Stratton Mountain School: Training with an eye to the Olympics

STRATTON — Cross-country skiers training with Stratton Mountain School are contenders for spots on a United States team heading to Pyeongchang County, South Korea, for the Winter Olympics in February.

But that's not much of a surprise to those who work with the athletes.

"Usually, we have three to six people make the Olympics," said Sverre Caldwell, SMS Nordic Program director, who has been with the school since the 1980s.

The nordic program "combines sport science, a proven training regimen and efficient workouts," according to

High school students can train at SMS and receive academic instruction throughout the year. A five-month program is available to junior high students. After high school, skiers can join a postgraduate program. Camps also are offered.

In the last seven Winter Olympics, 16 cross-country skiers who trained at SMS participated, according to

SMS Elite Team members Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins, Simi Hamilton and Andy Newell have already met the criteria to qualify for this year's Olympics. The U.S. team will be named on Jan. 16.

Cross-country skiers from the program hopeful of making the Olympics typically compete in World Cup races from late November to late March.

"That's a lot of traveling and racing and training," said Sverre. "Then in April, we say, 'You're on your own. Relax. Do your own fun adventures. Have a month off from anything structured. Usually, they'll go hiking, cross-country skiing, biking — whatever they want."

Serious training starts in May, he said. with sessions lasting about three hours a day. He called the regimen "the equivalent of running a marathon every day; rollerskating, running, hiking and mountain biking."

In the fall, he said, "We start adding more intensity and volume comes down a little bit but it's still high."

Sverre compared the grueling, international trips required for constant winter contests to a traveling circus where athletes are living out of suitcases.

"They move every week from country to country," he said, adding that the competition is "always really good" but the responses at host sites are always different.

In Scandinavia, Sverre said, there are "thousands of ski fanatics yelling and screaming." In Italy, he said, "you may have a thousand." In Norway or Sweden, the number is closer to 60,000.

Members of the SMS team and other American competitors enjoy racing in Canada because the other athletes have to travel farther.

"U.S. skiers say, 'We're almost home. This is great,'" said Sverre.

In his view, preparedness is a major key to the skiers' success.

"I think during the race, you have to hope you're feeling good and you're healthy," Sverre said. "You go as hard as you can and hope your wax is working well."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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