Ben Saxton: Rookie Camp Report

This year, Ben became SMS T2’s fifth US Ski Team member through his nomination for the newly revived D-Team. Last week, he went down to the Center of Excellence in Utah for the annual Rookie camp! His report below!

This past week I got to spend 3 days in Park City Utah at the USSA Rookie Camp. Every year, our governing body the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, holds a camp for the newly nominated team members from all disciplines. Now most people think of the US Ski Team as just the cross country skiers, but at camp, I got to meet people from 9 different disciplines all the way from alpine, to snowboard slope style.

Paddy Caldwell and I headed out a few days before the start of camp in order to get a head start on some of the physical testing that USST members do periodically throughout every season. The testing assessed our strength (good), flexibility (not so good), and body composition. Paddy and I got to work out on the roller ski treadmill with Jason Cork, who is our coach on the national team as well as Bryan Fish and Matt Whitcomb who are also US coaches. While the roller ski treadmill can be incredibly boring, the sports science crew at the Center of Excellence in Park City recently set up a system with cameras in front of and on the side of the treadmill so that skiers can watch themselves on the TV monitors in real time. I was a little skeptical at first, but after getting over the out of body aspect of the experience, I have to say it is the coolest technique tool I’ve ever used. When you’re working on technique, you can’t ever watch yourself in real time, and the hardest part is not being able to tell whether or not you’re actually changing anything for the better. Being able to see yourself (and every change you make to your form) on a TV screen in front of you allows you that luxury and it makes for some great sessions.

USSA CEO Tiger Shaw sharing with the Rookie Camp athletes (via USSA Nordic)
USSA CEO Tiger Shaw sharing with the Rookie Camp athletes (via USSA Nordic)

After two days of testing, Paddy and I moved into the hotel with the other USSA rookies. My roommate was a snowboarder named Brandon. Brandon was 15. Now that may sound strange, but unlike cross country the skill levels of most USSA sports aren’t limited by age. In cross-country, it’s rather unrealistic to expect a 13-year-old boy to beat a 28-year-old veteran, but in sports like snowboarding, landing a trick requires fearlessness and agility, not necessarily experience. As a result the majority of the people at camp were under 16 years old, with quite a few 13 and 14 year olds there. This made Paddy and I feel like 20-year-old geezers.

The three days of camp were a mix of classroom sessions and group activities at the COE. In the classroom, we learned about all the sports science, sports psychology, physical therapy, and facilities the USSA offers. We met with the CEO of USSA Tiger Shaw and Executive VP Luke Bodensteiner (who was actually an Olympic Cross country skier). There were talks about things like money management, community outreach, and fundraising protocols. My favorite presentation was by a group calledAthletes for Hope, which helps athletes around the country focus on giving back to their communities. In between classrooms sessions we did things like play soccer, and go out on a high ropes course as both team building exercises, and a way to make sure we didn’t go totally crazy sitting in a conference room 8 hours a day.

Spot Ben in this outreach video made by USSA:



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