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U.S. Alpine Snowboarders Mix White and Frozen Water at Mt. Hood

Pat Donnelly

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<!-- start header --><H1>First Tracks!! Online Ski Magazine</H1>Jul 02, 2007 - 07:58 AM

News - World Cup

Government Camp, OR - During every U.S. Snowboarding alpine training camp, Head Coach Steve Persons works in a team-building exercise or two. But never one quite this rocky as the Team headed to Oregon's Kickatat River for some Class II-III whitewater kayaking during the second of two early on-snow camps held at Timberline Ski Area on Mt. Hood.

"I swear, they needed leashes for all of us,” said 2006 Olympian Michelle Gorgone (Sudbury, MA). "It was full-on bumper boats - they would try to keep us under control, but we were all racing and trying to dump each other. The rapids weren't too big, so there wasn't a fear of death or anything. It was more of a good time for everyone.”

Going "blue angel”

Using plastic sit-on-top kayaks, the Team was guided downriver by a local outfitter and scouted the more significant rapids before running them "blue angel” - one after the other. According to Persons, who has taken the Team kiteboarding and rock climbing for previous team-building experiences, it's important for the riders to face things completely out of their element.

"I don't think any of them had been kayaking before, at least not whitewater, and all of them swam, but it's things like this that help the team work together. Alpine racing may be individual when you're on course, but the support of the entire Team is what makes each rider successful,” said Persons.

With a number of young riders working into the program like Lindsay Lloyd (Centerville, UT), Vic Wild (White Salmon, WA), Zac Kay (Mount Shasta, CA) and Josh Wylie (South Londonderry, VT), off-snow activities become just as important as on-snow opportunities, says Persons.

"These riders basically live together the entire winter, and if they're not comfortable hanging out together off the snow, then they're certainly not going to perform together in competition,” he said. "So, we toss them into situations that aren't within their comfort zones and see how they perform.”

Whitewater - the frozen kind

Away from the river, the Team had six days of lapping the Palmer snowfield at Timberline Resort with gates set on the lower portion. The focus was on adding mileage, perfecting form and gaining consistency.

”Ultimately, we want the athletes to be feeling very comfortable fundamentally with their riding before we go into a long break from on-snow training. There's a lot of equipment testing going on in order to dial-in gear before next winter. Because of that, we weren't focusing on speed, just getting in the laps and making sure their form is solid,” added Persons

"Technically, it's nice to have a couple of on-snow camps not long after the season ends because their legs are still there from winter. But now we'll take two months off before regrouping in New Zealand. Everyone will pretty much head home and work on their physical fitness using the individual programs set up by Per [Lundstam, the USSA strength and conditioning manager].”

The trip to New Zealand will be a first for alpine riders, who have traveled to Chile the past three seasons for their late summer training camp. The switch, said Persons, was a unanimous vote by the athletes to check out a new training location. Positive reports from the freestyle riders, who have made New Zealand a regular summer stop, may have helped the vote.

"We thought it was time for a change,” said Persons. "Besides, we hear that they've got a pretty killer jet-boat ride you can take down a river in New Zealand - the Team is pretty stoked to check that out and my guess is if they can handle whitewater kayaking, a jet-boat should be no problem.”

Departure is set for the end of August and the Team will remain in New Zealand until mid-September

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