We had a great training last weekend. As you know from Dave’s weekly email the kids worked with coaches on SkillsQuest activities. I know many of you may be confused about what SkillsQuest is, and how it relates to ski racing so we thought we would do a web post highlighting SkillsQuest this week.

SkillsQuest is a program developed by USSA (United States Ski and Snowboard Association) as a response to the US Ski team’s request that racing programs prepare athletes coming to them to have a more well-rounded, consistent skill set.  SkillsQuest was created as a means of reinforcing our athletes with developmental skills key to alpine racing. U.S. Ski Team athletes Mikaela Shiffrin and Ryan Cochran-Siegle are both SkillsQuest racers. As described on the USSA SkillsQuest page, Skills Quest was “designed to motivate and reward athletes in working toward and improving abilities in the key areas of emphasis of the ATS (Alpine Training System). As its name implies, it represents a quest, or journey, toward success in ski racing, by focusing on skills, the critical components that make up a high performing ski racer.”  ATS is the training system adopted by the USSA in training alpine ski racers that is built on a fundamental principle: Before an athlete can become a truly great ski racer, they must become a great skier.

The ATS program focuses on six areas in an effort to develop the whole athlete: skiing skills, technique and tactics, conditioning, equipment preparation, performance psychology and racer management. SkillsQuest activities focus specifically on developing skiing skills with activities and competencies in four areas: controlling ski pressure, controlling edging movements, controlling rotary movements (how athletes feet rotate relative to the ground plane), and on the blending of these three skills.  Activities are organized with benchmark developmental elements targeted for an athlete’s age and experience. According to Program Director and Head Junior Coach, Dave Lyon, coaches are looking not only for an athlete to perform a certain drill or task, but also that the various body movements, balance, and how an athlete progresses through the task are correct. All of these individual parts of a drill are what is needed to develop into a better skier and ski racer.

As Dave mentioned, our athletes will spend 1 week each month working specifically on SkillsQuest activities. After each SkillsQuest week, athletes who train will receive an evaluation of their individual performance on the activities. Dave, Linda and Nils have been working very hard to make this evaluation a cool interactive experience complete with links to information and video. As with all new technology they have encountered a few technical glitches with this first evaluation, but they hope to have it out via email by the end of the week.

Coach Linda Cowan put together a little video to illustrate the activities performed by our Mighty Mite athletes last weekend. All of the activities were part of the ATS phase 2 level of development and focus on ski fundamentals. You can click on any of the links below to get more information as well as to see very helpful videos on each of these tasks. The video below includes all 4 tasks that our kids worked on last weekend including: pole jumpers, outside ski turns (1 ski turns), hockey stops (or pivot slips) and free ski turns with pole swing. It also included all 8 athletes in Linda’s group, so that you can see the age and developmental range of a variety of kids:

Not only will this consistent training regimen improving the skills of SPAC racers, SkillsQuest competition is included during some of the age level championships. A team’s performance in SkillsQuest competitions influences their overall standing in the championship alongside with how the team’s athletes perform in individual races. You can learn more about SkillsQuest at the USSA SkillsQuest website. All in all, USSA and SPAC have adopted this program as a means of further developing our young athletes into strong racers and skiers for life.