Summit Nordic Ski Club tackles Agony Hill at Utah training camp
The Summit Nordic Ski Club hosted its first training camp in 18 months last week in Park City, Utah. The club hit up the Soldier Hollow roller-ski course and the notorious summer training challenge known as “Agony Hill” outside of Salt Lake City.
Summit Nordic head coach Olof Hedberg said 10 of the club’s higher-level U-18 and U-16 athletes took part in the six-day camp. Hedberg said the demanding camp was a shock to some of the new athletes training at a higher level for the first time.
“The camp is a great way to, basically, start off and showcase the amount of training it takes to succeed at that level,” Hedberg said. “That’s why we have it early, and it becomes almost a little bit of a trial by fire.”
The coach said the camp focuses on 24 hours a day of training, eating, resting and recovering. It’s all at the same location where 20 of the country’s best junior skiers will train next month with a regional elite group.
That experience includes the first activity of the week: roller-skiing at the hilly Soldier Hollow course.
“It’s only for roller-skiing,” Hedberg said, “no bikes, no nothing. And some of them have not been on anything like that before. There’s nothing like that here in Colorado. They are more used to skiing on the recpath, which is more hilly for bikes. But it’s not a ski hill.”
“We make sure there’s a high athlete-coach ratio,” Hedberg added. “There’s usually some blood, some tears or some combination of the two. But it’s one of those moments that’s a really key moment of taking that step to the next level, to handle that terrain on roller skis.”
As for the 1-mile, 1,200-foot elevation gain Agony Hill, it’s a spot just outside of the University of Utah campus that some of the world’s best Nordic skiers have run up since the 1970s. Sam Haynes was the club’s fastest boy, at 16.5 minutes, while Nina Schamberger was the fastest girl at 16 minutes and 54 seconds.
“That is one of the top junior times of all time, basically,” Hedberg said about Schamberger. “They don’t have the exact records on that, but I have never had a junior that fast.”
Hedberg said Haynes’ time was reflective of his success in sprint races.
“It’s more similar to a cross-country ski race than doing Mount Royal or Peak 1, which are similar in terms of how they look,” Hedberg said. “But they are much longer and become more of a walk, and you’re not really having the same heart rate the whole time.”
Haynes also recorded the team’s fastest time in the roller-ski time trial at Soldier Hollow.
The club will compete this weekend in roller-ski races in Casper, Wyoming, before racing on roller-skis in Breckenridge at the end of July. The club last worked with the town of Breckenridge to host the inaugural roller-ski races in 2019. Hedberg said the races are still pending permit approval from the town.
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