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Our Pathway Coach for Cross-country Skiing has just returned from a fantastic week-long training camp with the British Nordic Development Squad (BNDS) in the Pillersee region of Austria. This year Snowsport Scotland have been supporting the Nordic development pathway by providing coaches on each of the BNDS Training camps. Last week was the 5th training camp (T5) and the second on-snow.

The aim of the camp was to provide on-snow training time for development athletes between the ages of 12 -18. Excitingly, due to the timing, the camp also tied in with a local club race and the British Army Championships. Meaning that the athletes at T5 had the opportunity to boost their on-snow racing experience as well as getting in a week of solid training.

Based just above Fieberbrunn, the squad had access to over 30 km of ski trails from their accommodation. Including the FIS Alpen Cup venue at St. Ulrich am Pillersee and the Hochfilzen World Cup and World Championship Biathlon venue within a 15 minute drive.

Lucking out with the weather, the squad had two gloriously sun-soaked sessions per-day from Tuesday – Friday. With fast, cold tracks and great grip for classic. Sessions focused on a mix of ski skills, technique and hard work, which our pathway coach delivered in conjunction with former British head coach, Roy Young. Living up to his whacky reputation, Roy instigated the first ever Tour de BNDS based off FIS’ Tour de Ski (which in turn models itself off the Tour de France). Athletes gained points and bonuses over the course of the week for their performances in daily mini-competitions. With a wide age range and a mix of genders, events such as a reverse pursuit and the demonstration of competency skills were used to try to create equal opportunities to score points. At the end of the week, the overall winners of the Tour de BNDS were awarded medals, along with a King and Queen of the Mountain, Trick Master and Sprint master.

It had been decided with the conception of the event that genders should be recognised in their own categories to take away any male bias… and then the overall event was won by a female. Which is a great illustration of maturity rates in teenagers affecting expected performance!

On Saturday evening the athletes took part in a local German club race at the Chiemgau arena in Rupholding – another World Cup biathlon venue. This was a really fun floodlit night race around the stadium. There were over 300 kids competing from 9 years old and upwards in an interval start so that all the athletes had the experience of getting themselves to starting gate for their individual start time. All the squad athletes set themselves goals for the race and put their hard work on their skate skiing from the week into practice.

At the race, the squad met up with BNDS Head Coach, Carl Carrier’s local ski club, Aising Pang and one of his fellow coaches from the club, Jutta Werner. The athletes on T5 had met a number of the club members previously having been joined by them at other camps, including T4 in Norway before Christmas. Jutta and the rest of the club were very enthusiastic and helpful, making the athletes feel welcome at the race. Some of the girls even brought hot drinks to the BNDS guys after they finished their races.

The camp finished the next day with a mass start skate race at the Hochfilzen Biathlon Centre as part of the British Army Championships. The Hochfilzen course is quite challenging with some long climbs and technical downhills. The U14s completed one lap for a 2.5 km race, the U16s did two laps and the youth and junior women competed over 7.5 km with the senior women. Four athletes from the camp, two of whom were Scottish, became British Champions for their age group.

Special thanks to the coaches and athletes at Aising Pang and to the Army Winter Sports Association team that were really accommodating & supportive of our young skiers with the British Champs.

More info about BNDS:

And if you like the sound of Pillerseetal, here’s a link to the info on cross-country skiing in the area: