The Whitefish Mountain Resort Ski Racing Team didn’t need a drop of snow to train this summer. They biked, hiked up Great Northern and added a dryland regime this fall.
When the skiers hit the slopes come December, the team will look younger than last year. With its older competitors graduating and departing to college this fall – including Drew Lewis who placed first in Northern Division’s Gold Cup series last year – the team is bereft of racers in its higher ranks. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” head coach Roy Loman said. Instead, he plans to use the situation to focus on developing the young team without using a one-size-must-fit-all approach. “We have a good opportunity to shape that fundamental layer,” he added.
Ski racers compete by age groups, but the race team’s oldest J1 squad is vacant, and only three fill the J2 or 15- to 16-year-old slots. The remainder of the team’s 30 participants are age 8 to 14, spread into the J3, J4, and J5 groups, most of whom race in unscored Youth Ski League events. “I want to concentrate on that group,” Loman said. “There are a lot of developmental things we can do.”
For Loman, his coaching staff provides an advantage. With all his coaches returning, he knows he’ll be able to deliver an individualized development program. “In my mind, this is a really unusual staff,” Loman said. “They are so motivated, so experienced, and so skilled. They know what the program should mean to different kids, and they can adapt it to individuals.”
He points to the skills the coaches introduce via gate training and all-mountain skiing. “We want to work to acquire and solidify skills, and then turn up the challenge to gain success,” he said. “But we’re not just all about gates.” With gates configured right on the proper terrain, Loman aimed to develop sound skiers who can handle any conditions and any slope on the mountain.
To complement the team’s younger makeup, Loman emphasizes the one-day program as an opportunity for families to test the frozen waters. Rather than leaping in for an entire season of full-weekend training and road trips to races, this program allows flexibility.
Most one-day participants spend six hours on Saturdays with their coaches, but less than one-third of the time is for bashing gates. “It provides a good dose of all-mountain skiing, drills and progressions,” Loman said. “We steer the group to a particular place on the mountain to develop a certain skill.” Participants can travel to youth ski league races across Montana or stay local competing in the Tommy Moe League – a series of events that includes giant slalom, slalom, slopestyle and skier-boardercross.
Team-wide, competition choices are driven by the individual competitor. Currently, Loman is evaluating what regional International Ski Federation races and ski hills would provide the best experience for each member of the team’s J2 squad.
Four of Loman’s returning racers have joined the new Whitefish Ski Academy this year, along with four freestylers. The academy works in cooperation with the resort, the school district and Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation to dovetail the academic and athletic needs of competitive skiers. His skiers are released early from school on certain days for training.
On-snow training begins when the ski resort opens. Loman is prepping his coaches for the season, which includes one-, two-, three-, and four-day-a-week training for different racers and a Christmas Camp for the entire team.
“The team did very well last year,” said Loman, ticking off high Northern Division rankings and qualifications for Junior Olympics. But he’s now in the market for more, younger “blue square skiers” to maybe turn into racers. “We not looking to put them on the Olympic squad,” he said, “though that wouldn’t hurt.”
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