Ryan Cochran-Siegle competes at the Audi FIS World Cup on March 7, 2020 in Kvitjell, Norway.
With the start of the FIS Alpine World Cup a little more than a month away, U.S. skiers are starting to make their way to Europe.
The Soelden World Cup giant slalom races on October 17-18 are both the start of the 2020/2021 ski season and the culmination of a crazy summer of training during a crazy year of COVID-19. The usual overseas summer training camps were canceled—at least for American skiers. Instead, they sought out U.S. snow this summer.
While training was not ideal, particularly for the speed skiers who need long stretches of hard snow for downhill and super-G training, much good came from the adapted training plan.
As Ryan Cochran-Siegle put it, “When we first got back on snow in May, we had such a better appreciation for our sport and our ability to go out and do what we love.”
We talked with Cochran-Siegle—the top-ranked U.S. male skier on the alpine world cup last season—and Nina O’Brien—who consistently scored World Cup points in slalom, giant slalom, and the parallel events—to find out how they adapted to summer training in a time of COVID and how they’ll get to Europe for the world cup—when the rest of us are shut out from the continent.
During a typical spring, U.S. alpine skiers would finish FIS World Cup Finals (if they qualified), then fly home for U.S. nationals and other spring races. From there, they would disperse—to college or late-season ski camps in Europe and the U.S. Then in August, many would fly to the southern hemisphere for more on-snow training.
COVID-19 canceled training as usual.
Instead, U.S. alpine skiers found snow at home—at Mt. Bachelor near Bend, Oregon, in May; Copper Mountain in Colorado in June; and in July and August, most of the U.S. Ski Team trained at Mt. Hood in Oregon.
“I didn’t even know Copper Mountain had snow in June,” quipped O’Brien. “But it was actually pretty good. That was our first taste of getting back on snow.”
“It was obviously not the amount of speed training that we normally get,” added Cochran-Siegle, known as “RCS” and the only U.S. skier besides Mikaela Shiffrin to rank in the top 25 in multiple disciplines last season. “But technically, I feel like building that foundation is what you try to do during the summer, and we were able to accomplish that as best as possible.”
The adapted training plan had other benefits.
Improved Strength Training
With many gyms closed, Cochran-Siegle worked out at his family’s ski area in Richmond, Vermont. Cochran-Siegle and his ski-racing family set up a squat rack and weights in a field above the base lodge.
"We call it the Field of Excellence,” he quipped. It’s a serious, yet tongue-and-cheek take on the U.S. Ski Team’s Center of Excellence (COE), its training facility in Park City, Utah.
With the adapted on-snow plan and the fact that she could attend college classes remotely, O’Brien spent 10 weeks in Park City training at the actual COE in a special outdoor training set-up.
“Typically, I’d be working out alone [at Dartmouth], but this year, I was able to work-out with our trainer,” she said. “It was really fun.
During the spring and summer, skiers often chip away at their college educations. For the past four years, O’Brien has left nationals and immediately headed to Dartmouth College, where she’s an economics major. She often arrived on campus a week or two late, then played catch-up.
This year, she started the spring quarter right on time, and she attended summer quarter too. Remote learning meant she could train at Copper, Mt. Hood, and live in Park City without missing classes.
An engineering major at the University of Vermont, Cochran-Siegle also squeezed in a couple of classes—statics and thermodynamics (not the types of classes that are easy to take while traveling around the world).