As a winter sport athlete, getting on snow is often a big focus for skiers in the summer months. The past couple years i have avoided summer skiing to reduce aggravating my damaged shins, I did not ski for 6 months last year from May through to October. New and improved me doesn't have to worry about stressing my shins as a top priority anymore, and so this year getting on snow was a goal, so far I have accomplished it, June and July will be the only months of the year I'm not on snow.
At the beginning of August, I started driving west, in a car that wasn't mine, destined for Canmore. For most of August, I would be training from Canmore getting a volume block in with some altitude and snow exposure. The plan was based around spending a few nights up high at an alpine hut, and later in the camp up at the Haig glacier. Before I got there I had 2,100km of highway to cover with the air condition lacking, cruise control-less car I decided to drive out . Some friends recently moved to Kelowna and only took one of their two vehicles, it saved them some time and me some money to have me drive it out to Canmore so being mutually beneficial I couldn't resist.
On the drive out, and for the duration of my time in Canmore, I stayed with friends i have met in the ski community. It's amazing how generous and supportive people can be, opening their homes to an odd individual like me to stay with their family for weeks at a time, but i certainly appreciate it!
After settling into Canmore following the the cross country drive, I headed into the up to the bow hut and into the alpine to kick off my time training with the Academy. Mike Somppi, Dominique Moncion-Groulx, Jack Carlyle, and I spent two nights at the bow hut up above 2300 metres, around our time sleeping and eating at altitude, we roller skied and ran in the Lake Louis area supported by the AWCA staff. The focus of our time at the bow hut was volume, with the 8km run-out to start training proper, and the 8km run back in to finish the day off, we were logging big training days. The run out in the morning with full bellies just after breakfast while the sun rose was certainly more enjoyable than the uphill version in the hot afternoon sun at the end of the day. complaining aside, spending a couple nights up at the hut was great to get the body adjusted to sleeping and training at altitude to make the transition to the Haig more efficient and make the most of every day on snow.
I generally feel the affects of altitude, the first night in particular, and the bow hut was no exception. I woke up around in the night with a bad headache and feeling nauseous so i immediately downed another 1000ml of water to make sure i was not just dehydrated but it definitely was the altitude, I moped around for some time knowing i had forgotten the ibuprofen I planned to bring up. I nearly made a cup of coffee as i had heard the caffeine can help and was that desperate, but luckily just as i started to I stumbled over Dominque's emergency Advil which made my night and saved the next day. After the first night I was fine and felt much better training, as wimpy as it sounds getting above 2300m hits me hard, altitude in general for that matter, it is something i'm trying to work on.
After loggings some big days up at the bow hut I was back in Canmore for a week. I was quite lucky not to have any bad smoke days while training there, one evening it rolled in quite thick but for the most part it did not impact training. That being said it was a volume block and so the smoke did not impact training the way it would if it was an intensity camp.
I had not been up to the Haig for 5 years, last time I was there it was my first training camp with NTDC and really my first training camp. Since then I have become a much better athlete, mostly in terms of habits and knowledge but also, to some extent, my fitness has improved quite substantially. This time around i knew what to expect and how to get the most out of my time up at the base camp and on the glacier.
Similar to the bow hut, mornings on the Haig began with a hike, although the 8km bow hut run was cut to 3km of true hiking. The 30-45 minute is steep, but actually quite a nice way to get the body awake and going before skiing which is the primary focus of all days up at the Haig. Skiing can fluctuate substantially over a morning, most days, right when I arrived the snow was still frozen and the corduroy would stay intact under ski for the first couple hours. Taking advantage of the the glide while skating was the choice
Classic skiing is far more manageable in soft snow, it is not necessary to sacrifice increasing your heart rate or throwing technique out the door to keep the quality high which can be the case while skating. At 2700m it can be tricky to keep yourself in an optimal training zone with good technique with perfect conditions, so changing technique with the changing snow is a good way to adapt.
The hike back down might be a highlight of the day for many skiers. The sharp elevation jump from 2300m up to 2700m definitely make it lopsided as to which one is easier but there is an added incentive to the decent, boot-skiing. On the hike there are a few patches of snow that survive for most of the summer and allow for the dreary skier to opt out of descending the steep scree slopes and choose to hop, skip and slide down. Boot-skiing is faster, easier and of course far more fun!
The last day up at the Haig was a big one with a full morning of skiing followed by a long, extended run out to civilization at the parking lot. Over the five days i spent at the Haig I trained more than I do most big seven day weeks and helped reach the milestone of 100 hours in a month. My time our west was a tone of fun and very productive, thanks to everyone who was a part of it.