Individual Approach Breeds Team Success at Timberline
The U.S. Freeski Halfpipe Team recently completed their first on-snow camp of the off-season at Official Training Site Timberline Resort & Ski Area in Mt. Hood, Ore. June 29-July 15.
Attending athletes included back-to-back FIS World Champion Aaron Blunck, two-time X Games gold medalist Alex Ferreira, and Olympic bronze medalist Brita Sigourney, along with a slew of motivated U.S. Freeski team athletes hungry to hit the slopes after their 2019-20 season was cut short.
However, the process of getting back on snow did not look the same as years past. Setting up training camps amidst a global pandemic is no easy feat, but thanks to significant time spent creating COVID-19 mitigation strategies and protocols, led by U.S. Ski & Snowboard High-Performance Director Troy Taylor and Lead Physical Therapist Gillian Bower, along with team managers, staff, and beyond, freeski halfpipe athletes were able to get on snow with safety on the top of mind.
“Our goals as a coaching staff were first and foremost to keep the athletes and staff safe,” said U.S. Freeski Halfpipe Pro Team Head Coach Mike Riddle. “With the crazy world we are living in, this was something on our minds constantly. That aside, we wanted to give the athletes the best opportunity to progress their skiing. We were very fortunate to have access to the best training facility in the world at this time of year when several other national team programs were unable to train at all.”
Alex also shared his thoughts on the opportunity to train at Timberline.
“I feel like we are so fortunate as a team to be able to train and progress, especially during such a hectic time in the world,” he said. “Being able to learn new tricks is just a cherry on top.”
And progress they did! By taking an individual breakout approach, athletes were able to focus on their own goals and dial in custom approaches to camp in a near-perfect summer halfpipe, thanks to long time expert pipe builder Frank Wells. The pipe was so good that athletes achieved greater gains than anticipated, including a never-been-done switch double cork 1440 by Aaron.
The progression and hard work did not stop with Aaron. All of the athletes made major strides in their skiing that will benefit their performance this coming season, including Brita, who successfully skied last season after recovering from a tib-fib spiral fracture. But getting back on snow this off-season offered a unique challenge for her.
“I had the hardware taken out of my leg about four weeks ago, so this camp was a bit of an experiment for me,” she said. “I’m really happy with how it worked out. I definitely am still navigating pain in my ski boots, but that has forced me to work on my switch skiing. I’m optimistic my leg is getting better and I’m grateful for the opportunity just to get some time on skis right now.”
For some, the training camp wasn’t only unique due to the COVID-19 mitigation policies in place, but also because they have never experienced a U.S. Ski & Snowboard sanctioned training camp or Timberline Resort & Ski Area. Rookie team member Riley Jacobs was one of these athletes.
“My first time hanging with the rookie team has been so much fun,” said Riley as she reflected after a long day on snow. “The pipe has been super sick and the weather has also been beautiful. This was also my first time to Timberline and I can say I am stoked to come back again!”
To no surprise, skiing just wasn’t enough for the high-energy U.S. Freeski Team crew. Athletes, coaches, and staff also had the opportunity to enjoy activities off the snow.
“Being isolated to a team bubble sounded scary at the start, but feedback from everyone has shown this was our strongest team cohesion we've ever had,” said U.S. Freeski Team Halfpipe Pro Team Coach Jeremie Livingston. “On the hill, everyone was amping each other up and feeding off the energy of being back on snow. Off the hill, we really bonded over golf, biking, and having a good ol' Bubble'd team July Fourth BBQ. There were also several river cold bath sessions enjoyed by many athletes and coaches alike.”One common theme from athletes that can’t be ignored when speaking about Timberline Camp was the overwhelming gratitude towards staff, medical professionals, and official Training Site partners at Timberline who made this camp possible.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard sanctioned training camp attendance is optional. U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes and staff should not feel pressure to travel to train. All sanctioned training camp policies and protocols are subject to change based on local, state, and federal public health orders, updated guidance from the USOPC, or updated U.S. Ski & Snowboard policies.