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“Up near the End”

We are in the last couple of Idaho days.

We finished our intensity week with a double pole strength session on the south side of Elkhorn Hill (aptly named; I had to stop and wait for a herd of 20-30 elk including 8 and 6 six point bulls, as they crossed the road early yesterday morning). The angle up is about that of Burke Mountain Toll Road from the gate to the toll booth; ten times up or more for the guys and 5 for the girls. Everyone did extras including a couple that single poled it Good to see!

DP Strength on Elkhorn Hill - "load those poles!"

The day before featured “moose hoof” intervals. Moose hooves are a dry land ski imitation technique that requires poling and a low stride with a “float” in the middle imitating the glide phase. It is great training and is likely the most ski like of all dry land non-roller ski techniques. We did them on Baldy starting on the River Run side and continuing up the service road. The angle is perfect; tough but mostly not so steep that the technique fails. 8 x 3 minutes on in level 4 – race pace. Rest time varies, but here we worked on the side of caution and took equal to a little longer rest between intervals. Holly was still getting used to altitude so she simply hiked with poles and Jane and Jenna the newest, and youngest did 4 and 3 sets. That was plenty and good work. This is a tough workout. It was encouraging to see heart rates right in the zone where they should be even at home in the lower altitudes of Vermont.

Moose hooves! 8 x 3 min L 4 - Coach Matt Johnson with Evan Martell

The work here is paying off. Our intention had been to follow up the Saturday SAT tests with an over-pace (faster than race and grueling) session, but we all agreed that we should save the money we have been putting in the bank instead of drawing it out immediately. We opted for a recovery pace run of two 15-20 minute intervals in high L 2 low L3 with 10 minutes between on the Fox Creek loop, an ideal training run through a variety of forest, meadow, ups and downs. It was a good choice, and now after Sunday off we are ready for the last two days of work here. We just finished a long ski today from Hailey back to Ketchum, and home to SV. Tomorrow is slated for a morning mountain bike tour, and then packing and cleaning up. Wednesday we will stop by the Bruneau Sand Dunes before heading to Boise and the plane. The dunes are amazing and a great place for a different and fun last workout. Thursday the gang flies back to New England and I start the drive. Honestly, I enjoy seeing the fall come down across the plains of the Midwest, the landscape change from the dramatic sharpness of the Rockies, to the high plains, to the old, rounded and tight forms of the Adirondacks, and Greens. It is not so much three days of driving as it is three days of journeying. Oskar is good company and I don’t mind it.

Personally I rate this as one of the best camps I have had the privilege of working on here at Burke. The setting is perfect and many of the athletes maturing into the stage where their goals begin to coalesce and more importantly they see the path to the goals and recognize that as the opportunity at hand. Build, refine, improve become the personal predicates that lead toward the goals. Individualizing efforts and tasks leads to more ownership and better workouts each time one goes out.

The other day Oskar and I went for a short hike to a quiet hole on a little stream near town. It was our first overcast day. Brisk mountain airs had dropped yellow and golden aspen leaves onto the trail and into the water. The grass and sage were muted tan and pale green and smelled wonderfully of fall. It was absolutely void of any sound that hadn’t been there for a thousand years; rattling leaves, the creek, magpies, ravens and high-floating hawks.

Quiet Afternoon

These little trails often have a story written in the trees. The high meadows in Idaho have provided summer pasture to countless herds of sheep. On our ski this morning we ran into a large flock headed south across the river.

South for the winter; wool and chops on the hoof.


The herders came on horse back pulling small sheep-wagons on rubber tires. These were invariably miniature versions of the Conestoga wagons, with the bottom box / bed painted forest green, and the arcing cover the cream white of canvas. Pots and pans, tools and coils of rope hung from the sides and made a fantastic sound of history, and mystery all rolled into the sheep bells, herd dogs barking, the high urgent whistling of the herders and other-worldly exhortations in their native Basque tongue. Most of them in the fifties and sixties when I first saw them were Basques from the NW of Spain. Fleeing Franco and coming to relatives here they did what they knew and raised and herded livestock. On the Aspen trees, in the groves where they camped, they would often carve names and dates. There were so many of these little records that a hiking trail near Sun Valley is named for the shepherd who left his name, year after year on the trees along his herd’s paths through the mountains; it is the “Julio Mitma Trail”. Aspens aren’t so very long lived and it is hard now to find the dates in the 50’s and 60’s but I found some early 80’s and 70’s on our little walk. We took a couple of small rainbows on parachute Adams and released them. I might have killed one which I don’t like. Kind of oddly and sometimes darkly indulgent, fishing is.

