Oberhof Ski Tunnel
And just like that, it seems as though summer has come to a close and winter is just around the corner. After putting in lots of summer volume hours and hard intervals on rollerskis, my SMS T2 teammates and I took a trip across the pond to prep for the race season. We traveled to Oberhof, Germany for a nine day training camp, skiing on snow in a 1.6 kilometer tunnel.
Before we left Vermont, we capped off our summer training with a few last adventures in the east. This meant a couple of big days in the white mountains and long threshold sessions. We also started incorporating a lot more speed and power into our training to get tuned up for fall intensity.
As we made our way to Logan International Airport, we made a pitstop in the suburbs of Boston to visit a few local ski groups. First, we joined the Eastern Mass X-Country Junior team (EMXC). We had the opportunity to chat with the skiers about training, racing, fueling, college and all things related to life as a ‘professional athlete.’ This team of high school skiers was looking fast when we went through roller ski drills with them, practiced race starts and striding speeds.
The next morning, the SMS T2 team stopped by the EMXC BKL practice (Bill Koch League). Working with skiers age 6-13, we split up into two groups. I spent the morning chasing around the younger crew during games of Sharks and Minnows, Ships Across the Ocean, and Capture the Flag. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that we needed the kids to remind us the rules of these games, but in the end we had a blast!
I think I can speak on behalf of the entire team that we had a great time working with the junior athletes in Boston. Reflecting back on my own experience at that age, whenever Jessie Diggins or Kikkan Randall would show up for an outreach event I turned into a total fan girl. They inspired me to chase my goals and crazy dreams and it’s wild to realize where I’ve ended up because of it. Anytime I have the opportunity to potentially encourage younger athletes to get after it, I’m all in. It’s been fun to have little events like this sprinkled throughout our summer because we weren’t able to safely hold anything last year.
After running around in the hot sun and humidity, we were ready to find a cooler climate. We hopped on a flight to Munich and drove another 3.5 hours to arrive in Oberhof, Germany, home to the LOTTO Thüringen Skisport-Halle. Jet-lagged, we rolled into Oberhof submersed in a cloud, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to run in 48 degrees and rain. The refreshing temps allowed my teammates and I to cool off and start wearing more layers, because the following day we jumped into an ice box.
The 1.6 kilomter tunnel features a loop plus a horseshoe. When open for two-way traffic you can get creative with your ski course, but on average one loop takes about 7-8 minutes. When you step into the tunnel, it feels like you’re stepping into an ice rink with temperatures kept around -4 celsius. Although seven minutes can feel both like an eternity and as fast as a blink, we kept each other company during our big training block and were giddy with excitement to be on snow.
We spent the first few days doing drills and speeds to get accustomed to skiing with long skis again. By the third day we had company from two of the local German National Team skiers, Antonia Fraebel and Victoria Carl. They joined us for a threshold workout that made a 2.5 hour ski in the tunnel fly by! We managed to do a few double sessions in the tunnel, although the running trails near town were so fun and the local team was gracious enough to let us access their gym. In the final few days of training we capped off our camp with two more hard interval sessions that left me feeling good and hungry for more. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of going fast on real snow to get you fired up for ski season!
Oberhof isn’t known to have the nicest weather, so we were all surprised when the sun came out halfway through the camp. The town really started showing off for us and we hit up a few of the tourist attractions nearby. It was extra special to have a few visitors stop by as well. Two of my old teammates from UVM are from Germany and both made the trip to see us. All together, we had quite the crew of Catamounts out tromping around the German forrest. It meant so much that Juri and Mara took the time to come say hello. It definitely makes me appreciate how much this sport can grow your community internationally and you can find friends in any little pocket of the world.
When we weren’t training, I ran around town trying to find wifi so I could keep up with my part-time computer job. Later, we made some delicious team dinners to enjoy outside and went for sunset walks around town. During our one afternoon off during the camp we went to play mini-golf at the local amusement park. Everything on the golf course was ski-related. My favorite stop on the course was at the mini ski jump, launching our golf balls into the air and around a few corners, I'm sure ski jumping is just as easy...
Finally, during our last training session on snow I started to get bored of the seven minute loop. Just in time! We spent our final evening with the German skiers and coaches as they showed us what a German BBQ looks like. We enjoyed Thüringer Bratwursts, mustard, sauerkraut and fresh brews, and had a great time sharing experiences with them.
After many hours of travel to get back to Vermont, it feels good to be back in the Green Mountain State. The leaves are just starting to change colors and temperatures are cool and fall-like. I'm excited to build on the work and progress I made in the last nine days to have a very productive fall. Soon enough, we'll be back on snow!
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.