After the World Cup tour wraps in March, the ski season is still far from over. Elite level athletes across all snowsports are looking for any opportunity they can to squeeze in more quality training. This spring, the U.S. Ski Team held spring camps for both men’s and women’s speed at Mammoth Mountain. The American Downhiller Camp, coached by a myriad of retired and current World Cup and Olympic athletes, holds its annual spring camp at Mammoth as well.
It’s no secret that the venue is held in high regard in the ski community as one of the premier training destinations that the United States has to offer. Athletes from all over the globe flock to Mammoth to train both on and off the snow. Why? Because Mammoth Lakes offers a few additional benefits that, as an athlete, are hard to ignore.
Training at elevation, both in season and offseason, has proven to have major benefits for competitive athletes looking to improve endurance and increase performance across a multitude of sports. Ease of access to multiple facilities in Mammoth Lakes is an added bonus. The base of the resort is a mere 10 minutes from town! But as of February 2018, one of the biggest benefits to professional and elite athletes looking to train at high altitude has now become available for winter sports athletes.
The Mammoth Lakes Crib is a luxury condominium that sleeps up to six people at a time. The stay for athletes is free, as long as they can spare some time to do some social promotion for Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT). For a while, the Crib was only available from March to October, so a majority of the athletes that took advantage of the program were professional runners, cyclists, and other summer endurance enthusiasts. Knowledge of the program spread by word of mouth, to the point where the summer is usually booked out well in advance. Now that the Crib’s doors are open year-round, winter athletes are beginning to take advantage of the location.
Ex-U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes Noah Hoffman and Ty Walker were some of the first to try it out. Hoffman, a retired U.S. cross-country skier, competed in both the Sochi and PyeongChang Olympics. Walker, a snowboarder, opted to retire at the age of 21 after competing in the Sochi Olympics at only 16. Both Brown University students saw the Crib as an opportunity to dive deeper into a top-notch training venue they never had a chance to explore during their years on the team while on winter break from school.
“I had heard great things about Mammoth as a training venue, and I was sorry that I didn’t get there during my career,” says Hoffman. “The Canadian National team’s cross-country team goes there often for training camps. The U.S. National team never did, so I had heard great things from the Canadians and was excited to see what they have been raving about.”
Mammoth did not disappoint. From alpine adventures in the backcountry to top-notch cross country trails, terrain parks to working with local junior teams, Hoffman and Walker had plenty of opportunities to experience all the mountain had to offer.
“One of the coolest things about being here [as a retired athlete] is doing all the things you don’t necessarily get to do when you’re here for training,” says Walker. “When I was here I ate with the team, I trained with the team, I stayed in the condos with the team. It’s not like I was going snowmobiling or going to the cross country track for fun.”
Hoffman knew going into the experience that the elevation training would be nothing sort of satisfactory, but what really blew him away was the support he received from the community while he was there.
“It didn’t feel like California, which always feels so densely populated with people are really transient and not very invested in their community. Mammoth didn’t feel that way at all,” says Hoffman. “It felt so community oriented. They take care of each other. I was super impressed by the way they seem so supportive of their athletes, both international level athletes and young athletes who are just getting into the lifestyle of living in an outdoor community.”
Lara Kaylor, Director of PR and Communications at Mammoth Lakes Tourism, says that’s the whole point. To give athletes easy access to top-notch training, without the added stress that comes with being in a bigger town, or worrying about the cost of lodging.
“They can come here, to a quiet, small town, where they can just focus on their training and not deal with a lot of the stress that comes with training in big cities, where the outdoor space is so accessible,” says Kaylor. “For us, Mammoth Mountain is right in town and it’s a premier training facility for winter athletes. So ease of access surrounded by a welcoming community is two huge benefits to the program.”
Given the high-demand travel schedule required off athletes in-season, particularly skiers who spend a majority of their time in Europe, Hoffman admits that it may be hard to utilize the Crib in the winter. But in the spring when athletes are looking to get more days on snow, he says why not? Another potential benefit for skiers would be utilizing Mammoth Lakes as a training venue when returning to sport.
Back in 2015 when the now 29-year-old was competing in his first World Cup race of the season, he broke his leg. An immediate surgery led to a quick return, so quick that he was able to train and prepare to return to competition at World Championships the following February. During that time, he chose to go to Breckinridge to train at altitude. But he says if the Crib had been available at that time, he would have thought twice about his decision.
“Breck is about the same elevation as Mammoth. Had the Crib been an opportunity at that point, I would have absolutely looked into it and taken advantage of it instead of going to Breck,” he says. “So for athlete’s doing mid-season training blocks for whatever reason, for coming back from injury or illness or just taking a break from the World Cup, it could be a really cool opportunity.”
In terms of “payment”, Hoffman says fulfilling the asks of the Crib staff was painless. Both he and Walker spent time with a photographer, who gave them photos to share on their social channels. They did an Instagram takeover of the Mammoth Lakes Crib page, and they got spend some time touring around with retired alpine speed skier, Stacey Cook, who acted as a community tour guide of sorts.
“Their asks are really minimal. It felt too good to be true from our end. Even after it was all over and they’ve asked for everything that they’ve asked for, it feels like we hugely benefited because it was so fun,” says Hoffman. “They sold me, I can’t wait to go back to Mammoth.”
Skiing is an expensive sport. Between equipment, travel, lodging, training, competition, and all of the little things in between, costs add up. For athlete’s competing at the top of their game, to up and coming elite juniors just breaking into the world of high-level competition, finding ways to save financially without sacrificing quality training access is appreciated whenever possible. The Crib eliminates at least one of those worrying costs by offering more than affordable lodging in a prime location for mountain access and elite-level training.
Whether you’re a skier, snowboarder, ski mountaineer, or biathlon athlete, Mammoth Lakes wants you to come to try out their “facilities”, the kind only found in mother nature, without the stress of figuring out where to affordably rest your head at night.