Domingo Larrabetxu's travel journal.

 Oskar found a dead sheep in which to roll while I was lost in my goofy little mountain reverie. I had to force him into the creek and scrub him down with sand and leaves. God he smelled awful!

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BMA’s Sweden Norway Trip

A  New Tradition gets a Name,

We are settling into the evening of our fifth day in Norway, and our 14th on the road. There are high broken clouds, a little thickened to the west, perhaps harbingers of the promised gray and mist for tomorrow. “Second Dinner” as we call it, and “Kvelds Mat” –evening food- to the Norwegians is about to start. NOBODY misses second dinner! It is the time of day when we can count on being at the same place at the same time. And tonight folks are hungry.

We have had three full days of great skiing, skate in the AM and classic in the afternoon, and today we changed things up with a 5.5 k roller ski time trial, “up” being the operative word here. It is on a narrow toll road from the main road down to the Sognefjord over to the village of Ardal;. negligible traffic, sweet asphalt, and a finish cresting out with a 200 meter double pole straight.  Start to finish it has to rival any course any where for natural beauty. Up steadily from our chosen start it is a tough test, and a really good one to get the feel of finding a pace and working the gears. The test is becoming a tradition and traditions need names. The Sweden Trip gang was here a year ago when our friend Willie Neal lost his life in a training accident in Maine. Many of us had shared more than one trip here with Willie. This morning, spotless blue, warm, windless and altogether about as perfect a start to a day as one could wish, our race got it’s name; “Willie’s”. Just that. We’ll put a description of the course and a little bit about Willie in a Dagbok (diary) in the Sognefjell Hytta’s lobby, and folks from other teams and other countries can enter times and names and another circle of friends and goodwill will begin. 

The gang this year has two for whom this is the first couple of weeks on roller skis ever, two or three 1st year J1’s eager, but without a lot of experience and 4 J1/OJ’s who are all top skiers in their respective divisions. Our guest this year, Gustav Eriksson, is ranked number 3 in the 19/20 class in Sweden and has been named to the 2014 Olympic Junior Development team there. So, he knows the game pretty well and can put down the work. As an aside he has also been a wonderful addition to the gang all the way around. The Sweden trip tradition of making friends has been continued and Gustav from Borlange in Sweden can now count on pals in Idaho, Colorado, Quebec, Mass, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. It is a pretty cool thing.

I haven’t seen all the times yet, but the First Official Running of “Willie’s” goes to Gustav Eriksson, up first in 24 minutes and change, followed by Yannick Lapierre (Burke Mountain Academy/ Laurantide, Quebec), Tony Ryerson (Vail/ Harvard), and Charlie Fereday (Bogus Basin / Intermountain). With a lot of variation in ski speed roller ski results never mean too much, but this gang was close and it was a good hard workout. Tony gave it “level 5 for 25”. He might be close on that.

"Willie's" a new time trial above the Sognefjord

Lucy Garrec in full song in the first official running of "Willies"

We’re trying to squeeze a day off into the last few up here and it is a tough decision when the skiing is good. The vets get to decide on their own and the coaches are helping with the decision for those newer to the game. Modern air travel doesn’t count as a day off, and all look forward to a summer’s good training. Staying healthy and banking the training done rather than spending it to squeeze in one more hour is still not as easy a call as it should be.

Hope everyone is well and loaded up for whatever camps are on the horizon. Willie tried to live by the words “be the change you want in the world,” and a good place to begin that project is to be the change you want in yourself. Live it. Give it. Pass the torch.

Best for a healthy summer, 

Burke Mountain Academy Nordic Team and The Sweden Trip

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Yesterday finished the Fjalltopp Helgen or Mountain Top Weekend here in Bruksvallarna, Sweden. Three freestyle races, a sprint, a 26 or 33km Distance, and a ski-cross went off on schedule with a weekend total of 800 participants.

The sprint and the Distance races were FIS sanctioned and each had a strong field. The US group, which included skiers from Burke Mountain Academy, Stratton Mountain School, NYSEF/St. Mikes, and an alumni of Bates College, for the most part had mid pack results and have every reason to be pleased, and to get an idea of what is needed to move up. Jordan Buetow, from Burke and Fairbanks XC, qualified # 14 to move on to the quarter finals in the sprint. His heat was very close but the “lucky loser” rule still put him into the semis. He lined up against top juniors including Tomas Northug who is the World Junior gold medalist in Sprint. Again it was very close and Jordan came in 5th in the heat by a toe. The whole field was packed tightly. He finished 10th overall and can certainly be happy with that. In the senior field Robin Bryntesson took every heat and the final. Petter Northug did not compete in the sprint this year.

