“It’s just like I threw a porcupine at your belly,” Andy Quick told the Cody Nordic ski team last Thursday afternoon, explaining technique.
The group was at Beck Lake planted upon roller skis and displaying a wide range of comfort levels as Quick, an eight-year veteran of coaching the sport, instructed them on the basics of roller-training.
Quick said that “over half the team is new to the sport this year, so my goal is just to get everybody through a good season and see good progression.”
The Nordic ski team is in a transition year, Quick explained, with many seniors having “graduated out” last year and a large contingent of eighth graders coming up in the sport but still too young to compete with the high school team.
The Cody Nordic ski community is a tight-knit one, and Quick has been a presence in the lives of many of his skiers for years.
The line between high school and middle school athletes can be blurry.
“We’re on snow together a lot, but we don’t have the same races,” Quick said of the groups. “Sometimes our dry land practices are different, but typically all our snow practices are together,” he said.
Last Thursday, Quick concentrated on the basics.
“Everybody benefits from good technique training,” he said. With the first meet of the year only a week away, Quick said “We’re trying to put some of these kids who are new to the sport on the fast track.”
When coaching technique, Quick’s language is colorful but precise: “We’ve got that critical forward flex in our ankles. We’ve got that nice athletic bend in our knees. Hips are stacked over your knees. Knees are stacked over your toes. You’ve got good pressure on the balls of your feet – you want to have just enough weight on your heels to keep them down,” he told the team, occasionally demonstrating his anatomical instructions.
For Hayden Bronnenberg, the lessons were an old one.
Bronnenberg has been skiing under Quick since the sixth grade, and he was dispatched as one of the team leaders to show some of the newer members the ropes.
Bronnenberg said his favorite event is freestyle, and his season goal is to finish in the top 20. Last year he routinely placed in the 40s and 50s at competitions.
Pacing is important for a solid performance, he said. “[Pacing] is how we base our training – it’s how we can keep that endurance throughout the whole race.”
Senior skier Finn Jackson is the person Bronnenberg keeps his eye on to make sure he doesn’t “gas [himself] in the beginning,” he said. “I try to keep up with him,” he added of Finn, who was one of the Cody team’s stronger skiers last year.
Junior Stephen Stowell said he wants to do his best and “focus on what I can try to do better.”
For him, Nordic skiing is as much about the experience as it is about the rush of competition.
“I just like being out in the wild and snow, and going up and down hills – the feel to it,” he said when asked about the sport’s appeal to him.
For Quick, nowhere in the state can rival Park County’s venue for experiencing the pristine alpine wonderment referenced by Stowell.
“Cody’s home ski area at Pahaska – everybody in the state agrees it’s the prettiest,” Quick said.
Currently no girls are signed up for the team, and despite having one of the smallest teams in Wyoming, Quick said he is looking forward to another year teaching the sport he loves.
Before starting to train a new group of youngsters, Quick had one more lesson to impart, however.
“The best way to stop with these [roller-skis] is 1) stop pulling,” Quick paused to laugh. “And then 2) you can kind of step like this, like a snow-plow step. Or you can run off into the gravel, but I don’t recommend that.”