Andrew Newell – professional skier, America’s ski team, American Olympian 2006 and 2010.
Sponsors: U.S. Ski Team, Salomon, SMS, Swix, Fischer, Bank of Bennington, Karhu, Rudy Project, Power Bar, Northern Ski Association of New England, T2 Foundation.
Andrew Newell was born in Vermont. It opens up new horizons for cross-country skiing. It’s the only one of its kind that pushes the boundaries of what you can do on XC skis. He skateboards, surfing, mountain biking and makes films about extreme cross-country skiing; not what you think of a typical XC skier. On the treadmill, Andrew climbed the podium of the World Championships three times, twice became an Olympian of the USA (2006, 2010) and received international recognition for his sprinting abilities. Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Andy on the road and focus his brain a little bit on the present and the future.
What inspired or inspired you to think about X Ski Films and extreme cross-country skiing?
A. Well, I founded X Ski Films more than 10 years ago when I started training with the U.S. ski team. Yesterday and today my goal was to show Americans what cross-country skiing is and to convey the excitement of skiing. It’s one of the most popular winter sports in the world, but you really won’t see it in the mainstream media here in the United States. Het was altijd grappig om naar Europa te vliegen, waar 70,000 mensen aanwezig zijn bij races en ski’r als beroemdheden worden beschouwd, en dan terug te komen naar de VS, waar de meeste mensen denken denken dat gewoon zon is sporteen die boode men. In addition to the ski races, I tried to capture the life of the XC skier, the fact that we train is hard, but we always enjoy it. All these things and extreme XC skiing were just the personality that manifested itself in the movies. I’ve always grown up trying to go as fast as possible on the slopes or as strong as possible on the jumps, and for me it’s cross-country skiing. It is about the ability to overcome ascents, descents, turns, jumps and all kinds of terrain in any conditions. Cross-country skiing was supposed to be a real outdoor adventure. At that time, X Ski films occupied their niche, as although each race was broadcast live throughout Europe, it was difficult to find the Ski World Cup race in North America.
How do you see the future of the U.S. team in cross-country skiing and skiing?
A. Right now is a great time to race with Team USA. In quite a short time we have gone from one of the losers at the World Cup to one of the most successful teams. In 2006, I took the podium for the first time in a World Cup sprint race, which at that time was the best result for the United States in more than 25 years. Since then, the size of our team has tripled, we have won medals at world championships and have established ourselves as a team capable of anything. It’s good to see how we can step up from year to year and how we have grown as a team, while getting a lot of fun, pushing each other. When I was a kid, I had a huge goal to get to the Olympics, but really it was because we didn’t know what was possible. We didn’t have any fast American skiers to admire. Today’s young American skiers are growing up, motivated not only to go to the Olympics, but also because you can win and become the best in the world. It was great to be a part of the process.
Can you give the general public an overview of the XC elite skier’s training program?
A. To become a world-class skier, it certainly takes a lot of endurance training, strength and technical work. As with most endurance sports such as cycling or triathlon, we save most of our training time in low season, so skiing is a full-time job. In the summer months we train twice a day, train on skiers for several hours a day and run a lot. Because we run so many different distances, from sprints to marathons, we also have to constantly work on intervals, develop Vo2max and speed training. So even in summer we often have to do difficult intervals and workouts. We’re used to snowing in the summer, but we’re also lucky to have a lot of cross-training.
In winter, all our training takes place on skis, but we also go a lot and do not stop for many hours. In a typical season I will run up to 40 times in 15 different countries, so during all travels we are focused on developing our interval form and especially at the races.
What types of technologies do you use during training and racing?
A. Technology is still the engine of our sport, not only in the way we train, but also in our equipment. Training theories are constantly evolving and we use a lot of technology to test our body and make sure that the training we are doing is positive. At the U.S. Ski Team Training Center in Utah, we have treadmills on which we can ski and measure how our lungs and heart work with high intensity. The high level of Vo2max is very important for cross-country skiing, as well as for learning what technique and movement you can use at certain speeds. We also use machines to measure blood volume and hemoglobin mass and constantly monitor the amount of red blood cells we accumulate during the training year. We also use simplest technologies every day, such as heart rate monitors and lactic acid tests, to get the most out of each workout.
