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Nordic season kicking into gear

Lactic threshold, roller skiing and fun in store

by Than Acuff

Despite temperatures in the 50s during the day and just a smattering of recent snow, confined mostly to the high peaks, the Crested Butte Nordic team (CBNT) is making the most of the situation as they prepare for the upcoming 2017/2018 season.

In fact, the entire junior Nordic program is blowing up this year with programs for beginner four-year-olds up to experienced u20 age class racers.

“We have 95 signed up for all programs,” says CBNT head coach Molly Susla. “We’re almost full. We are literally running out of skis.”

The programs start with Striders and Gliders. Striders is more for the “never-evers” 4 to 7-year-olds, while the Gliders takes it up a notch.

“With the Gliders we build a little more skill and knowledge of Nordic skiing but still playing around,” explains Susla.

The programs continue with an Explorers option opening young skiers up to the surrounding valleys yet still maintaining a connection to the Nordic skiing world.

“We’ll be doing everything that’s winter outdoor recreation connected,” says Susla, “exploring the valleys more than on the Nordic track.”

Keeping with the theme of something for everyone, Crested Butte Nordic has a Challengers program designed this year as well. The Challengers program will bridge the gap between the Explorers and the race program as coaches will continue to improve on Nordic skills yet still head into the hills for some exploration. In addition, the Challengers get to shoot guns, or a variation of a gun, since they will do one day a week of biathlon training.

“We hope it’s a good medium,” says Susla. “It will have a Nordic focus, learning technical skills, building endurance but still with an element of fun adventure.”

The CBNT comp team, the skiers solely focused on training for and competing in Nordic races throughout the Rocky Mountain Nordic region and, ultimately for some, a trip to the Junior National Championships top the list of programs.

Susla is entering her second season as the head coach, with Brittany Perkins and Isaiah St. Pierre returning as assistant coaches, with Pierre also the scientist behind success as the head wax tech.

Seven skiers from the u14 age class to the u20 age class return from last year’s team to the comp team this year and Susla is hoping to draw in a few more young skiers to the comp program in the next few weeks.

It’s no secret on-snow training has been non-existent for her athletes but there’s been plenty of work to do to prepare for the upcoming season with Susla and her coaches putting the skiers through a variety of training four times each week. The team spends some time in the gym with strength training, mixing in some threshold training to get a gauge of their lactic threshold and good old roller skiing.

“We’re working on waking up the ski muscles and getting on roller skis as much as we can,” says Susla. “I’m impressed with the strength they’re showing and no one has really been dragging.”

While Susla is committed to keeping the sport fun for the athletes, there is work to be done.

“The hard days are going to be hard,” says Susla. “But the easy days will be easy.”

With one year under her belt at the helm, Susla and the coaching staff feel they are a bit more prepared heading into this year.

“I feel as coaches we’ve done a ton more prepping and can provide more individualized training for each skier based on their needs,” says Susla.

Woody Martineau will lead the team. Martineau has been to Junior Nationals the past three years and will be racing in the u20 age class in his final year on the CBNT. The goals remain the same for Martineau.

“His goals this year are to perform really well at Junior Nationals and Senior Nationals in Alaska in January,” says Susla.

While a majority of the team will remain in town for the upcoming Thanksgiving Camp, Susla plans to take Martineau and Robby Oberling to the Thanksgiving Camp in West Yellowstone next week to meet up with CBNT alum Benjamin Swift for some more intensive on-snow training and racing alongside their peers from throughout the nation.

The team opens the race season December 16-17 in Breckenridge and Crested Butte Nordic will host a Junior National Qualifier event on their homologated track (that’s Nordic ski racing-speak for USSA-approved venue) on the bench January 14-15.

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