Madeline (Maddie) Semet is a 10th-grade Killington Mountain School alpine student-athlete from Stratton, Vt. She shares her insight and reflections from a preseason training camp in Hintertux, Austria.
Starting off already exhausted from a full day of traveling, the most tiresome part of the journey awaits: the final stretch to get to our hotel, which will serve as our team’s home for the next three weeks. We are still adjusting from the six-hour time difference, and from the fact that we have to unpack multiple bags of ski gear and clothes.
When we arrive at our Austrian hotel, we have lunch, even though it is 5 a.m. in our minds. It is at lunch where we find out we are going to have a workout that day, but we are too tired to really take in the reality of that at the moment. Trudging up to our rooms, we begin to unpack and prepare for the camp ahead of us.
A typical day starts with the alarm clock going off at 6:20 a.m. I turn it off, hop up and prepare for the day ahead. The first thing we do as a group is have pre-hab. Pre-hab is a self-directed opportunity to properly warm up before skiing. This allows us to work on the individual areas of our body that may need more time in the morning.
Breakfast follows. In Hintertux, our hotel provides all three meals, which are all buffetstyle. For breakfast, our eyes open wide to see a yogurt station, followed by hot scrambled eggs. There is a bread section, meats, cheese, cereals, granola and juices. Breakfast lasts however long we want. We can take our time and have an extravagant meal, or we can make it quick and rush to get to the gondola, where we will wait in line for a good hour. Basically, we hurry up and wait, which is what skiing is all about.
When we travel, we end up running to make our tight connections, only to end up waiting longer on the flight. In general, I would have a shorter breakfast so I could be one of the first in line. This helps me avoid getting pushed around by the rowdy, eager ski racers; in Europe it is a complete mad dash to try and be the first one up. Being one of the first in line allows you to also take a few laps before the crowds come in. I try to do this, but because I am on the “return to snow” program, it is hard. Basically, I have to take it easy, rest after almost every ski run, and often stop skiing before the rest of my team because I broke my tibia-plateau in summer ski training.
As difficult as it is to pull away from skiing when my leg has had too much, it is up to me to use my discretion and communicate with my coaches about what is going on and how I am feeling. This is challenging because, to be frank, I do not want to slow down or stop; I do not want to admit that my leg has had too much or that I think I should be done skiing. This is what we came here to do, and it is simply frustrating to not be able to train with ease and feel held back from my ambition.
Our skiing program is designed to be just as much an educational experience as any other, which is why our skiing is an open-ended discussion. This is especially great for me because I am able to communicate what my leg is able to and not able to take that day. When in the ski course, we are expected to try our hardest, but we are also asked to articulate what we have just done, something that is especially hard for me. We articulate what we did in order to learn from it, so that we know what to do next time.
After our draining training session, we have lunch back at the hotel, followed by a twohour study hall session in the hotel’s lobby. Our teachers back home send us work via Google Classroom. Some teachers set target dates for us because they know that our schedule is packed and we may not be able to comply with all of the due dates they have set, especially when our training plan changes due to weather. For the first week of this Hintertux camp, our head of academics came along to help guide us through study hall, ensuring we focus on our high-priority assignments first. Our teachers are also very open and available. Some of my teammates Facetime teachers for lengthy time periods in order to talk through their schedule of assignments and get help with challenging problems or lessons.
Following study hall is our dryland training. Most days we do a 15-15-15. Basically, a 15 day starts with 15 minutes of cardio, which could be a walk, run, spin or a game the entire girls team comes together to play. The 15-minute games have been great team-building experiences. One example is a game where we all try and tap each others’ calves. If someone touches your calf, you have to drop and do two push-ups. Every one of us is involved, and it is so different from skiing because we play as a team, as opposed to playing individually. These games are also fun because we do not focus on the outcome, but rather having fun and laughing with each other. The next 15 is core, which ends up being the hardest 15. Finally, we move to 15 minutes of mobility, creating the perfect combination in order for us to maintain being in shape at camp, but still being able to recover for the next day of skiing.
The rest of the day is really up to us, although I generally have to continue recovery and physical therapy after workout. Otherwise, I would really be limited with what I am capable of handling on the hill. During this down time we have done things like walk to a beautiful nearby waterfall and spent time in the sauna, but mostly we use the time after our workout and before dinner to tune our skis or just relax, which is really needed at this point in our day.
After dinner, our girls team comes together one last time and breaks down the day into “thoughts of the day.” We go around in a circle and say how we thought the day went, commenting on what we liked, what we didn’t, how we felt and sharing any little insight that we would like to share with the group. This is good because we get to reflect on the day and then talk about our individual and group goals for the following day. We are always pushed to speak and open up about more than we may first let out. Afterward, I am exhausted and tend to go to bed pretty early.
I started the camp making skidded turns due to my injury, and ended the camp being able to complete some runs in the course, which at this point is all I could ask for. When we go back to school, we will have changed from our fall to our winter schedule. This means that we will either be skiing at Killington Mountain or having workouts, and our classes will be held from 2-6 in the afternoon. By the end of any camp, if we end up improving any aspect of our skiing, keep up with our academics and have fun, it is a success. Therefore, this camp was. I feel ready to get back into the routine of skiing at home, and to getting one step closer to stepping back into the starting gate on race day.