On-snow preparations for the upcoming season officially commenced for the best-in-the-world U.S. women’s speed team — or at least half of it — with Leanne Smith, Laurenne Ross and Stacey Cook taking advantage of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
Their recent trip to El Colorado, Chile marks a shift in the team’s typical training calendar, which in the past has sent the ladies to New Zealand this time of year.
“We wanted to mix it up and make some changes,” said Chip White, head coach for the women’s speed team. “Doing things the same, when you have success, is a really good idea. But I’m also of the belief that change is good to break up monotony.”
The decision was made jointly with Women’s Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser in an effort to enhance the quality of training, expand the variety of terrain and save money, says White.
“We wanted to create another environment to keep the athletes stimulated by skiing different trails and different conditions,” White said. “To tell you the truth, I was very nervous going in because the snow conditions weren’t great. Just prior to the athletes arrival, we got a fair amount of snow and the weather turned great. And we ended up with some good-contact, hard snow and ended up with an amazingly good camp.”
“We were a little bummed about not going to New Zealand because it’s such a cool destination. There’s a lot of reasons to like New Zealand,” said speed team member Stacey Cook. “But we also knew that Chip made this decision for a reason — and he definitely made a good one. We had so much variety, so much freedom, because we were the only team, and such good snow.
“There was definitely a lot of people nodding their heads and acknowledging we probably won’t be back to New Zealand.”
The team trained GS and super G on countless trails with an emphasis on drills and fundamentals, while also having an opportunity to test new equipment.
For Laurenne Ross, who this offseason switched to Volkl skis and Lange boots, the testing portion of the camp was especially important.
“(Ross) feels very much as if she’s made the right decision,” said White. “The transition to the new equipment has been quite easy. She feels comfortable on it right away, and she’s looking forward to getting things dialed in and getting more comfortable. But her initial feelings are nothing but positive with the boot, with the skis, with everything. … One thing I do know with the amount of years I’ve been doing this is, when an athlete feels comfortable, they have a really good chance of making it to the next level, to take another step in their career.”
It was also a solid camp for Leanne Smith, who cracked the podium twice last season. Her coach said, in the past, she has been frustrated by early-season training — not being able to come back to where she left off. But this season, Smith appears to be further along than she was at this time last year.
Julia Mancuso opted to join the tech team and train on injected snow in New Zealand. She’ll take a short break after her camp there and rejoin the speed team when it returns to Chile to train at Portillo in early September.