On July 26, 2023

ELITEAM’s grit is on display at the annual Sandpit Dual Slalom

 

By Polly Mikula

“We just finished 100 more burpees,” Doug Lewis said, when he answered the phone. “We’re at 1,000 for the camp with just 250 more to go.”

That’s the essence of the Elite Team (ELITEAM) he runs for two weeks every summer based at the Killington Mountain School. “Yeah, above and beyond is everything we do,” he continued. “We do 200 burpees a day. It’s hilarious, when we tell them the first day that we’re doing 1,200 burpees this week, they’re like, ‘No!’ But now they’re like, ‘let’s just do 70 right now! Let’s just do it!’ It’s funny how they change their attitude once they experience that grit.”

Athletes ages 11-14 are eligible for the ELITEAM, which admits 48 for each week of the camp in July. 

“It’s a big crew,” Lewis said.

Part of the draw is Lewis himself. Born and raised in Middlebury, Vermont, he was a World Cup alpine ski racer with the U.S. Ski Team in the mid-1980s and a two-time Olympian in 1984 and 1988. He is also a 1991 graduate of the University of Vermont.

But despite the Vermont roots, Lewis, now lives in Utah. “I miss Vermont and really enjoy coming back here,” he said. 

Killington is now among the places in Vermont he frequents most, with two weeks for ELITEAM and another week or so when he comes back to broadcast the FIS Women’s World Cup. 

This summer, the first session of ELITEAM was held last week July 16-21; the second is this week, July 23-28. 

In addition to the 48 teammates each session, there are four counselors and 12 coaches. 

“Counselors are Elite Teamers who’ve aged out, they’re 16-17 years old, they still love the team, and they live the elite team values of pushing limits… we handpick them as counselors. They’re great for the kids because they can just ask them what it’s like; they’ve been through it all.”

Of the 96 kids enrolled this summer, there are 45 different clubs represented, Lewis said. Killington might have the most with eight, but there’s certainly a wide representation from across the country. “They’re coming from Quebec, Canada, California, really we pull from all over,” Lewis said.

Registration opens Feb. 1 and both weeks are sold out within a couple of weeks. Those on the waitlist, however, should not be discouraged as plans change and many folks do often get in. “There is definitely some movement on the waiting list. You know, someone will get hurt or different plans or something,” Lewis said.

The prestigious camp has earned its reputation for excellent and can claim some of the worlds top athletes as alumni. 

“Right now we have seven people on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team, including Mikaela Shiffrin who attended the Elite team as well as a mogul skier, a freestyler skier and a cross-country Olympian. It’s amazing what our athletes end up doing. Yeah, we’re pretty proud,” Lewis said.

Sandpit Slalom

The sand pit slalom championship is a 32-year-old tradition and the most prestigious title of the camp.

“This year we were worried about the flooding, but our staff went up there and the flooding actually helped a little bit in parts but then the sand was gone in other parts … overall, it was one of the best sandpit years ever,” Lewis said of the first week’s championship, held Wednesday, July 19.

The event is held at Craig Mosher’s sand pit, who generously donates the venue. 

It took the fastest racer just 19 seconds to complete the 13 gate course  — and it’s set “old style”  with bamboo gates, “they hurt so you don’t want to hit them,” Lewis explained.

The Sand Pit Slalom Championship is treated similar to most races: there’s an inspection where racers memorize the course “they see where the sand is good, they see where it’s tighter,” Lewis said. Then there are two training runs, followed by two race runs, which are timed. And everything is head-to-head/side-by-side in the dual Slalom format.

“It’s just timed at that point, but because it’s a dual it adds to the stress and the excitement and the intensity,” said Lewis.

“By the end they’re toast,” he said, adding, “You know, they’ve gotta go up every time, climbing up the sand, which is exhausting!”

The top four boys and top four girls have the honor of participating in the final. 

“The cheering is loud and it’s just crazy and it’s really fun,” Lewis said.

