US Snowboarding SBX Hits the Snow at Hood

With the first of five Olympic qualification events only three months away, U.S. Snowboarding’s snowboardcross athletes head to Timberline at Mt. Hood this week to lay the foundation for success in 2010.

“The first Olympic qualifying event will be in September and when we get there, everyone needs to be on their game,” U.S. Snowboarding Head Coach Peter Foley said. “With this camp we’re hoping to be able to up the level of everyone’s skills. We want them to get really familiar with all the movements, the jumps and timing so that when they go to the qualifying event they feel like they have some stuff under their belt and confidence in what they are doing.”

With up to four spots open on the men’s Olympic team and the most talented men’s lineup in U.S. SBX history, the likes of Olympic champion Seth Wescott (Sugarloaf, ME), five-time X Games gold medalist Nate Holland (Squaw Valley, CA), World Championship bronze medalist Nick Baumgartner (Iron River, MI),World Cup winner Graham Watanabe (Sun Valley, ID), World Cup podium performer Jonathan Cheever (Saugus, MA) Olympic halfpipe gold medalist Ross Powers (Londonderry, VT) and snowboarding legend Shaun Palmer (South Lake Tahoe, CA) will all be preparing themselves for the battle of their lives to reach their Olympic dreams.

Adding to the pack is Olympic silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton Mountain, VT), who will be gearing up for the long haul to Vancouver.

According to Watanabe, who has been training at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s newly opened Center of Excellence, he’s looking to put in some time getting accustomed to being back on a board following his summer break.

“It’s a foundation. I’m not looking to reach goals, I’m just looking to get my board legs under me and reach some of those muscles that you can’t really train unless your ride. I want to get those firing and get some time on the board,” Watanabe said.

For the camp, the crew at Timberline has played an integral role in providing the athletes with a set up tailored for their preparation as the resort has carved out prime real estate for the SBX course to be constructed. “Timberline has been super helpful. The place where we are putting the course is right down the main run and it is ideal terrain. It’s sweet that they are letting us build a course there,” Foley said. For Foley, the key to preparing the athletes for the season ahead is building a setup that provides them with the ability to fine tune the skills before working in the speed. “We’re trying to build some start sequences that are similar to what Jeff Ihaksi, the Olympic course builder, has been building,” Foley said. “There’s also a bunch of terrain, but we’re keeping the speeds down so the athletes can really concentrate on working the terrain and the different skills involved in that. It’s good to focus on how to execute the features really well without having to lay everything on the line.” It won’t be all on-snow work, though, as the athletes will spend time dryland training, working out the details of their summer training program, and having a little fun on wheels and in the water. “We’re going to be doing a lot of mountain biking and a lot of dryland stuff. We want to get people situated with their programs. We want to get everyone lined up down to the details. We’ll also try to get some fun stuff in like kite surfing,” Foley said. One athlete in particular is looking to his time on a mountain bike for the benefits it will provide his riding. “For me that type of training is really big. One of my goals for the past few years has been to scare myself on a regular basis and pushing my limits on a bike is great for that,” Watanabe said. “I’ve been doing more dirt jumping. I feel like it helps my SBX because it’s a similar element of matching transitions and understanding what speeds you have.” The crew heads to Mt. Hood on the 7th for two weeks of on-snow preparation before launching into summer-long fitness programs in the lead up to the 2010 season.