The technology behind the equipment is amazing, so I won’t even go into details. But one really cool aspect of cross-country skiing that most people don’t notice is racing skis and waxed skis. Each country participating in the World Championships has its own staff of 5-15 lubricant technicians who are responsible for testing different types of skis and different types of base wax. Since snow conditions can be different in each place and constantly change throughout the day, wax experts are mostly like scientists trying to find the best combinations of paraffin and resurfacing for us (a structure that is squeezed into the base of the skis). When I travel, I usually have about 30 skis at a time. In the days leading up to the races, I work with my lubricant specialist to choose skis with the best flexibility and the best base for snow conditions, then I apply the racing wax that was best tested before the race. .
How do you think other sports you do, such as skateboarding, surfing, trailrunning and mountain biking, contribute to your success in the snow?
A. I have always been attracted to sports such as skateboarding and surfing because they are very exciting and fun. That’s where I grew up and I still love to skate. I think I like these sports because they are uncompetitive, and also because of the style and smoothness that you get when riding a wave or a halfpipe. In fact, sports such as skateboarding and mountain biking are great for skiing. Typical athletes who are attracted to endurance sports such as running, cycling and cross-country skiing do not have sports skills. And people don’t give a shit when I say that, but it’s true. Endurance athletes are incredibly athletic and strong, but that doesn’t mean we have a lot of “athleticism”; which means agility, body awareness, speed and the like. I think sports like football are great for agility, and of course sports like surfing and skating are great for maintaining balance and learning certain body movements. Things like this haven’t necessarily helped me in my fitness over the years, but they have improved my athleticism and allowed me to adjust my skiing technique and learn how to move effectively.
B. Do you think there are other endurance sports that are as demanding to physical exertion as cross-country skiing?
A. Of course, there are many complex sports, and there are many sports in which athletes cross the finish line exhausted, as in ski racing. I believe that cross-country skiing is special because it is a unique combination of power and efficiency. We have races that last from 2 hours to 3 minutes, so it is important to develop endurance and speed for success. Skiing is also an exercise for the whole body, which involves literally all the muscles of the body, so the feeling that you experience after a hard run is simply amazing.
B. If you could only get a few items from the pantry before game day, what would they be?
A. On the day of the competition, I stay pretty simple and use things like oatmeal, bananas, peanut butter, and the like that I like to eat before the race.
When you travel as often as we do to competitions, it’s really hard to be too picky about what you eat. I took some rather strange European eating habits, such as pasta with salmon fish on bread for breakfast or Norwegian brown cheese, to name a few of my favorites.
What is Andrew Newell’s program for years to come?
A. The focus is on the Olympic Games in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Winning an Olympic medal would be a dream for me and the entire ski community of the United States, so it’s always a big goal. Funny that many sports really revolve around the Olympics, I think many athletes can get caught up in the four-year cycle of the Olympics and have too much athletic spirit. For me, cross-country skiing is a way of life, and it doesn’t happen every 4 years. We have an amazing World Cup tour, and every weekend we run with all our might on behalf of the United States. So yes, the Olympics are very important, but as a skier there is still a lot of work to be done, and I will continue to enjoy this lifestyle as long as it is fun.
Can you share your favorite places for cross-country and cross-country skiing?
A. In the United States, I love skiing in Vermont. VT has many small local ski resorts with beautiful old-school winding trails. Not far from Stratton there is a place called Wild Wings, which is a classic system of ski slopes. All the trails are very narrow and gentle, so it’s nice to hit the road with friends and walk through the woods. Prospect Mountain, located outside Of Bennington, VT, is the ski resort I grew up in, and it’s also one of my favorites when I’m in the US. When it comes to Europe, it is hard to beat the bright sun and mountains of skiing in Switzerland or Italy around the Alps. We spend a lot of time training and running in Davos, Switzerland, and it’s amazing. Finland, Norway and Sweden certainly have some of the biggest ski resorts, as cross-country skiing is part of their culture. Skiing around Oslo is amazing as there are many pistes connecting all the cities. Holmenkollen Ski Stadium is located near Oslo and is the birthplace of skiing with some of the steepest and most challenging pistes.