The distance race showed the distance power the Swedes and Norwegians have and we are still working toward. The juniors all did 26 K and the seniors 33. The 26 rolls at an easy uphill grade for the first 10 k’s and then makes a steep, twisting 2.5 k climb to a high, treeless plateau. The Seniors wind more steeply up the first fifteen, drop down into the valley and this year then went straight up the Alpine slope for 2 k’s. The Jr. and Sr. courses joined at the top. The day was clear but with a brutal wind on the plateau. Single, and smaller lighter skiers struggled with the headwind, and packs put their heads down and worked together. Wind blown snow made the top K’s slow and taxing, but the top skiers still had good times. In the senior men’s Anders Sodergren won by over a minute over Swedish teammate Daniel Rickardsson, and 3.5 over Petter Northug and 4th place Martin Koukal of Czech.

Sunday’s ski cross started with a wild xc downhill run (with helmets) to qualify for ski cross rounds. None of ours made the rounds though Evan Martell only missed the cut by one place. Good fun in all events.

We come away from the races here encouraged and hopefully pleased with our work, but also very aware of the fact that there is a lot to do. It is a great education for all of us and as a coach I am rewarded with numerous opportunities to compare notes with some of Scandinavia’s best coaches. I always learn things or get a new lens on an issue.

Now getting home becomes the game. Try as we might we don’t seems to have much influence on Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland’s new volcano. We are on a holding pattern, and waiting to see whether we will leave from Stockholm, or Trondheim, or whether we will just have to ski a little more and wait for the skies to clear.

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Burke Mountain Academy’s racing and training trip to Sweden is on. There are three remaining openings for juniors and U-23 skiers. The trip leaves on April 7th and the first race,  a 10/10 two day pursuit in Orsa, begins on the 10th. This is followed by a week of easy long spring training tours. There are 300 groomed kilometres in the immediate trail system. The trip finishes with two FIS races, a sprint and a 30 K free, followed by a fun duathlon-downhill and xc ski-cross, in Bruksvallarna. Expect to go to the line with Olympic medalists. Last year’s winner was Petter Northug in the Mens 30. A lot of Sweden’s and Norway’s best attend as Bruks is close to the border and the weekend is the FIS wrap up for the season. It should be special this year with the energy of a great games for Sweden, and Norway stinging a little bit. The cross border competition here is always fun and intense and this year there should be an even sharper edge on it. The final day is a favorite with kids and adults alike and consists of a qualifying downhill run, and then heats over a twisting ski cross course with a top National team athlete trying to catch the pack.

Three spots remain open. current attendees are Jr.s and OJ’s from Alaska, Idaho, Vermont, Mass, and New York. Dates again are 7-22 April.

Ground cost for 7-22 April is $2500. Call or e-mail Pete Phillips at gamlefisken@yahoo.com  and 802-626-1516 ext 1012.

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Burke has had a lot of snow in the past week and things look good on that front. USST coach Matt Whitcomb and athlete Liz Stephen have each confirmed their participation in Burke’s xc Christmas Camp from 18-21 December. We have four remaining spots for this great opportunity. It is perfect for anyone not headed North to Presque Isle. The chance to work one on one with Matt Johnson from BMA,  Matt Whitcomb from the US Ski Team and team athlete Liz  Stephen could be a great investment in the rest of the season.

Contact Matt Johnson at Burke Mountain Academy. mjohnson@burkemtnacademy.org

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Burke Nordic is planning a special trip for the spring break. In mid-April there are two FIS races in Sweden, a sprint and a 30 km race, followed by a fun ski-cross in which a downhill run determines qualifiers for a roller-coaster sprint; three races in three days in the heart of some of Sweden’s best terrain. The opportunity to enter FIS races in Scandinavia offers invaluable experience for our kids and this is a perfect chance to get speed and distance. These races wrap up the FIS season in Sweden and they are always well attended by both Norway’s and Sweden’s best.


What is different about this year’s trip is that while it is about racing it is not only about racing. We will spend the week prior to the races in long tours and enjoying what skiing is really all about…whole days in the sun and the snow…an hour or two at a “vaffel stugo” a waffle/coffee hut out in the hills. A journey from one town to another. a trailside fire for tea and ‘dogs; things that are the heart of cross-country skiing and the part that gets more precious as the miles click by.




