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Treadmill to Take Nordic Program into New Frontiers
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Tuesday, August 8, 2017
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Imagine rollerskiing 30 miles an hour up a hill three times steeper than the road up Trail Creek Summit and four times steeper than the road up Galena Summit.

It’s possible with the Sun Valley’s Ski Education’s new state-of-the-art treadmill built for rollerskiing.

The Ski Education Foundation cut the ribbon for its new $88,000 state-of-the-art treadmill this weekend. Part of the Nordic Legacy Project, it’s housed at Community School’s Dumke Family Sagewillow Campus in Elkhorn where the ski program’s air barn is located, along with soccer fields and a cross country course that will attract a thousand runners from 30 schools on Sept. 8.

There are five such treadmills in the United States, but the Ski Education Foundation is the only ski club  with the ultra-wide 8-by-10-foot  treadmill.

“It won’t be long before others join us (in having one), but that’s good because it raises the bar,” said Sun Valley’s Head Nordic Coach Rick Kapala.

The treadmill is expected to revolutionize training for both classical and skate skiers because of the one-on-one coaching and improved interval training it offers, said Chris Mallory, head coach of the elite Gold Team.

Coaches will be able to watch athletes for extended periods of time, suggesting technique corrections as they do. Athletes can watch themselves in a large mirror in front of them, then hop on a new 1.5-kilometer paved loop outside to test out their technique.

“The ability to coach while standing next to the athlete is powerful,” said Kapala. “This is a sport where racers go over big distances –how do you coach that? With this, I can stand right here and say, ‘Bend your knees more.’ When an athlete can see what he’s doing, he gets it.” 

The treadmill will also enable coaches to do cardiovascular fitness and other assessments to see if what they’re doing is moving the needle. That is the first step towards a high performance lab in partnership with Boise State University.

“Before, we used running treadmills, but our sport isn’t running--it’s skiing,” said Kapala.

Athletes recovering from injuries will be able to rehab on the treadmill.  Athletes will be able to use it to improve their aerobic threshold—after all, you don’t run out of hill on a treadmill. And they’ll be able to do oxygen-assisted training to mimic training at sea level.

“Altitude has its benefits. But it has its challenges, too,” explained Kapala. “Recovery is slower between hard workouts.”

The treadmill, made by the Texas-based Tuff Tread, boasts an industrial grade engine capable of crushing rock.

“We figured if it were up to that task, it could move lightweight cross country skiers,” said Kapala. “Given that we figure we’ll get decades of use out of it.”

The company makes heavy duty treadmills for every possible application, including robotics programs, NASA and the Army, as well as movie studios which use them to depict actors running against a green screen.

Norway has about 20 of the rollerskiing treadmills with several of them in use by the Norwegian ski team.

Kapala can raise the incline of the machine to 25 percent—way above the 8 percent gradient of Trail Creek Road and the 6 percent gradient of the road going up Galena Summit.

Though the treadmill can go 30 miles per hour, Kapala said he doesn’t expect to push it to that.

Rogan Brown, a member of Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Gold Team, demonstrated the treadmill before three dozen Ski Education Foundation supporters during the ribbon cutting.

Once Mallory had hooked him into a harness. Rogan started double polling—pushing himself with both poles while keeping his rollerskis straight. As the treadmill picked up speed, Rogan began skate skiing in place.

In a couple minutes’ time, the he treadmill was rolling so fast it was dizzying to watch. Brown temporarily lost his focus as Mallory began bringing it to a stop and ended up swinging through the air on the harness for a split second.

That was better, Kapala noted, than what happened to an unharnessed Norwegian ski racer who lost control and sailed off the treadmill through a wall breaking his leg.

“Not only is the treadmill great but so is the new path,” said Brown. “Since I don’t have to worry about gravel on the path—or kids or bicycles or street crossings—I can focus on the things I want to focus on.”

Kapala credited the partnership forged between the Ski Education Foundation and others in the community—most notably the Community School—for the addition of the treadmill.

Ben Pettit, Head of Community School, echoed his sentiments.

“We’re developing something really world-class together,” he said. “It started last year with building the Ketchum Campus and athletic training facility. This year we’re bringing in a high performance coach. Now, to be able to support Rick and his world-class program is a real treat.”

THERE’S MORE

The Nordic Legacy Project will also include renovations to the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Lake Creek hut north of Ketchum. And the cross country program hopes to purchase additional transportation and trial maintenance vehicles.

For information, contact Cynthia Knight via cknight@svsef.org.

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