Athletics & Recreation / News

When school is on break, the DU ski team gets to work

Sterling Grant will spend DU's winter break preparing for the ski team's upcoming season. Photo: Rich Clarkson & Associates

For most students at the University of Denver, the holidays signal the end of the quarter and a much needed break from school. For the DU alpine and Nordic ski teams though, it means it’s time to kick into gear.

Both teams stay in Colorado for most of the break, spending weeks at a time at their home away from home in Winter Park, Colo., in preparation for the 2012 season. Other students get Hawaiian vacations and plenty of family time. The Crimson and Gold skiers get bunk beds and a different type of family time.

“I think it’s a pretty awesome opportunity,” says freshman Devin Delaney of North Conway, N.H. “Our whole team moves up to Winter Park, and we get a couple of condos for close to three and a half weeks. Although it’s the holidays we are all together, and we are the only school that gets that time off.”

Most DU programs have instant access to practices and training. For skiing, it is a bit more difficult. Students have to make their classes and still find time to get to the mountains. Add into the equation that Mother Nature has a say in the matter, and the timing of practices becomes even more of a challenge.

“Our training camps in Winter Park during November and December are extremely important for the team’s success,” says head Nordic coach Dave Stewart. “This is the optimal time of year to train in high volumes, typically up to four hours a day with focus on technical improvement.”

The way Pioneers head alpine coach Andy LeRoy sees it, the end of the quarter break makes the perfect start to the season.

“This time allows the team to go up and make the best use of the early season conditions without the worry of school or assignments that they would normally juggle,” LeRoy says.

The two teams set up courses and have their own designated part of the mountain all to themselves. They spend the day on the hill getting ready for the season, cramming every bit of practice into this valuable period. Not only are the Pioneers in technical training but they also get their bodies acclimated to the higher elevations.

“The three weeks we spend living and training at 8,500 feet provide a natural ‘altitude effect’,” Stewart says. “That helps everyone on the team perform better both at high altitude and sea level, both of which are critical during our race season.”

The Pioneers attend competitions during training to get their competitive juices flowing. During the break, they will travel to Colorado resorts Copper Mountain, Steamboat Springs, Loveland, Aspen and Vail as well as Canada to test their skills.

“We utilize the competitive platform of races to reinforce what we work on every day in our trainings,” LeRoy says.

Ask the skiers if they mind missing the time off, they say it’s just fine with them.

“I think it’s a huge benefit to be on the snow that much,” Delany says. “We get to do these [open] races, and we are really prepared going into our college race season.”

The Pioneers begin their quest of adding to the program’s NCAA-record 21 team championships on Jan. 6 at the RMISA Alpine Qualifier at Eldora Mountain Resort, Colo.

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