December 17, 2013

Utah training center hones Olympic skiers, snowboarders

High-tech treadmills, a super trampoline and special diet plans are among the ways the United States tries to give an edge to its athletes.

By Liz Clarke
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Bryn Fletcher from the United States soars through the air during the Nordic Combined World Cup competition in Ramsau, Austria, on Sunday. He is among those who train at the Utah facility.

The Associated Press

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The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, includes a treadmill, left, designed to measure and maximize the efficiency with which athletes use oxygen.

Washington Post photo by Lee Powell

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There are weight stations for every body type and muscle group. The technology treadmill is at one end, where Fletcher, a Steamboat Springs, Colo., native who relocated to Park City to train, is exercising away. At 27, he’s enjoying the best results of his career this season, earning four top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit while helping the U.S. claim its first team medal (a bronze) in Nordic combined at the World Ski Champions in Italy.

If Nordic combined is among the oldest Winter Olympic sports, snowboarding and free skiing are the Games’ revolutionary disciplines, celebrating athletes who invent new tricks without regard to convention or common sense. The center houses a gym dedicated to that, too.

Here in a space nicknamed “Ramps and Tramps” is a Willy Wonka-styled playpen for gravity-defying daredevils. The centerpiece is a trampoline known as a Supertramp: twice the size of a standard one with over-sized springs that enable aerialists to practice high-risk flips and twists without exacting the pounding of hard-packed snow.

Three-time U.S. champion Dylan Ferguson, a freestyle aerialist, and Devin Logan, a free skier whose specialty is halfpipe and slopestyle, joyfully demonstrate, bouncing and flipping at impossible heights and landing in a giant pit chocked with cubes of blue foam. They don’t make a sound when they plunge into the foam; it’s as if they’re jumping into a two-story feather pillow.

In addition to being gentle on the joints, the Supertramp is also an efficient workout, U.S. aerials coach Joe Davies explains, because the athletes don’t waste time riding a ski lift between jumps. And each workout is filmed with high-definition technology, providing instant feedback on body positioning and amplitude.

“It also helps us work on our muscle memory,” Logan explains. “And we can attempt new tricks before taking them onto the snow. The Supertramp really helps with that.”

As far as Davies knows, no other country’s athletes have a Supertramp.

From the gym, it’s just a short walk to the center’s performance nutrition test-kitchen, where USSA dietician Allen Tran has just whipped up a batch of pumpkin smoothies made with Greek yogurt, soy milk and a clever mélange of spices.

Tran and the staff of nutritionists not only prepare meals and snacks for athletes who train here but also design diet plans based on the volume and intensity of their training any given week, spelling out the precise amount of whole grains, lean protein, vegetables and fruits, fats and flavors accordingly. They offer handouts illustrating the optimum-size servings of each for an easy training day, a moderate day, as well as a competition day. And the plans cover the full range of nutritional demands, suiting ski jumpers who might need 1,600 calories per day as well as downhill skiers who might gobble 6,000 calories a day.

Given that nearly every world-class athlete owns a blender, Tran offers two pages of smoothie recipes broken down into six categories - veggie, fruit, weight-gain, low-calorie, recovery and sweet tooth - demonstrating the endless possibilities of spinach and celery, bananas and frozen blueberries, peanut butter and avocado, cucumber and cooked beets, protein powder and flaxseed.

“It has been a huge resource for all the athletes,” says two-time Olympic skier Travis Ganong, 25, who lives in Squaw Valley, Calif., but travels to the center for specialized workouts, and meals, every third week. “We have all become more professional because of it and more dedicated.”

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Skiing and snowboarding for the U.S. Olympic team is not just about taking to the slopes. At the Center of Excellence, Washington Post Lee Powell videographer found it involves science, whirlpools and nutrition. The Fold: All in one center gives Winter Olympians edge

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Additional Photos

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The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association hopes its Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, will give a training edge to U.S. Olympians.

Washington Post photo by Lee Powell

  


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