The summer life of a Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy student athlete (Part 1)
Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy
Editor’s note: Reece Bell, 16, an incoming senior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy and is a second-year member of the U-21 British Ski Team. She is training and racing around the globe this summer, blogging along the way.
After flying to Geneva, Switzerland at the end of June with my dad (Martin), who is a race coach, we met the rest of the British Ski Academy racers and coaches and drove to Les Deux Alpes, a ski resort in France.
I hadn’t been to the Alps in the summer before, and I was amazed by how green the typically white mountains were, and enjoyed the view from the Jandri Express gondola. I also appreciated the simplicity of the commute, all we had to do was walk to the gondola from our hotel and it led directly to the bottom of the glacier.
My legs definitely felt shaky for our first day of skiing, but luckily we did not jump into gates right away. We started with some slow drills, such as edge sets and garlands to practice edging our skis and getting used to the snow. For the entire first day, we did drills, specifically focused on our alignments. Some of these included pivot slips, short swings, poles-on-hips, poles-on-shoulders, lifting the inside ski and javelin turns. We added the last four drills to our progressional warm-up, every day before training. The snow held up very well, similar to winter conditions. It did not soften up until 11:30 which was a good ease into our first day.
Lunch of Champions
After training we eat our standard, included, three-course lunch at our hotel. Most afternoons, we walk around the town, tune our skis or buy snacks at the supermarket. We have had lots of fun going down the luge track a few times, which is included in our pass at Les Deux Alpes. Then at 4 p.m. we do dry-land training. Usually I dread dry-land training after skiing all day, but the sessions we have done are firstly focused on mobility and recovery and then focused on agility, coordination, cardio etc. Plus they have been fun. I always feel much better after stretching and playing games with my team. Dinner is also included in our stay, and after that we watch and analyze our videos from training that day.
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Our training days are broken into blocks of four with a rest day in between. During the first four days of skiing, we started each morning with a progression of drills to work on our alignment. It is important to go back to basics during preseason, to ensure that we have a solid foundation of skiing to build on for the rest of the year. During this block we have reviewed many helpful alignments and movements that I had completely forgotten about during the stress of competition season. After free skiing drills, we went around brushies while executing the drill to rehearse those movements through a course.
Rafting, scenic hikes & more
In the afternoon, we went into a valley town called Venosc. All we had to do was walk to the gondola that would then take us down into the valley. The houses were built on the hillside. For our dry-land training that day, we hiked up the side of the valley, back to Les Deux Alpes. It was a steep, but very scenic hike. As difficult as it was, I appreciated this dry-land training and the fact that we had the following day off.
During our day off, we slept in, then my teammates and I explored Les Deux Alpes. We were excited to see so many creperies in one town and an array of beautiful wild flowers.
In the afternoon, we went back into Venosc and went rafting down the valley river. We dipped through currents as the raft guide spun our boat in circles. We got out of the raft to briefly swim next to a snowmelt waterfall which was as beautiful as it was chilly. All of the boys chose to downhill mountain bike all the way from the top of the Jandri express, through the town of Les Deux Alpes and down into the valley of Venosc. Luckily, this time we rode the gondola back out instead of walking.