The U.S. women’s technical team last week wrapped up an extended on-snow training camp in New Zealand in which the slalom champ worked on taking it up a notch while revealing vulnerabilities among her teammates.
“The weather for the tech team was not a big problem because we scheduled more than four weeks, so we expected a few issues here and there — historically, it’s always a little bit windy and rainy,” said head coach Roland Pfeifer. “We didn’t lose too many days because we used the rainy days to recover.”
The rain actually led to better conditions on the hill, said the coach, because the moisture in the snow helped to firm things up.
Skiing together for the first time since the spring, the team got things rolling on easy terrain at the Roundhill Ski Field at Lake Tekapo. They were expecting to shift over to Mount Hutt, but made a last-minute decision to head straight to Coronet Peak instead.
“The conditions were just great,” said Pfeifer. “The days we were on snow, they were almost perfect.”
The monthlong trip marks a change for the women’s tech team, which previously spent only a couple weeks in New Zealand.
“For this team, under my supervision, this is the fourth time going to New Zealand. Two weeks is almost nothing, so I decided to come back for one month, which is just the right amount of days and just the right amount of volume.”
The team will avoid the “giant” trip to Chile in September and utilize the next six weeks to keep up strength and conditioning. The plan is to be “totally fit,” according to Pfeifer, prior to their next training block in Europe beginning Oct. 9 in advance of the World Cup Opener in Soelden later that month.
This year, the tech team consists of Mikaela Shiffrin, who needs little introduction, Lila Lapanja and Paula Moltzan, who have both been tabbed to begin training alongside the gold medalist — as much as possible.
“All the conditioning work [Shiffrin] did during the summertime, it’s being reflected on the hill,” said Pfeifer. “We’re seeing improvement in her skiing. There’s more power; there’s more flow in her whole movement from side to side.”
Since the end of last season, Shiffrin has been focusing on cleaning up her skiing and also dialing in Atomic’s new GS ski. The results have been positive, according to her coach.
“With the work we’ve put into it already and a little bit of fine-tuning in Europe heading into Soelden, it’s going to be exciting to see what she’s capable of — she will be better than last year,” says Pfeifer.
It was a bit of a tougher camp for Shiffrin’s teammates.
For Lapanja, her boots gave her some trouble in the early part of the camp, causing pain in the calf area, Pfeifer said, resulting in a couple days off snow.
“After that, she was doing alright, but then all of a sudden she was having back problems,” he said. “She had to take a couple days off — in addition to the rainy days. Once she was on snow, especially in slalom, she was surprisingly skiing well, so that was very positive. But unfortunately she never got the flow into the training; she never got the consistency.”
Pfeifer added he’s optimistic Lapanja will be ready to go in October, but she will definitely need further medical attention and examination before she’s ready to charge into the season.
“The back is concerning us,” he said.
Moltzan started the camp off strong at Roundhill, but as the terrain became more challenging, she began to have “a tougher time,” said Pfeifer, “but in general, she was picking up the skills and is improving. I was pretty satisfied.”
Unfortunately, Moltzan crashed toward the end of the camp, hurting her upper back and sustaining a bruise between her shoulders. She was unable to continue skiing and departed for home five days early. Pfeifer expects Moltzan’s injury to be a short-term problem. “As far as I know, she’s back training already.”
“It’s a little bit of a change for those two girls (Lapanja and Moltzan) to be training with Mikaela. They are trying to do the same program as Mikaela, and it was new for them,” said Pfeifer. “We adjusted their volume; they are behind the volume of Mikaela. It was an experience for them and they now know what it’s all about to be really training professionally. They will be successful. It’s just a matter of the girls keeping up with the pace.”