Edie Thys Morgan
Photo Credit: Gaby Coulet
College teams can’t organize their own camps, and the national team—while welcoming collegiate athletes once they pop through to the World Cup—does not have the bandwidth to incorporate them into their development model.
World Cup Athlete AJ Ginnis sees a need
Former US Ski Team member, Dartmouth skier, and current World Cup athlete AJ Ginnis describes the historic challenge: “Over the years, college athletes have struggled to find summer camps geared towards their needs. Their difficulties arise from a combination of high costs associated with the sport and NCAA regulations which do not allow college teams to provide training to their athletes outside of the “competitive” season. College athletes traditionally relied on their past clubs’ generosity for off-season training, and/or work camps as coach-athletes.”
Ginnis, who now skis for Greece, is just returning to snow from an injury. This summer, the Greek Ski Team (GRESKI) stepped in to create a solution by committing to provide U.S college alpine athletes with summer training opportunities.
The camps kicked off in Les Deux Alpes, FRA, this June and will follow up with an indoor session at Wittenburg, GER, in August. The progression optimizes the summer academic break, offering training immediately after the spring term, and right up to the beginning of the fall term.
Camp Staff are former NCAA competitors
The GRESKI crew are all former NCAA athletes. They include NCAA D1 all-American Sandy Vietze (UVM 2022) and Gaby Coulet (UVM 2017), who are currently coaching Ginnis (Dartmouth 2022). In addition to recent competitive experience, connections and World Cup coaching chops, the coaches bring an understanding of the challenges collegiate athletes face. That shared understanding was vital to creating a feeling of ownership and shared purpose. “They really stressed that it was our camp,” explains Dartmouth skier Oliver Morgan. “So we had input into what we were doing, which we really liked because part of being a college skier is figuring things out for yourself, and knowing what you need. That said, they put everything in place for us to get what we needed to be done, which was amazing.”
Coulet, who hails from Chamonix, brought French connections to the venue and a complete understanding of the training efficiency college athletes need. The goal of this camp and the next one in August is to cater to the athlete’s needs and improve technical skills while testing new equipment and accumulating critical days on snow to prep for the upcoming season. “It had always been a challenge in our generation of college athletes to find optimal summer and fall training and take our skiing to the next level,” says Coulet. “We wanted to provide this opportunity for the next generations of college athletes and create an environment where fun and excellence are symbiotic.”
The first camp, wrapping up this week, included twelve athletes from six different schools in the EISA and RMISA (Bates, Dartmouth, DU, Middlebury, UVM and Williams). Coulet describes an atmosphere of insightful technical on-hill conversations and team bonding moments off the hill, combined with all the activities Les Deux Alpes offers. “The camp has been filled with positive energy, camaraderie and constructive feedback,” says Coulet. “I believe such experiences shine a different light on how ski racing can be practiced at the highest level.”
University of Denver athlete Cole Puckett rates camp 10 out of 10
Cole Puckett, who skis for DU, echoes that enthusiasm. Puckett signed on to the camp when he heard about it from his eastern college skiing friends while at the US Nationals in Sugarloaf. All the athletes knew of each other but enjoyed getting better acquainted and coming together as a training team. He scored the camp a 10/10. “I had the best time,” says Puckett. “I’m so impressed with how well they ran it. All the boys had so much fun and we all saw lots of improvements in a short amount of time. Conditions were great, especially for a summer camp.”
Vietze, who raced for the Catamounts and the US Ski Team, says the collaborative experience was a key goal. “Generally, during the season, these athletes are training within their teams and competing against one another on the EISA and RMISA circuits,” says Vietze. “Now they are working together to improve their skiing during the off-season. Personally, it has been great to see the camaraderie and friendship amongst this group of college athletes. In my opinion, ski racing is not only about becoming the fastest on the hill but building relationships that will last a lifetime.”
Ginnis explains what motivated the camp and future ones like it. “Our mission is to offer high-quality training opportunities for collegiate athletes at an affordable price.” The model, which offers top collegiate athletes an off-season progression of high-level camps with their peers, shows what is needed and possible to optimize the development of NCAA athletes.