.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Ontario Ski Team does the Hiihtotunneli
By:  Alana Thomas   (2009/10/29)


Each year the Ontario Ski Team makes a point of doing a training camp that will somehow allow the athletes to get on snow. Typically we have gone to the Haig Glacier in Alberta (you may have seen last year's report "A Short Photoessay of Time Spent on the Haig Glacier") and once ventured to Alaska to ski on the Eagle glacier. This year it wasconcluded that North America was SO last summer and so the team decided to head overseas to a place called the Vuokatti Sport Institute, in Finland.

The Vuokatti Sport institute is essentially set up as a summer camp for big kids (athletes) and families. There is something for any kind of sport enthusiast to have fun doing! Our main attraction was the 1.2km ski tunnel but there was also a network of beautiful trails to run (ski in the winter), rollerski paths, a weight room, a gymnasium, hockey and curling arena, lake with canoes, soccer feild, tennis courts and other such wonders. The dining hall is nothing short of spectacular and I don't think I could ever get sick of eating all the wonderful fish, reindeer and fresh rye bread they offer!

Vuokatti is organized intoa few settlements of townhouse style Finnish chalets and apartment style accommodations where one can stay based around a lake full of cold water! We stayed in the row of chalets below, right on the water. Our days mainly consisted of a short morning run, breakfast, ski, lunch, nap, afternoon workout of some sort, dinner, sauna, lake jump, bed.

Much to my delight and relief, the tunnel was much wider and brighter than I had expected. It was comfortable to ski two across skating and I didn't even get the feeling that the walls were closing in on me (which I had feared, being claustrophobic at times). The snow was in great condition and we skied mainly on hard waxes. There I am with OST Coach Kateri Mills, on skis in August!

Working on the ever elusive classic technique.

The tunnel attracts many skiers from around the world each year. It was a relatively quiet week in the tunnel for us but we did see some of the Finnish National team training the first few days of our camp. I also had fun making conversation with a Japanese University team that was there at the same time. (Maybe Carleton will go next year....?) Below is a signing board just at the entrance to the tunnel where teams and skiers can maker their mark.

Scoping out and reporting on Europe's rollerski tracks seems to be all the rage with XC Ottawa this year so here is my token picture of one. In the background you can see a huge pile of sawdust which supposedly has snow hiding under it to make tracks for the early season.

Below: Hardwood buddy Nic Monette and I rockin' the track one afternoon. It was nice to get out and try to maintain some semblance of a tan between tunnel workout!

The team also enjoyed a few good strength workout in the weight room. Aside from all the regular gym equipment and weights there was a stash of hurdles and other agility things we had a bit too much fun setting up and playing with. I find it easy to get carried away in the gym and was rather stiff after max strength workouts followed by a few jumping rounds!

Below: My Japanese friends who laughed at me for taking their picture. They just LOVE to one-skate!

Below is a picture of the dock in from of our chalets which we would run and jump off after a nice long bake in the sauna. The cold water made for a refreshing contrast and good recovery for our skiing muscles!

After 6 years on the Ontario team and many, many trips I can officially announce that this was the best one ever. Vuokatti is a place I would love to go back to as an athlete, coach or justa tourist looking fora fun adventure.

Interesting Reading. . .
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