Rhinelander/Northland Pines Alpine ski coach Rod Olson observes weightlifting during a team dryland traning session at Rhinelander High School Tuesday, Nov. 5. The Alpine team began training Tuesday and, due to the recent cold temperatures, is optimistic it will begin on-snow training next weekend. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
11/7/2019 7:31:00 AM Cool weather has Hodag Alpine eager to go
Some may not care for the abnormally cold weather the Northwoods has experienced of late, but the cold snap is music to the ears of Rhinelander/Northland Pines Alpine ski coach Rod Olson.
The Hodag skiers and boarders began preseason training for the upcoming competition season Tuesday at RHS. In some years, it would be several weeks until the team could even consider getting on the slopes. This year, Christmas has come early.
The team's home hill, Ski Brule in Iron River, Mich., is slated to open this Friday and Olson said he is eager to capitalize on a rare opportunity.
"We've never been able to (get on snow this early)," he said. "I've optimistically thrown the Wednesday or Saturday before Thanksgiving on (the schedule). Sometimes it's worked out, a lot of times not -maybe only 10 percent of the time. This year we're going to get on a full 2-3 weeks (before Thanksgiving). We're going to try to make the 16th or 17th our first on snow as a group officially. That will be awesome."
Olson said the extra on-snow time won't do much for his experience skiers - noting that the team's top skiers, Ty and Tommie Jo Springer, have already been training in development camps in Colorado and that others attended ski camps over the summer. However, Olson said the extra time on the slopes will be beneficial to the newer skiers and boarders on the team.
"For the kids coming out, it's going to be a huge advantage for them," he said. "They're going to have a lot more confidence coming into the racing season than what we've had before."
In the meantime, dryland training is focusing on getting the kids ready for when they hit the slopes.
The team did a series of drills and exercises Tuesday both in the halls of RHS and in the Aspirus Fitness Center to establish a baseline for the season.
"I watch a lot of the warm-ups and what I do is look for how they are, where they are with their balance, where they are with their strength," he said. "They don't make a good attempt at knowing where to start with a lot of their weightlifting, so today we're going to do pushup tests and hip sled tests and try to see where they are and set those marks for them so they work from there and they're working hard enough."
Olson added that unusual early season snow may alter the team's training philosophy.
"Our dryland might back off a little bit," he said. "We may even incorporate some when we get back from the hill, but we want to get on the hill right away."
Numbers have been an issue the last couple of seasons for the team, which did not have enough boarders to fill either a complete boys' or girls' lineup. Olson said he has a little more than 20 athletes on the Rhinelander side, and four more from Northland Pines this year, and that the team's depth with be much improved this year.
"We have quite a few new kids here this year, not so much freshmen, but sophomores and juniors that are coming out for the first time - all decent families I believe," he said, noting the team has close to an even split of skiers and snowboarders.
"We should be able (to field full teams). About the only thing we're going to be shy on is a girls' boarder team, but we should have enough boys (boarders) and both ski teams will have enough. We're good, which is good."
Because Alpine skiing is not a WIAA-sanctioned sport, the team was able to begin practice sooner than its other winter sports counterparts.
Other winter sports will start practice this coming Monday.
It will be the first day of practice for girls' basketball, boys' hockey, girls' hockey and gymnastics teams statewide.
Additionally the RHS Nordic ski team is scheduled to begin its dryland training this coming Monday.
Boys' basketball, boys' swimming and wrestling teams across the state will begin winter practices Nov. 18.
The Northern Conference has yet to put out its official competition schedule for the 2020 ski season, but Olson said the first conference race is tentatively set for the first full week of January at Granite Peak Ski Area in Wausau.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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