As a program director I get asked all the time “Should my child do summer camp? How much should they train in the summer? SL, GS, Fundamentals, commercial camps, ect?” Since we live so close to Palmer Glacier, the only summer skiing in North America, many think it is a no brainer to have skiers train throughout the summer.
The above questions are important questions to ask and I applaud the parents who actually ask them. However verbalizing what you want your athlete to get out of summer training is key to identifying what type and how much summer training is appropriate and beneficial in the long term.
General guidelines for summer camp decisions:
U12 and Younger
Attending camp as this age will help develop a skier’s independence, organization, self-management skills and really stoke the passion for the sport. The experience of skiing on the glacier is very foreign and makes young skiers radically change the way they manage themselves. When young racers see other ski racers from all over the world, including some of the world’s best ski racers, it is inspiring and gives them sense that they are part of something bigger.
For U12 athletes, I recommend a non-commercial camp and no more than one camp (3-4 days). Generally, kids at this age do not have the physical and mental stamina to handle or benefit from more days on snow. Moreover, strong oversight from coaching staff that is familiar with your athlete is very important.
For this age class there are many opinions on how much an athlete should ski in the summer. Personally, I have never seen a U14 who trained all summer on the glacier have better results than a U14 who did zero or two camps in a summer. At this age athletes are better able to retain technical data, but not necessarily muscle memory. Skiing on salted surface is unique so gains made on salted surface do not necessarily crossover to natural surfaces and the undulated terrain of winter skiing. U14 skiers are mentally able to really work on their skiing in the summer, which in and of itself is a skill to learn, however the muscle memory of that effort is long gone when fall rolls around. At this age I recommend 1 to 2 non-commercial camps, and focus more financial and time resources to take advantage of early fall training.
Similar to U14s, I question the assumption that more is better. Strength training should be a priority, as it will make the biggest impact on a skier’s technical gains come the winter. Workouts should occur three times a week starting in June. Athletes are now at an age they can actually gain muscle mass and start to do all the cool things they see their heros doing on TV. This is the age where significant changes can happen in technique, assuming an athlete has the muscle mass and athleticism to make the proper moves.
I recommend 2 non-commercial camps, ideally at least one divisional or regional camp, so athletes can get coaching from other professional coaches outside their own program. It is good for athletes to learn from other coaching staff and then take that knowledge back to their home coach come the fall. Early fall training is a must for this age group. I recommend skiing 4-10 days in November.
There are plenty of FIS athletes who race college or compete on the NorAm circuit and call it good after 4 days on Palmer. However, if you have the resources and your athlete is very motivated then more can be better. I can attest to this personally having spent numerous summers as a US Ski team member training on Palmer. Recovery and training must be executed with precision; equal priority must be given to afternoon strength/agility sessions. On hill training days are much shorter and each session is planned as quality or quantity to balance and ensure quality afternoon strength/agility workouts. Moreover, athletes need to follow an on-hill schedule that is not intuitive to most 19 year olds; 3 days on, 4 days off, 3 days on, 4 days off, 3 days on, 7-10 days off and repeat. If your athlete goes this route I recommend each month starts with a non-commercial camp with trusted coaching staff then look for commercial or noncommercial camps that allow for on-hill daily pricing. Usually daily on-hill pricing is much lower than signing up for a full camp.