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Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Chinese National Mogul ski team trains at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
#Arapahoe Basin, Colorado.
The Chinese National Mogul Ski team has found a new home away from home this spring. Since the beginning of April, the team has been using Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Breckenridge Recreation Center for a two-month training camp.
The Chinese mogul team has only been around since 2007, and have a lot of work left to do before they are considered elite on the world stage. Only one individual represented the country in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
However, their coach, Scott Rawls, stresses that patience is key. Rawls knows the sport like the back of his hand, having been a skier on the professional mogul tour, and a coach for the U.S. Mogul team for over a decade.
He believes that skiing outside the mogul course is just as valuable as skiing inside it for this team, because it provides experience that the team is sorely lacking.
Team China is filled with talent, but have had little experience with skiing a variety of terrain, since skiing in China consists of mostly groomed runs. When the team came to Summit County, Rawls wanted to harness their potential by taking them out of their comfort zone.
He made the team ski expert terrain outside the mogul course shortly after arriving in Colorado. Not to scare them, but to provide them confidence and skills that the mogul course alone could never teach.
“Just skiing moguls for two months straight is very hard on your body, and not to mention, it gets plain boring,” said Rawls.
Each day on the hill, the team warms up with four laps on the Palavicini chair. The lift accesses a variety of rugged, extreme terrain that features trees, steep pitches, and large natural moguls. Skiing terrain like this requires agility, and the ability to think quickly; two traits that transcend directly to mogul skiing, but are hard to pick up on the course.
“They were a little out of their element at first, but they got it, and have really started to enjoy it,” said Rawls.
The team mostly free skied the first month they were in Colorado, which made a significant impact on their performance. Now members of the team approach Rawls about skiing certain advanced areas.
“Mentally I could see them gain confidence and they were just having a lot of fun with it; which naturally breeds success,” said Rawls.
The weather in Summit County was also particularly different for the team. In China, skiing is typically over by April. A-Basin, on the other hand, has been receiving consistent storms well into May and has a base around 60”.
“There’s so much more snow and sun here, it’s really different, but I like it,” said Team China member Chen Kang.
One of the hardest challenges the team has had to face is being thousands of miles away from home in a foreign culture. Few members of the team speak any English and even fewer people in Summit speak Mandarin. Being in this kind of situation can be very difficult and frustrating for almost anyone.
To help with their adjustment and any possible home-sickness, Rawls has had the team go on a number of different bonding activities. These have included trips to malls, Nuggets basketball games and grocery shopping at Chinese markets in Denver.
“The Western and Eastern cultures may have their differences but still everyone here smiles at us and have been so friendly and nice,” said Team China Strength and Conditioning coach and unofficial interpreter Lu Kuiqaing.
The Breck Rec Center has allowed the team to train at their facilities for free over the course of their stay. This has been a great help for Team China because they do as much training in the gym as they do on the hill.
On a typical day the team skis for three hours in the morning, takes a midday break, and then works on flexibility and balance at the Rec Center to finish off the day.
Coach Rawls knows they have a lot of improvement to make but he still has a positive attitude about their future.
“It may take us awhile to get the program to where we want it to be, but my team has been working hard, and have been learning, and as a coach that’s all you can ask for.”
“We may be young, and were still learning the mogul culture but if we just focus on the positives, we know we’ll be there someday,” said Wang Gin, one of four females on the team.