The typical XC Oregon roster has several sub-groups of athletes that you can read about under Joining Us. Each of these sub-groups tends to approach each year in vastly different ways based on the nature of the athletes in each group. For example, a full-time elite athlete chasing ski dreams at the national/international level and training 650-900 hours a year would have a very different approach to year-round training than one of our associate athletes that might only race a few times each winter. The beauty of the XC Oregon approach is that a wide variety of skiers are welcome and appreciated in our design.
For this overview, we offer a snapshot of the full ski year and likely most items below will apply most to the true elite and elite development funded-level athlete. Each athlete would tailor this yearly model to their own needs.
The Typical Ski Year
The ski year begins in April where current athletes sit down with XC Oregon Coach J.D. Downing 1-2 different times and begin the process of evaluating the previous season while also planning the coming year. This planning process is taken very seriously as it allows the athlete and coach to simultaneously evaluate strengths and weaknesses in not just XC ski development but also in terms of lifestyle goals, career/academic development, and other topics. The end result of this planning process is a objectives, goals and measuring sticks for the year as well as a short and long-term training plan design.
Early summer lab tests are the first major event on the annual calendar…typically taking place in early June. Utilizing the Central Oregon Community College exercise physiology lab and a skiwalk or rollerski treadmill test, XC Oregon athletes are able to scientifically determine VO2 max, lactate levels, body composition and appropriate summer training zones. All testing and zone prescription is overseen by our team physiologist (Dr. Julie Downing, PhD, FASCM). A follow-up slate of lab tests are scheduled in the early fall to help insure that training is going as planned. Field testing is also included in the annual protocol at predetermined intervals to further refine training zones.
Spring XC ski training in Bend, Oregon is — to be candid — perhaps the best in the XC ski world. Grooming continues 2-3x per week from mid-April to at least mid-May with snow pretty much a guarantee at Mt Bachelor (25 mins from town) in that span. A short tour from the closed Cascade Lakes Highway gets you up to higher areas where continuous snow is fairly certain into early July. At the same time that you have this convenient access to spring skiing, you also have dry trails and often nice weather in Bend offering an exceptional array of options (running, riding, paddling, climbing, etc.).
Recent years have seen the return of late spring (late May/early June) groomed on-snow camps at Mt Bachelor with the US Ski Team. XC Oregon athletes join USST for these opportunities and we have found this to be an exceptional camp opportunity for up to two weeks at a time. Best of all, our skiers sleep in their own beds, have next-to-no expenses, and can maintain regular work or school schedules throughout this great start to the training year.
Over the summer, our typical pattern is to maintain an average of two team workouts each week of which intensity (roll or foot) dominates. Some weeks may see up to 4-5 workouts, while others none. So two is a true average. We also often integrate “assisted distance” into the workout mix which involves car shuttles for a mix of roll, foot, and/or cycling at a variety of interesting destinations. Given our emphasis on self-reliance, a realistic budget for the times, and our 100% adult roster — we have found it is exceptionally difficult to get everyone to every workout. With our program, team workouts are opportunities for help rather than obligations. Without question the majority of any training week involves training done in small groups or solo — all depending on the preferences and schedule of the athlete.
When budgets allow, select national/international skiers are given the opportunity for financial assistance towards summer ski trips to glaciers or the South Pacific. We have had exceptional results from these trips and we also have many connections to help contain costs.
In the fall months, the workout pattern remains largely the same (2-3x per week average team sessions), but we often add team activities such as time trials, lower altitude intensity camps, testing, and/or special on-snow sessions. Each year varies in exactly what the schedule looks like based on our roster and the specific needs of the group at large.
In the winter months the workout pattern varies widely because of travel schedules both for the roster athletes as well as the program coach. The typical average is 2-3 sessions per week from November to March.
With competition trips, our priority is matching up our skiers with others on the roster or from other elite programs whenever and wherever possible. This contains costs, provides for necessary support, and makes racing far more enjoyable. Whenever possible, we depend on factory or local race support on road trips — again to keep costs contained.
Once the race season starts to wrap up, in early April we hold various casual events for our patrons and sponsors to ski and interact with our athletes. Many of our athletes also build their spring fitness around preparation for the annual Pole Pedal Paddle event in mid-May which is a 3,000-person, multi-sport event in which skiers (including many XC Oregon athletes) have dominated over it’s long history. The PPP features a cash purse, and a ton of regional media coverage so it’s a great way to kick off the new ski year in style.
The Nitty Gritty: Finances & Life
As with most other non-profits that depend on annual contributions, the current economic climate means that XC Oregon budgets are at the mercy of the national economic scene. The good news is that we currently project over the next two years we do have a strong and sustainable financial position for support of both our funded-level athletes and general program operations.
Note: The vast majority of our annual budget picture boils down to national/international class athletes (what we call “funded level” athletes) and what direct and group financial support we can provide each year for those athletes.
For our associate and master athletes, the program has proven for over 15 years that we can operate just fine on as little as a few thousand dollars. Athletes in these categories do not typically get any direct financial support from XC Oregon and thus any expenditures are shared expenses (keeping wax boxes full, team clothing for very low cost or free, providing coaching, etc.).
Our objective for the 2013-2014 ski year is to have 3-6 athletes each year at our highest level of financial support (funded “A” level) with 2-4 additional athletes (funded “B” or “C” levels) receiving smaller amounts of financial support on a case-by-case basis. Specific amounts of every funded category vary widely based on the athlete and situation.
Based on likely cash reserves and returning financial support, we will be able to continue funding a large percentage of domestic travel expenses for our “A” level funded athletes in coming seasons. This is our first priority. In addition, our plan is to provide general team travel support for key domestic competitions (SuperTour, US Nationals, major marathons) — this support shared by all our athletes that attend. Our third funding priority is to continue providing some level of financial help for at least one international trip each season for these top athletes.
Important to know: Exact dollar amounts of direct support to athletes are determined on a case-by-case basis each spring. XC Oregon has an established pattern of only spending known support dollars. So if one of our athletes are told “you will have X amount to use for this or that”, then our athletes know those dollars are in the bank and the support is going to happen as promised. If additional help comes in later to augment original estimates — that’s great. But we want our athletes to operate with confidence that XC Oregon always is going to be there for them.
In socio-economic areas, XC Oregon has established a community support network that provides a significant resource base for everything from practical lifestyle needs (affordable housing, job search assistance, etc.)…to discounted or complimentary services and products. Our first priority when new athletes arrive in Bend is to provide as much help as possible for athletes on getting settled into new living, work and/or academic situations. As with all other aspects of the XC Oregon program, the athlete is expected to take the lead role in this process (you are an adult and it’s your life)– but our extensive team and community network can greatly assist the process.
Are there jobs in Bend right now? — Right now, Bend is like much of the USA with a mixed bag of opportunities. Bend is recovering from the economic downturn, tourism is approaching previous levels, new businesses are coming to the area. The bottom line is that athletes that have viable and varied work skills can indeed find employment that fits a skier’s schedule.
What about affordable places to live? — Bend has a plentiful supply of rentals at reasonable rents with many available on the west side of town which is the preferred side for skiers (fastest access to skiing and summer training locations). With a big roster over the years plus a big family of patrons/sponsors, we also often have leads on good rental options.
What about health insurance? — We’ve looked into this for years and have yet to find a workable or affordable solution at the team level. Because we have been able to help a great deal with travel/training expenses, most of our athletes without coverage via work have been able to afford basic health insurance on their own. Via sponsors and our large patron family we are also able to get some non-insured health-related services and consultations taken care of at little to no out-of-pocket cost to the athlete.
More questions? Contact jd at xcoregon dot org.