“This is one of the things that it the kids look forward to most in Elite Camp, it’s what they talk about year after year. Everybody knows who wins,” he said.

But it’s also bittersweet for the 14-year-olds. You know, they’re bigger, stronger, faster, because they’re older, but this is their last year to get top four in the Sandpit Slalom. So it’s bittersweet.”

When asked what type of athlete the elite team tend to attract, Lewis answered: “Because of my name and our history, it’s probably 75% pure Alpiners. But we also have two runners who are going to Eugene, Oregon to compete at Nationals next week,” he added. “We have a lot of lacrosse and soccer players, too— lacrosse is big. And you know everyone at this age plays three sports anyway … and that’s a big thing that I’m pushing for the parents to teach them, too, at this age. Mountain biking is gonna help their skiing, which is gonna help their soccer which is gonna help their lacrosse — we also dance. In fact, I counted up 23 different activities we do over the six days just to push the fact that you should be doing everything at this age. I tell parents., “You know, specializing may work and they’ll win at 15 or 16, but usually those athletes are not on the first page of the results sheet by the time they’re 23.’”

“The whole philosophy of ELITEAM is sports physiology, sports, psychology and nutrition,” 

Lewis explained. Using the sandpit slalom by way of example, he said, “We tie the sports psychology part in: They’re visualizing, they’re inspecting. They’re doing their breathing at the start. Physically, you know, what are we working on is power, its strength, and a little bit of capacity because you’re running it seven times. Then nutrition-wise, you know, it’s where’s your water bottle? What kind of what kind of snacks do we have to keep our energy up? So we tie that into every activity, but it really fits with the sandpit slalom.”

History of the ELITEAM

Elite Camp started at GMVS and since then it’s been held at Burke, Park City and now has its home at KMS. 

“I just ended up at KMS and they’ve been a great partner for the last three years. So this is our home now,” said Lewis. “Since Covid, it’s just KMS. And I do one day clinic elsewhere.”

But the 32-year-old camp has stayed true to its original purpose. 

“In 1991, I partnered with my USST teammate and buddy, Kraig Sourbeer. Together we created ELITEAM, a fitness camp for young athletes. After spending so many years on the US Ski Team, we wanted to give back to the next generation of racers and make it a point to pass on our knowledge of world class ski racing and athletics,” Lewis explained on eliteam.com.

A few years later, Lewis and his wife Kelley took over the company, and the mission has remained the same: to inspire and educate young athletes.

“Our focus is building ‘complete athletes’ by teaching the concepts of sports physiology, sports psychology and sports nutrition. In a nutshell, ELITEAM is all about learning, pushing limits and having fun! Over the years we have expanded to offer camps, clinics, training programs and performance journals for young ski racers. To this day, it remains my passion and one of my greatest achievements. There is no better feeling that to help an athlete find their inner strength and confidence,” Lewis wrote.

Lewis inspires by way of example

Anyone who’s met Doug Lewis, has seen his infectiousmile and witnessed his exuberant passion for sport. His charisma is hard to miss, too. 

Personal highlights Lewis calls out on eliteam.com, include:

Being the first ever American to jump the Val Gardena camel bumps, clearing over 200 feet.

Holding the “World Record” for longest jump in NYC on a 60 foot ski jump built under the Twin Towers in Battery Park.

 Gap-jumping a John Deere tractor on Bragg Hill Rd in the Mad River Valley (local reference!)

Skiing the 1992, 1994, and 2002 Olympic Downhill courses with a video camera strapped to my back for TV.

Skiing through the glades in Killington, VT shooting an Uzi at another stunt-skier for the movie, “Icebreakers”.

Appearing in four Warren Miller Films.

Winning the first ever Spartan Death Race in 2007.

Completing two 100-Mile Ultra trail running races, and now training for number three in 2020.

In short, he lives ELITEAM, and has for nearly all 59 years of his life — he seems to be going stronger than ever! 

For more information visit: eliteam.com.

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