The Ski Club caught up with a few of the brightest stars from the British Ski and Snowboard Squad in arguably Europe’s best glacier resort: Les 2 Alpes.

As the hordes sun themselves at the seaside, snow-capped mountains are the last thing on their minds.  Great Britain’s elite athletes are still working hard throughout the summer months.

Les 2 Alpes opened its turnstiles to the general public at the end of June, however each year the world’s best riders from a number of disciplines flock to the mountains to train for the upcoming season for a week before the facility is open to the general public. Amongst those lucky enough to be granted access to the 3,600m glacier were some of the British Ski and Snowboard Squad.

For some, like 20 year old Snowboard X athlete Maisie Potter (pictured above right), it was their first time training on the French glacier.

“It’s still something I’m kind of new to I guess, last summer I didn’t do any training on snow, but this year is different, we have more time on snow to up our game for next year”.

The 20 year old is working hard to try and meet her Olympic qualifying criteria, which she hopes to attain in South America this September.

“I have been to L2A before, but not much for summer training, I was here last year towards the end of summer so conditions were really different,” says fellow cross athlete and training partner Emily Sarsfield (above left). “So nice to be in the mountains in the summer, with summer training you have a really intense three hours in the morning and you’ve got the afternoon to do loads of activities, there’s everything we need here for cross training."

The Cross programme is new to British Ski and Snowboard this year, With Emily having been self funded and without a coach for eleven years, both athletes clearly appreciate the support.

"Having the programme behind you helps motivation-wise and all of us are so happy to be in that position,” says Emily, with Maisie adding “the structure and discipline is really helping.”

Both athletes now look forward to the start of the season and further on to Pyeongchang. Emily for one will be hoping for some better luck this Olympic cycle: “Sarsfield and the Olympics haven’t always gone hand in hand – I snapped all four ligaments in my knee on the Vancouver track [2010 Winter Olympics], got told I might never ski again, and in Sochi missed out because of some red tape so that was a really tough mental challenge for me, but re-evaluated everything, back in the game.”

Maisie jokes with Emily: “Third time lucky!!”

It’s clear that the programme is elevating athletes to new levels of performance. Skier X and Boarder X athletes aren’t the only ones who are enjoying this kind of support from BSS - the Ski Club caught up with some of GB Park and Pipe’s brightest young stars that same week on a training camp on the glacier.

Above: GB Park and Pipe athletes from left to right: Peter Speight, Madi Rowlands, Molly Summerhayes and Murray Buchan.

With one of the best summer parks in the Alps, Les 2 Alpes is the perfect location for GB Park and Pipe to run summer camps. As important as the on snow time is, Murray Buchan (GB Ski Halfpipe athlete) explained that summer training is as much about the extra facilities available as it is about the time spent on snow:

“We spend a lot of time doing strength and conditioning in the gym, lots of time in gymnastic facilities, trampolines, tumble tracks etc. Just to get our awareness and practice in a reduced risk environment.”

The extra facilities allow athletes like Murray to really push their performance looking forward to the Olympics “There’s definitely a step up this year. You definitely bite the bullet and try new tricks but at the same time we need facilities like they have here with the airbag and the trampolines to practice tricks in a reduced risk environment to avoid injuries at this stage because that’s the last thing you want is to be put out due to injury. So yes the performance has been stepped up but the precautions are definitely in place.”

Getting the basics down before the season starts in earnest seems to be a major focus of many of the squad, like Molly Summerhayes, fellow Park and Pipe Athlete:

I’m not working on anything new really, just trying to get comfortable with the tricks I was doing before I blew my ACL last year. It’s less about competitions for me right now more about thinking about my own skiing and how I can improve my for next season.

“I’m trying not to focus too much on qualifying for the Olympics, just focusing on individual results, because I’m still not fully recovered but it’s definitely on my mind.”

Pete Speight, who won the British Halfpipe Championships this year seems excited for they year ahead “There’s a slight added intensity the year before the Olympics, there’s a few more comps and more time on snow, a great opportunity to put everything in to it and not hold back at all.”

Progression is key in freestyle and Pete agrees that the facilities here really help athletes push themselves, saying “I’m working on additions to my run, getting double cork 12’s down more consistently after learning that trick this season and some other tricks, which is why we are here in L2A, for the airbag”. A double cork 1260, or “dub 12” is a trick involving 3 and a half full rotations combined with two complete flips, not for the faint-hearted!