Swedish Spring Skiing


The other thing that is different is that we are inviting parents and friends. We have limited openings, and the BMA Team will have first pick, but we would like to have new folks along to cheer, or to race, and to share two weeks in the Swedish mountains.



We will have two rental vehicles but the idea for this trip is get to the mountains and then to minimize travel time. Lodging is at the Walles Mountain Hotel, a comfortable small trail side hotel with fabulous food. We have access to a complete kitchen, but the price includes breakfast, a pack lunch we build ourselves, and dinner. The rooms are double occupancy with wc and shower, and plain but pleasant. The village of Funasdalen is a short drive or a fun ski away, and farther up the valley is the extensive Alpine resort of Raamundberget.


Flight is likely out of Boston to Stockholm and return and at the moment Icelandair is the front runner. It is an easy trip with a mid-way stop in Iceland which allows for a nice stretch of the legs.


Projected cost is $3275 inclusive. Race entries, road food (food while traveling), and beverages at dinner are individual expenses. Approximate dates are 8, April to 21 April.


Give this some thought. We could put a good group together, and it could be a lot of fun and educational for you to play and watch the game in its homeland.


Visit www.funasdalen.com  and www.walles.se to get a peek at the hotel and the area, and let me know if you might be interested. We have good time but not time to waste to pull the trip together.


Best, Pete


Peter Phillips

Head Nordic Coach

Burke Mountain Academy



518-524-4127 mobil

802-626-1516-ext1012 Office





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USST Coach Matt Whitcomb with Alumni and BMA Team on the Campus.

USST Coach Matt Whitcomb with Alumni and BMA Team on the Campus.

Burke Mountain Academy is holding its second Christmas Camp for J2, J3 and J4  skiers December 18th through the 21st on the Burke Campus in East Burke, Vermont. Joining us here on the hill will be US Team Athlete and BMA alumna Liz Stephen, and US Team Coach and former BMA Head Coach Matt Whitcomb. Matt and Liz were here last year and their contribution was a highlight of the camp. For them to take time in the Holidays to include the Christmas Camp in the busy days before Anchorage and Vancouver is something we certainly don’t take lightly. The camp offers a wonderful opportunity to get three full days of personal coaching with Matt and Liz, Burke Coach Matt Johnson, and several Burke college skiers. Call Matt Johnson or Pete Phillips at BMA for more details of the Camp. 802-626-1516 ext 1012. mjohnson@burkemtnacademy.org pphillips@burkemtnacademy.org

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Burke Mountain Academy’s schedule is designed around blocks of intensive class room work followed by the opportunity for intensive training camps. This year for our October camp we decided to head west to Idaho, to train with the Sun Valley team, to enjoy the nearly fifty miles of no-motor-vehicles bike path for roller skiing and to hike in moderate altitude. This is the “big trip” for the training season. It certainly hasn’t been a disappointment.

The Team on the way to Griffin Butte

The team on the way to Griffin Butte in Ketchum, Idaho

 Everyone has rented a bike so people are able to move about independently. Our training day often includes riding to the SV team’s hut for strength work and then running or roller skiing from there.


The weather started to turn cold three or four days ago and we awoke yesterday to snow. We gave it a day to dry out and then with quickly “hairied” borrowed gear headed north to Prairie Creek. It was darn good! We skied for two hours through the woods breaking our own trail.


Striding out on the Boulder Mtn Trails on October 5th

Striding out on the Boulder Mtn Trails on October 5th


 All along our path our tracks joined those of a wolf. Great Galloping God, they were big! Once people start to stride out youth and age separate pretty quickly so I usually find myself putting along at the end of the train…the very end by quite a distance. Thinking about how the packs are reputed to zero in on the old and the weak had me shaking in my boots…old, weak, and fat to boot. Tasty. On the receiving end of the old wolf joke; “I don’t have to outrun the wolf. I only have to outrun you!” And everyone had.

I made it though. I skied like Miehto trying to catch Wassberg for about a hundred meters when I heard a stick break in the woods, and Oskar started barking.


Good fun, good camp. Big Thanks to the Sun Valley Team and Rick Kapala.






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Burkies and guests are gathered in the Adirondacks for the August Nordic Team Camp. The weather is beautiful but really hot and really humid. Water.  Drink a lot of water.  Swim. Stay in the shower. Save the hard work for early and late.

Some of the crew on the "Governor Aiken" crossing Lake Champlain on the way to New York and the Adirondacks. Nice Day!

Some of the crew on the "Governor Aiken" crossing Lake Champlain on the way to New York and the Adirondacks. Nice Day!

