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U.S Freeski & Snowboard Athletes Capitalize at Mammoth Camp

By Andrew Gauthier
June, 6 2019
Chris Corning
Chris Corning in Mammoth's Unbound Terrain Park during spring training camp. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard - Sarah Brunson)

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California’s Eastern Sierra has been an official training site for U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes for almost a decade, dating back to 2010. However, that is not where the history begins for what has been an undoubtedly fruitful partnership.

The U.S. Snowboard Team has been utilizing Mammoth’s amazing terrain and facilities since early 2001, when halfpipe coach Pete del Giudice took Ross Powers (Bennington, Vt.) and Kelly Clark (Mt. Snow, Vt.) to Mammoth to train prior to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games. Clearly, there was something to this strategy as both Powers and Clark went on to win halfpipe Olympic gold medals.

This year, the tradition continued with three weeks of spring training camp at Mammoth from May 12-June 2, where U.S. freeskiers and snowboarders took to the slopes for what turned out to be more of a winter camp.

“Mammoth camp delivered again with tons of fun and progression,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Head Freeski and Snowboard Coach Mike Jankowski. “Although the weather wasn’t always perfect, the team made the most of riding the full mountain. In addition to the airbags and training zone on chair five, the public parks and top to bottom laps were incredible.”

For the freeskiers, the athletes did not have many sunny jumping days to dial in the big tricks, but this could very well have been a blessing in disguise. As Jankowski mentioned when referring to coaching strategy, “If athletes are developing trust with their coaches, fundamentals or foundation skills in order to bring new tricks to snow eventually, that’s success!” Although the freeskiers may not have pushed the envelope by getting repetitions with some of their more progressive tricks, they did lay out a game plan for the remainder of off-season training camps at Mt. Hood, Ore., July 4-19 and Saas-Fee, Switzerland, October 3-25.

“The whole crew has a bunch of new stuff they want to try when the conditions are right,” said U.S. Freeski Slopestyle Pro Team Coach Skogen Sprang.

Despite mother nature challenging U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes and coaches, the U.S. Freeski Team was still able to milk every bit of productivity out of their time on snow.

“Mammoth Unbound did a great job with the park,” said Sprang. “Main Park was still so good due to the huge winter, so we sessioned rails and fast laps over there most of the time. Also, a few quality powder runs were had off the top which was pretty wild for May. In addition, we welcomed new members to the Pro Team including Mac Forehand (Winhall, Vt.) and Kiernan Fagan (Brownfield, Maine) as well as Rookie Team members Devin Fagan (Brownfield, Maine) and Richard Thomas (Orono, Minn.), who is back on snow after a weird, drawn-out injury.”

Highlights from camp for the freeskiers include 2018-19 FIS Slopestyle Crystal Globe winner Forehand securing his grasp on the switch right double cork 1260 as well as the women’s rookie freeskiers dialing many new combinations on the rails. Overall, the camp resulted in great mileage and team building, setting themselves up for success leading into the remainder of the team’s off-season.

U.S. Freeski Pro Team member and two-time Olympic medalist Nick Goepper (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) was very happy with the resources available to athletes at Mammoth spring camp. 

"Over the years, U.S. Ski & Snowboard has continued to step up their game," said Goepper. "Support for the athletes, amazing training camps like Mammoth, and quality coaching staff are just a few of ways the organization is improving. I think U.S. Ski & Snowboard really has a finger on the pulse of what the athletes want and need to succeed."

For the snowboarders, the camp took on a very similar tone.

“Year after year Mammoth has delivered amazing spring camps with beautiful sunny weather and a progressive park which equates to a collection of new tricks for our team,” said U.S. Snowboard Slopestyle and Big Air Pro Team Coach Mike Ramirez. “This year mother nature decided to extend the heavy winter Mammoth has had and combine that with some spring storms throughout our stay. We got hit with snow, rain, wind and even some lightning, but despite this, the crew made the most of the clear weather windows and got some tricks dialed in.”

