni Unser, River Vorse, Maggie Williams, Sarah Williams and Ketchum Wilt. (Tuition $3,970 including wax fee/grooming pass, Intermountain fee. For ages 14-18 high school OJ/J1/J2, year-round training, on-snow 5-6 days per week, locker room at Lake Creek).
J3/J4 Prep team racers (32 skiers)—Madeline Austin, Lillian Brunelle, Tess Burchmore, Kirsys Campbell, Ariana Carlson, William Carney, Sophia Coplin, Luke Dean, Katherine Estep, Felix Gerlach, Ellie Gorham, Buey Grossman, Elena Guylay, Dieter Haemmerle, Johnny Hagenbuch, Joe Hall, Sofia Kinney, Taylor Koth, Jorgen Lawrence, Kiran Merchant, Clyde Montgomery, Keene Morawitz, Jenna Nurge, Landon Nurge, Zachary Olenick, Cooper Roquet, Dane Thompson, Sarah Truxal, Zach Williams, Ella Wolter, Peter Wolter and Anik Zarkos. (Tuition $1,460 including wax fee/grooming pass. For ages 10-13 J3/J4 introductory program to racing and training, practices 3 days per week through March, locker room at Lake Creek).
Lake Creek and Croy Creek Development team members:
Lake Creek (38 skiers)—Laine Allison, Maeve Bailey, Crosby Boe, Amanda Brown, Aidan Burchmore, James Carlin, Tamiru Chutkan, Grace Cleveland, Camille Cookston, William DeWolfe, Ridge Dirksmeier, Marcella Fisher, Jake Gorham, Saba Grossman, Alexander Guylay, Isabella Hattrup, Lily Hogan, Jack Horowitz, Kate Horowitz, Gretel Huss, Margaret Keating, Adam Kind, Agnes Kind, Goldie Kirk, Tanner Lee, Sascha Leidecker, Svea Leidecker, Priya Merchant, Melissa Murcko, Sara King-Nakaoka, Kai Nelson, Taylor Rixon, Logan Smith, Chloe Tanous, Anika Vandenbergh, Alec Wiedemann, Oliver Wiedemann and Rylee Whorton.
Croy Creek (33 skiers)—Holden Archie, Cadence Campbell, Connor Campbell, Ryan Carnes, Rosa Closser, Charlie Coulter, Cash Dart, Blake DeHart, Paige DeHart, Josephine Gilman, Gina Greenberg, Anja Grover, Eva Grover, Kye Harned, Anja Jensen, Abigail Kirk, Willa Laski, Lucienne Ludwig, Enzo Lutz, Maya Lutz, Skylar Maguire, Azia Mathieu, Luca Mathieu, Liv Nelson, Madison Piggins, Mats Radl-Jones, Sebi Radl-Jones, Alex Shafer, Eveline Svidgal, Max Svidgal, Anneka Thompson, Dawson Torres and Kaia Wolfrom. (Tuition for each program $575 including grooming pass. For grades 2-5, on-snow 2 days per week December through February).