Aside from one minor hiccup (a 5.9 earthquake last Wednesday), Mother Nature has been good to the U.S. Alpine Women’s Ski Team during its annual pre-season camp in Chile. Photos of sunny skies and glistening snow covered mountains have been plentiful on athlete’s Facebook pages and blogs as fans across the world are happy to see their favorite racers back up to speed only weeks away from the start of the ski racing season.
“The weather is fantastic, the conditions have been unbelievably good,” said U.S. Women’s head coach Alex Hoedlmoser, two weeks into his team’s three-week, South American training block. “It’s been an absolutely perfect camp.”
For most of the U.S. women, the Chile trip is their second time back on snow following a late-summer technical camp in New Zealand. The first two weeks of camp in Chile have been dedicated to speed events.
“In this speed group we have a lot of talent and they have shone that already last year by being the best team in the world points wise,” said Hoedlmoser. “We want to continue on with that and get those people that are already skiing top tens in the World Cup, to move them up even more, being top five and on the podium. There is a great team dynamic there and they push each other and I’m really looking forward to what will go on in the races because they are skiing great.”
With Olympic medalists Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso leading the way, Hoedlmoser’s speed team is reaching new heights bolstered by young talent in Laurenne Ross, Leanne Smith and Alice McKennis, who is returning to snow for the first time after breaking her leg early last season.
“When you know you are able to be as fast as the best in the world it is a great confidence boost,” said Hoedlmoser. “Most of those girls on the speed team have had the experience of being the top ten in World Cup races and they know they belong with the best skiers in the world.”
September training in Chile offers the U.S. women the unique opportunity to work out alongside top international men’s teams while the pressure cooker of the intense season is yet to fire up. “Today we were training super G and GS together with the Norwegian men,” said Hoedlmoser. “It’s good to ski with them and see their pace. On the women’s side there aren’t too many teams anymore we can benefit to training with, so it’s great to train with some men.”
After being unseated as the World Cup overall champion for the first time in three seasons, and that by a mere three points, Vonn is ripping out all the stops as she awaits the season-opening race in Soelden, Austria Oct. 23.
“Lindsey is just doing anything possible to regain those titles, that is her huge goal. She puts everything that is possible into that goal,” observes Hoedlmoser. “She trains as hard as possible and is getting as many runs as possible. She is not leaving any doubt out there, she is going to make sure she has done everything possible in order to get that title back.”
Mancuso, who last season returned to the top five in overall ranking for the first time in three years, is also anxious to build on last season’s momentum.
“Julia [Mancuso] has definitely carried the excitement from a successful year last year over to now,” said Hoedlmoser. “She has been training really hard, trying a lot of equipment. She is super motivated, she is a great team player and just enjoying the time on the snow and making the best out of it.”
Today (Sept. 17), the women’s speed group moves to Valle Nevado to join the tech team for one more week of training together following a week-long tech camp there.
“The tech team is highly, highly motivated and that is really cool to see. We have a new coach who is approaching things a little bit differently and the girls seem to really like it.,” said Hoedlmoser. “They are putting a lot of effort in and I really like that.”
Images by Jonathan Selkowitz