With the alpine ski season coming up, area high school teams are utilizing The Alpine Factory (TAF) as one source to help them compete, especially during the pandemic.
The Arden Hills training facility that opened in 2016 offers ski and snowboard activities year-around, including instruction and training, summer day camps, and group race training sessions from October to just before the competition season, which typically begins in November.
The facility includes indoor revolving infinite slopes — the skiing version of a running treadmill —where the skier can adjust the speed and angle of the slope depending on the level.
The Alpine Factory has a professional certified staff of instructors and coaches, many of them with alpine race experience. “We train alpine ski racers, typically slalom/giant slalom competitors,” said Jessica Parcheta, co-owner with her husband, Dan Parcheta. “We can handle all ability levels. Whether it’s your first time ever on skis or a snowboard, we’ll teach you the basics, and our slopes adjust to challenge even the most advanced performers.”
TAF serves high-school alpine teams around the metro area — including White Bear Lake, Mahtomedi, Centennial, Mounds View, Forest Lake and Stillwater — providing equipment, training and team events.
White Bear Lake’s teams attended a dry-land session at Alpine Factory last year.
“It was a fun night for our athletes, a great team-bonding experience,” assessed coach Fred Feirn. “I think it’s a great workout for skiing, as it simulates the dynamics of making a turn on snow. Although you can’t replicate the steep edge angles needed for race turns that real snow skiing allows, it gets close enough to simulate a turn shape.”
Feirn said it’s valuable for coaches “because you can watch the athlete from several view points and talk to them as they are making turns. It’s like watching a runner on a treadmill.” A few Bear racers train there individually during the summer. “It’s a great facility for action sport athletes who need high level specific skill training,” Feirn said.
Centennial coach Zac Beddow said the Cougars don’t do any formal training with The Alpine Factory but they’ve gone there occasionally in the summer for “some fun, optional off-season training,” and he highly recommends their off-season services. “It is a great way to fine-tune your skills, even in the Minnesota summers,” he said.
The Mounds View alpine team has used TAF in recent years for pre-season training.
“Their controlled environment and infinite ski slopes make it a great place to learn, fine tune, and enjoy the sport, all year round,” said Erik Saari, Mustang coach. “We found the Alpine Factory's equipment to be in good condition and their well-qualified instructors made it easy for my skiers of all abilities to participate and develop faster.”
While Mounds View doesn’t use TAF on a regular basis, Saari said he recommends them for any recreational skiers or for in-depth training.
The 2019-20 alpine season was over before the pandemic changed everything, but it looms over the coming winter sports season. The Alpine Factory is ready to help teams prepare if they get to compete. Meanwhile the virus is changing how they operate.
“There are more hygiene/safety protocols,” said Parcheta, “and we are more limited in running group events. With larger teams, we are splitting them into smaller squads so that we can be socially distanced within the 5,000-square-foot center.”
State and CDC guidelines are closely monitored, she said, to keep customers and staff safe.
“We are limiting capacity so we can abide by social distancing guidelines,” she said. They operate by appointment “so we can assure that there’s space on the slope when you want to come in.”
For more information on indoor skiing, see thealpinefactory.com.