As Mammoth Spring Camp was the first time out for many of the rookies, U.S. Snowboard National Development Coach for Slopestyle and Big Air Nichole Mason focussed on team building.

“It is the first camp of the summer with our new Rookie Team athletes,” said Mason. “Making sure they are integrated and comfortable is a big deal for their performance and first interactions with the existing team members and pro team athletes.”

U.S. Snowboard Rookie Team slopestyle athlete Nora Healey (Plymouth, N.H.) got back on snow for the first time since her ACL tear.

“After a year away from the team rehabbing my knee it was awesome to get back on snow and ride with the team,” said Healey. “It was a nostalgic feeling. I was so happy to be experiencing being back on snow with all the coaches and knowing that I could finally jump again. Being away for over a year from the sport, I was more than mentally ready to get airborne, but it was a little intimidating hitting that first jump. I was thinking in my mind, ‘will my knee be OK with the impact?’ or ‘will it hurt?’ My favorite part about camp was just seeing all of my team members again and getting to shred without any restrictions!”

In addition, new U.S. Snowboard Rookie Slopestyle Team member Addie Gardner (Riegelsville, Penn.), who claimed the 2018-19 Nor-Am overall title and earned a FIS World Cup spot for the upcoming season, immediately added value to the team dynamic.

“She truly shines with her rail tricks and it was really cool watching the other girls feed off of that and push each other to become better in their weak areas,” said Mason.

For the pros, Chris Corning (Silverthorne, Colo.) and Judd Henkes (La Jolla, Calif.), who were number one and two respectively in the 2018-19 FIS World Cup slopestyle standings, could not be ignored throughout camp.

“Everyone on the team learned some new rail tricks and Judd Henkes (La Jolla, Calif.) and Chris Corning (Silverthorne, Colo.) showed off their jump dominance by each putting on a display on different days getting the spin cycle using all four directions,” said Ramirez. In addition, Sean FitzSimons (Hood River, Ore.), who was no slouch at Saas-Fee Camp last year, continued to make the most of every moment at training camp.”

“Graduating from the rookie team, Sean FitzSimons showed why he earned his spot onto the pro team,” said Ramirez. “He worked hard through some progressions and stomped a new trick as soon as the sun popped.”

For the halfpipe riders, camp offered significant progression including Pro Team members Chase Josey (Hailey, Idaho) learning a switch alley-oop double backside rodeo, Ryan Wachendorfer (Edwards, Colo.) learning a switch double backflip, Toby Miller (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) adding an arsenal of new grabs to his front double cork 1440 and Chase Blackwell (Longmont, Colo.) dialing in his frontside 1260. Lastly, veteran Taylor Gold (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) was able to find the rotation on a Michalchuck 1080 into the airbag. If Gold can bring this trick to snow, it would be the first rider to ever land it in the halfpipe.

Mammoth Spring Camp is just the beginning for U.S. Freeski and Snowboard athletes this off-season. Athletes are looking down the barrel of an aggressive training schedule that includes time in the gym, utilizing the state of the art airbag jump at Utah’s Olympic Park, and more on snow camps to prepare for the 2019-20 competition season.

“We look forward to another week ahead at Mammoth for Project Gold where we have potential future U.S. Olympians coming out for a week with the full national team staff,” said Jankowski.  “It’s a great opportunity for the coaches and athletes to start making connections that will last for quite some time.

“Next up, we head to another of our key Official Training Partner venues, Timberline on Mt. Hood, Ore. to train at Windells and High Cascade Camps. This is always a classic highlight of the U.S. Teams’ summer plans. The overall vibe is easy going, while at the same time allowing for forgiving conditions, airbags, skateboarding and other training opportunities that give everyone the chance to add to their bag of tricks.”

Coaching Strategy Unveiled: Mammoth Spring Camp
U.S. Ski & Snowboard Rookies Get Acclimated At Mammoth