U.S. Ski Team Olympian Noah Hoffman trains with Summit Nordic Ski Club
There might not be snow on the county’s cross-country ski trails just yet, but the season is in full swing for the Summit Nordic Ski Club. The club has been taking to Summit’s recpath on roller skis for after-school practice since early September.
Yesterday the athletes were joined by an Olympic guest. U.S. Ski Team Nordic skier and Aspen native Noah Hoffman joined the high-school skiers for a training run from the Frisco Nordic Center to Summit High School and back on the county recpath.
Hoffman made the U.S. Olympic team last winter and competed at February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where he finished 26th in the 50K and 11th as part of the 4x10K relay team.
During Tuesday’s training run he took time to challenge club members to sprints, and following the session he hung around for a question-and-answer session with club members and parents.
“It was fantastic,” new club coach Olof Hedberg said of the visit. “He was so generous with his time afterwards.”
Hoffman answered questions about training methods and what it takes to race at the World Cup level.
“He is such a Colorado success story,” Hedberg added. “It was really cool to have someone who has walked the path showing them it was feasible.”
Hedberg said he’s hopeful that Hoffman will be able to join the club again later in the season when there is snow to train on.
The Summit Nordic Ski Club is an independent group that includes some members of Summit High School’s Nordic team as well as other club members ranging from elementary to high school age. The club competes annually in a number of events at different age levels.
NEW COACH NEW APPROACH
Club head coach Hedberg joined the Summit program in September and brings his own World Cup background to the table. The Swedish-born Nordic skier raced for a private club in Sweden, where he made it inside the top 160 in the FIS World Cup rankings.
Following his racing career Hedberg spent two and a half years as an assistant Nordic coach at the University of New Mexico while he worked on his master’s degree.
After graduating, Hedberg spent six years in New York City working for a firm managing hedge funds, but decided over the summer that it was time to get back to the mountains.
“I was looking to get back in the ski world,” he said of the decision. “It was time for us to do something else.”
Hedberg said he is excited about being in Summit County and working with his new squad of athletes.
He added that he’s already been impressed by their efforts.
Hedberg brings with him experience from a part of the world where Nordic skiing is the No. 1 sport.
“That’s all we care about in Norway and Sweden,” he said, laughing.
Nordic and Alpine downhill skiing are the sports to watch there and kids get involved at a young age. It’s what traditionally separates the Scandinavian countries from the rest of the pack when it comes to World Cup competition. The sport is simply more ingrained.
“There’s a saying in Scandinavia,” Hedberg said: “If you want to be a cross-country skier your season starts May 1.”
It’s an approach he’s likely to bring to the table for the club here in Summit County, with an offseason emphasis on roller skiing.
“The roller skiing possibilities here are better than anywhere else I’ve seen in the United States,” he said, crediting the recpath network.
As for club members, he sees plenty of potential, calling them natural athletes no less capable than any Scandinavian child, the difference being training. Back in Sweeden, for example, other sports don’t pull their athletes away from Nordic training they way they do here.
“These kids are really fit, they just need to develop an efficiency on skis,” he said, comparing them with their European counterparts. “They get less hours … if they would get the same exposure they would be equally good.”
Describing what he’s seen so far he said, “The kids are responding fantastically. They have an amazing work ethic. They just put their heads down and work hard.”
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