We asked U.S. Ski Team Member and Keely’s Camp Coach, Katie Hensien about her early season skiing and mindset, and what advice she would give her 13 yr old self… Check out her pro tips!
U.S. Team athlete, Katie Hensien, was one of the original Keely’s Campers back in 2011 and she is now one of the all-star coaches who returns to our Mt. Hood race camp each summer.
Katie started her first World Cup, Killington in 2017 at the age of 16. This past season Katie won her first NCAA D1 Race, her first NorAm Race, and earned a Silver Medal at the 2019 World Junior Alpine Championships in Val Di Fassa, Switzerland.
Katie also attends the University of Denver, where she is a member of the DU Ski Team.
Keely’s Camp: What do you like to physically focus on when getting back on snow at the start of the ski season?
Katie Hensien: If you are like me, you probably have a big smile on your face. You should be excited and anxious to get back on snow. I like to focus on remembering the feeling of skiing. I just want to remember what it feels like to make a good clean turn.
KC: Do you spend time freeskiing outside of gates during the early season?
Katie: Yes, freeskiing is so important. During my first camp back, I always try to do 3-4 freeski runs before jumping into the gates. This helps me remember to practice the fundamentals. I focus from the ground up. Thinking about what my knees and ankles are doing. Focusing on where my body is – am I stacked up over my outside ski? Where am I pressuring during the turn? I also try to end those first sessions a bit early so I can go do a couple runs out of the course afterwards. Freeskiing at the end of the day lets me take a step back and slow things down. I use the end of day runs to reflect on how the training day went and think about things I need to work on.
KC: When you get back on snow, do you approach your time in gates the same or differently than when you’re further into your ski season?
Katie: A lot of people like to say that you should “train like you race”. I agree with that. But, for me, in the early season, I don’t do that. During the early season, for me, it’s not about being fast. It is about dialing in my technique and getting used to my new equipment setup. I ask a lot of questions in the early season and over communicate with my coaches about how I am feeling.
KC: How about on the mental side? Is there anything you try to keep in mind during this time?
Katie: The best advice I could give is – Don’t over think it and remember to have fun. My first camp back this year, I let myself get frustrated because I was having a bad day. My coach saw that I was over thinking it and that I was frustrated. She rode up the chair with me and helped me realize that I was right where I was supposed to be. She helped me get back to focusing on the fun of skiing and what I needed to be working on for the rest of the day. She helped me change my mindset to be positive and productive.
KC: What sport(s) do you use to cross train?
Katie: In the summer, I’m an avid mountain biker and try to get out on the trails at least twice a week! Mountain biking is great cross training for skiing because it requires the same visual techniques and endurance. Knowing where to go and when to push. During my off-season training, my weeks vary in how much endurance training I do. My rides will vary from 2.5hrs to 30min depending on if it’s a hard week or a light week. Or I will switch biking out with a trail run, but I’m constantly doing at least 3 endurance workouts a week. Also, I love paddle boarding. It a great balance workout, if you get the chance you should go and enjoy the water.
KC: What is your best tip for athletes who are approaching early season training?
Katie: As someone who is approaching their early season training, I would recommend asking yourself what do I want to accomplish at this first camp? What do you want to focus on and work on? Take some time to review your end of season or summer training video. Before I went to my first camp in Argentina, I took time to write down some goals I could share with my coaches so that we could all be aligned with what I wanted to accomplish for that first camp.
KC: And what advise would you give your 13 year old self?
Katie: Thirteen was an important year for me. I remember questioning whether or not I wanted to continue and do this skiing thing. I would encourage myself to keep at it. That all the hard work will be worth it. Put in the extra time to make sure your skis are tuned and set up properly. I also would remind her to have fun. At thirteen I really took everything seriously. Knowing now what the process looks like, there is a time to have fun and a time to focus.
You are probably confused, I was too. There is a lot going on at thirteen. Friends, peer pressure, social stuff. I would encourage her to stay focused, keep things simple and have fun. Don’t get caught up in the drama. Keep reminding yourself about your goals for the season. Reflecting on it now, I don’t regret doing that – staying out of the drama and focusing on my goals. It’s what made me progress and be successful in this sport.