Asphalt to snow: how to manage the change

November has come and with it the much-awaited transition all biathletes dream of since summer: storing the roller skis away and finally sliding onto snow. After long months of hard work on the asphalt, the first trainings on snow are not only exciting, but very important in the rundown to the new season. Jonne Kahkonen (FIN), coach of the Italian women team, explained some of the key aspects of this transition just as his team is enjoying wintry conditions in Sjusjoen, Norway.

Switching from dry land to the snow requires for sure some work on the technique and the economy of skiing”, he said: “A lot of times, natural snow is quite a bit slower than using the roller skis, so typically it is tougher on the muscle level”.

The slower surface is not only more taxing on the body, but coaches must help the athletes manage it mentally too: “This usually translates into higher heart rates and slower skiing, so it is important that the athletes monitor the proper levels of the heart rates in training and at the same time, for us coaches, it is important to include a stimulus to ski faster on selected sessions, so that the skiing doesn’t become just ‘taking the skis out for a walk’.”

At the same time, the season is not yet here, and biathletes are still building up their form ahead of the upcoming winter. For this reason, the choice of the venue for the first trainings on skis must take into account more than “just” the presence of snow.

We are close to the start of the season, so there will be a lot of work on the technique both on the track and at the shooting range.

The venue for the snow camp, ideally, would have a good stadium for biathlon specific sessions, also including a longer, a bit more gradual (not quite so hilly) loop for the afternoon/easy, long sessions. A lot of times in the early season this is a challenge, because often we don’t have the natural snow yet. Also, we typically continue to do gym strength sessions as well, so a basic fitness center or gym should be within an easy distance”.

Not to mention the logistics of the travel.

From Italy to the north, it is already a good one-day travel, so the venue should be easily accessible once landed. In some years, we also need to plan on how to move the service (vehicles, gear, etc.) efficiently and economically after the camp to the first World Cup or IBU Cup venues”.

That said, the first snow camp is a moment of happiness. The return on the “natural element” feels like Christmas for biathletes and Kahkonen also shares the same excitement.

The mood in the team is calm, yet you can feel the anticipation of getting on snow and for the season to start. The camp on snow for me is important: we are close to the start of the season, so there will be a lot of work on the technique, both on the track and at the shooting range to get the athletes to feel comfortable and confident on what they have practiced over the summer”.

Also, this is now the first camp since September that we are all together, the women and the men’s teams, both the athletes and the staff including our wax techs. I think this will be great for us, bringing the big family together again!

Not only training, but the Italians will also join a number of other teams, including Germany and homebased Norway for two days of competitions this weekend in Sjusjoen. The competitions will be livestreamed in Norway on NRK. At the same time, the Swedish season opening will take place in Idre – we will keep you updated with the results.

Photos: Authamayou/NordicFocus, Manzoni/IBU

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