For some it is their first time in Les 2 Alpes, however for Madi Rowlands, whose family own an apartment in the resort it is a home away from home. The 2016 Youth Olympic Halfpipe Champion nonchalantly tells me about the fall she had earlier in the week in the park “I had quite a bad crash the other day, just a bit of whiplash.” But it doesn’t seem to have dampened her long term Olympic goal saying “[I am] definitely aiming for the Olympics, right now I seem to be in a good position for it but other than that I just want to have a good time I guess.”

Speaking about the programme, Madi says “Sometimes you’re with each other too much of the time and you need a bit of a break” (Pete earlier mentioned that most of the athletes had known each other for years), “but the support we receive from BSS and GB Park and Pipe is great!”

Above: British Ski and Snowboard’s Alex Tilley and Charlie Guest, two members of the Women's Alpine Ski squad.

More traditional ski athletes also flock to glaciers in summer, with two members of British Ski and Snowboard’s Alpine Ski squad in the French resort. Alex Tilley and Charlie Guest are both on a two-week performance camp in Les 2 Alpes, Alex for the first time:

“It’s my first time in Les 2 Alpes. It’s great to see what all the fuss is about, and definitely nice to have an actual town at the bottom of the hill. It allows your head to switch off for the afternoon, like this evening Charlie [Guest] and I went and played beach volleyball - definitely makes a difference in the long run and great for the tan!”

Similarly for Charlie, who says “It’s my first time too and I’m just really surprised by how good it is - great terrain and conditions last week. We are here for two weeks in total and had one week of perfect training so far, loving it!”

Alex adds to that, saying “the terrain in L2A is really useful for us this time of year; it’s not too extreme and not too icy so it’s been good to get the basic technical skills in place before we build to tougher terrain, for when we are on more challenging summer glaciers like Saas Fee in a few weeks.

"It’s nice to go back to basics. During the race season it’s really difficult to strip your training back to square one, you always feel a bit pushed for time with race preparation, so it’s really important to take the time now to get solid foundations in place for the upcoming season."

Just as with other disciplines, training for racing is clearly about much more than just skiing, with Charlie talking about how much value is placed in summer training on glaciers in the northern hemisphere as opposed to her usual race camps in New Zealand:

Usually I train in the southern hemisphere, it’s very different having the summer around the skiing. It’s a great atmosphere to have those extra activities and facilities. In New Zealand, because it is winter there, there is a lot more skiing and so you don’t focus on other aspects of your physical conditioning, I mean you maintain it but here where it’s summer we can actually focus on it.”

Although the weather may not always provide perfect snow conditions, it seems that it forces the athletes to do much more strength and conditioning, the un-skiable afternoons being a blessing in disguise. Emphasised by Charlie, repeating her earlier point, “other areas of training are focussed on, like here we have much more strength and conditioning, we have bike sessions on the balcony.” A much less attractive method of training during the winter we are sure!

Looking ahead to the coming season Charlie has a clear goal in her head: “my biggest goal is make top 30 in World Cup races. It’s been a goal of mine for the past few seasons and I feel like this year I really have the setup and the support from BSS team around me to allow me to do that. I’m feeling really confident heading in to this year, and then anything over that will be a bonus!”

Alex is turning her attention to the Olympics next season, explaining “I have qualified but I've not yet been selected so we have to wait on the final word for that one. It will be my first Olympics hopefully, so it will be a huge event for me. But we want to be there for the right reasons – we want to ski fast and compete, not just show up.

“There are a few more World Cup events before the games so we have to make sure we are ready for those. It’s a very difficult sport to “peak” in so we wont really be doing too much tapering like in an endurance sport, but I think we have a real good plan to be ready for it.”

What is clear from talking to all of the athletes on their respective camps is that the support from British Ski and Snowboard is phenomenal, whatever level of elite competition they are aiming for. All of the athletes are focused at the goal at hand and are enjoying the different atmosphere that summer training brings, especially the ability to work on their tans!

 

For all the latest news on Team GB's snowsports athletes keep an eye on the Racing and Riders section on our website, alternatively head to the British Ski and Snowboard site here.