The core team is made up of three returning junior boys, two new PG’s and two new girls bringing us to the same size as last year and looking at a core that will be with us for at least two more years…a good thing. Three guests have joined us and alums and friends are showing up for different workouts and to help welcome the newcomers. We opened with a “trials day”; a day of not so much testing but of assessment. The purpose is to let both atheltes and coaches know where we are and what kind of strength specific work would be most beneficial before the snow flies. We look for weak links in the chain and try to design ways to bring them into line. Events took the shape of a standing broad jump, pull ups, bar dips, deep push ups (hands and feet on rails, allowing the body to go below hand level), rail hops and the “brutal bench”, a hanging curl up. We began with a 3000 meter run…which wasn’t 3000 ( top time 9:16!) so that part we had to throw out, but the heart rate info was good and will help us later on.

Patrick Joslin, a Burke PG, on the " Brutal Benken"

Patrick Joslin, a new BMA PG, has at the "Brutal Benken".


Evan Martell works the Deep Push Up

Evan Martell works the Deep Push Up

Our "Long Man", Jordan Buetow from Fairbanks, sizes up the Deep Push Up

Our "Long Man", Jordan Buetow from Fairbanks, sizes up the Deep Push Up as Burke Coach Matt Johnson does the numbers.

Trials day finished, tonight we looked at some excellent video clips  to give us mental images for tomorrow’s double pole work and introduced thoughts about a focus for the rest of dry land and for the on-snow time to come. We want to concentrate on some basics; balance, weight shift, efficient movement…a lot of no pole work. It can be as helpful for the vets as for our new convert from Alpine. Speaking of converts from Alpine it looks as though an earlier BMA convert, Liz Stephen, is headed for Vancouver in February! Well done! That’s what these camps are all about…finding out if you want to get there.
Time to call it a day. More tomorrow. All the best!
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We have been home for almost a month now. Everyone has slipped back into the stateside routines and hopefully is continuing with a happy training regimen. The final part of the trip, the journey from Solleftea to Sognefjell, and our brilliantly sunny week in Norway’s mountains was in part overshadowed  by the tragedy in Maine, but there are things to tell, and I finally think I can sort it out well enough to share it.

The camp in Solleftea wrapped up with a disco night with “trade off” music…two Swedish songs, one North Am and occasionally everyone liked the same one. The head DJ was Robin Bryntesson and he said it was a great success because the Yanks got into it and got the dancing going. Trip vets Lucy Garrec, Mitch Prevot, the “Nates” …Niles and Fuller, and Kelsey Nichols all knew the ropes and the steps and things went on into the wee hours. Where was I? Hiding. I’m old. I hate people and dancing.

Sprint intervals the next morning were a little sleepy, but good. As usual we finished our trip with a BBQ at Bengt Stattin’s home…long game of “Kubb” and the night up at the hunting cabin in the woods. The wake up…I love this about sleeping over there…was a cuckoo…a real one. We drove to Ostersund early in the morning, had lunch and pulled in to Erik Nilsson’s cabin in Bruksvallarna in easy time for dinner. We ran into Erik’s neighbor, Anders Sodergren, while he was walking his dogs, Alfons and Nils. He was beginning the active part of getting back on the horse after back surgery and was starting to train seriously but cautiously. He was interested in who we were and what we were doing and invited the gang to join him on a mountain run the next day. His Level One carries him through the bogs and rocks at a pretty good clip but several of our gang hung in for the whole 2.5 hours. Dogs and kids returned with tongues hanging out.                                                                                                 

The Gang with Anders Sodergren and Alfons and Nils at Erik's cabin

The Gang with Anders Sodergren and Alfons and Nils at Erik's cabin

We got an early start the next day and made the drive to Sognefjell in easy time. No issues with Norway’s finest and the ridiculously low speed limits…and that is ME talking! Me! the object once of a ” Hey! Grandma! Hike up your skirt and DRIVE!” from the backseat of a Sun Valley van. The limits are so low that one is tempted to think they are kidding but Matt Whitcombs Visa…payment on the spot please!…has probably still not recovered from his 8 k’s over the limit five years ago!

It was a beautiful afternoon when we arrived at the Sognfjell Hytte. The trails were full of skiers, and the sunshine had the fun meter on high. Our Swedish guest coach, Johanna Ojala, and athletes Micke Ojala, and Martin Liljemark arrived shortly after we did and we settled into our rooms and headed to dinner. The food at Sognefjell is superb and there is a lot of it, four times a day! Things were looking good for a great training week.


Drink Belt Row, Sognefjell, Norway. June '09

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