Vail Daily column: Nordic Skiing: More than meets the eye
Nordic (or cross-country) skiing is the original and most pure snow sport. Practiced amid the solitude of the woods, it relies on personal strength, endurance and determination. Requiring little more than proper equipment and suitable clothing, Nordic skiing is readily accessible to people of all ages and abilities in our mountain community and provides an opportunity to stay healthy and fit through this lifelong activity.
However, this winter sport, like so many others, can be taken to the next level. This is where Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic program steps in. Nordic athletes are taught skate and classic cross-country skiing techniques and participate in age and skill-appropriate competitions. Ranging from the 6 year old taking part in our two-day-a-week after school Future Stars program to the Olympic athlete training with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail between World Cups, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic athletes build character, courage and commitment as they pursue their athletic dreams.
Dan Weiland, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic program director, and his expert staff have created a nationally recognized Nordic program in the Vail Valley. Whether dealing with the science behind waxes, base finishes and snow types or selecting the perfect skis and poles for the particular day, Weiland is a scholar of maximizing the performance of our Nordic athletes. This level of detail is matched in complexity by the physical and psychological elements of the sport. Whether participating in a seemingly short 1K sprint or a 52K marathon competition, the need for year-round physical fitness is imperative, striving to achieve the stamina of the elite marathon runner and the strength and conditioning of the World Cup alpine racer, all in one body. Most importantly, the staff create an atmosphere that is supportive, fun, challenging and rewarding that encourages learning and a love of skiing.
A World-class program
Last May in Park City, Weiland accepted the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association’s 2013 Cross Country Club of the Year Award on behalf of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, achieving recognition as being the best Nordic club in the United States. However, just last Sunday, the world-class component of the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic program was truly recognized as we received word that Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic athlete and U.S. Cross-Country Team member Noah Hoffman took the fastest time in Day 3 of a World Cup race in Finland and ninth place overall. This performance earned Noah a 0.0 point FIS World Cup race — the first achieved by the U.S. in the past 30 years — and a spot at the Sochi Olympics. You really cannot get more world-class than that!
To be truly world class requires world class facilities. At the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy Campus in Minturn, an academic partner of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, lie the Maloit Park Nordic Trails, the fruits of a cooperative relationship with the Eagle County School District, the support of generous donors allowing Ski & Snowboard Club Vail to purchase a snowcat, tiller and tracksetter and thousands of hours of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail parent volunteer time. This home venue for world-class training and competition for SSCV Nordic athletes offers 7 kilometers of daily groomed skiing for both skate and classic.
Open to the public, as well as Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s aspiring Olympians, the Maloit Park Nordic Trails will be the site of this year’s NCAA Regional Championships hosted by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and the University of Denver.
Currently under construction as a result of a partnership with the town of Minturn, the Minturn Fitness Center has space for an as-yet-to-be-funded Human Performance Lab. Plans also call for a residence center to house staff and athletes who seek to benefit from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s athletic programs, facilities and academic partnerships.
Not only do Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic athletes aspire to be members of the U.S. Ski Team and Olympians, as evidenced by the likes of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic athletes Sylvan Ellefson, Noah Hoffman and Tad Elliott, the program also offers fabulous opportunities to compete at the NCAA collegiate level, as evidenced by the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes going on to compete for University of Colorado, University of Denver, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Bates, Colby, Bowdoin, Harvard, University of New Mexico, University of Vermont and Montana State.
Excelling also in high school cross-country, trail running, road cycling and mountain bike sports in the Vail Valley, our Nordic athletes are introduced to the healthy lifestyle we struggle as a nation for our youngsters to achieve. We couldn’t be more proud of our Nordic staff for providing that experience to the kids of the valley.