The opening of the competitive season for the Vikings Biathlon and Cross Country Ski Teams is upon us and we are discreetly celebrating the cold temperatures and threatening snow clouds realizing that not everyone is as enthusiastic as we are about winter.
In November, it has become a tradition to travel as a group to Canmore to get some early snow training prior to our first races in December. The Canmore Nordic Center is one of the premier Nordic training facilities in the world providing an opportunity to train alongside Canada’s best biathletes and cross country skiers. This year the athletes in Canmore have been already skiing for three weeks on what is referred to as “Frozen Thunder”, a 2 kilometer trail made from snow stored over the summer under sawdust which is then distributed and groomed in October. Lake Louise also opened their facilities this weekend so we will have great conditions when we arrive on Friday, Nov. 11 for a weeklong training camp. It will be a welcome change from running, cycling and roller skiing which are the modes of training for these student athletes during their summer and fall preparations. Our week on snow provides the athletes with the opportunity to remain competitive with the rest of the country both in terms of on-snow time but also get some high altitude training done.
This year we have a great mix of returning athletes and newcomers and this is often the training camp when we have the time together to get to know each other and solidify relationships and team dynamics. It is a challenging week where the student athletes often have two workouts daily and then use the evening to rest and recover, review video for technical analysis, and above all remain current with their studies.
A total of twenty-two student athletes will be attending the camp in Canmore with 10 joining us on Sunday after attending cross country running nationals in Kamloops. We wish the Vikings Cross Country Running Team all the best at this competition.
Besides our provincial circuit of events, Nationals for cross country will be held in Mont Ste. Anne, Quebec and is our major team goal. At this point in time, eleven Vikings have committed to travelling to this competition in March which is a combined Nationals and CCUNC (Canadian Colleges and University Nordic Championships) event. We have been very fortunate to win medals at the CCUNC and we hope to continue that tradition. The number of funded cross country skiing programs in Canada is on the rise with 17 universities being represented at the 2011 championships, 8 of which had fully funded teams.
In contrast, the University of Alberta – Augustana Campus has the only funded biathlon program in the country. Due to this fact, we attract biathletes from all over the country. What a jewel!
We are excited about our possibilities this season with many of our student athletes vying for positions on international tours with Biathlon Canada and Cross Country Canada. The trials for the World Student Games occur one year in advance of the event to be hosted in Slovenia next year so team qualification is a major goal for many of our Nordic athletes in 2012. The Vikings Biathlon Team will be travelling to La Patrie, Quebec for the World Junior Trials to gain valuable experience both culturally and in sport. A goal for the whole biathlon team is to qualify for Nationals in Valcartier, Quebec in March.
Our goal as coaches is to provide a quality sporting environment within which the Nordic student athletes reach their personal goals both in sport and academics. The Viking experience is so much more than just the competitive nature of sport and we hope that the life skills learned through being an Augustana Viking will serve them as they pursue other interests when they are finished with their degree here in Camrose.
Both Nordic teams will have their first race December 3 & 4 in Canmore.
Hans and Joan Skinstad