Wednesday, July 6, 2022 Jul 6, 2022
84° F Dallas, TX

Olympic Team Skis White Rock

By Sally Giddens |

Yup. You missed it. Genuine Olympic athletes, members of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team, were in Dallas this summer and fall. Nope, they weren’t out at Red Bird Mall at some ski shop opening-they were here to train for this ski season.

If it strikes you as peculiar that the U.S. Nordic Ski Team would train in Dallas, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. A few answers to the obvious questions: no. you don’t need snow to train for cross-country skiing. No, you don’t need mountains, either. Dallas’s low altitude is actually an advantage-in the physiological testing of athletes, the nearer to sea level, the truer the results.

Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen, the team’s physiologist and a staff physician at the University of Texas Health Science Center, hasn’t exactly advertised the fact that some of the best cross-country skiers in the country have been around these parts off and on tor the last couple of years. Bui just pick up an issue of Cross Country Skier or SKI X-C magazines, turn to any story on sport physiology, and you’ll see Stray-Gundersen of Dallas quoted again and again.

Stray-Gundersen operates a testing lab in the St. Paul Medical Center. There he tests these world-class cross-country skiers for overall strength and then measures their cardiopulmonary and neuromuscular abilities. He also gets the skiers out to White Rock Lake for field tests. The skiers skate the running path around the lake using Roller-blades (like roller skates with a sin* gle row of wheels down the center) or roller skis and poles with special steel tips that bite into asphalt.

In the lab or out in the held, Stray-Gunderscn is using some serious technical know-how- most of it developed in the United Slates, His lab in Dallas, equipped with a treadmill long enough and wide enough to accommodate a skier using roller skis, a cyclist, or a wheelchair athlete, is one of the best ol’ such exercise research facilities in the world. The treadmill can be tilted to simulate uphill or downhill terrain, While the skier is doing his or her best to keep up with the moving belt, Stray-Gundersen is measuring aerobic capacity with a contraption that looks like a combination of R2D2 and an oxygen mask. He has computer tests to measure reaction time, blood tests to measure lactate levels, and other techie stuff.

The growing popularity in the United States of cross-country skiing as a recreational sport may help to increase the numbers of competitive skiers, Stray-Gundersen says. Ski areas such as Aspen/Snowmass are spending big bucks on extensive crosscountry trail systems (called ’Aspen’s Fifth Mountain”) that are free to the public. The aerobic dance boom has also contributed to the popularity of cross-country skiing as aerobics enthusiasts discover what Stray-Gundersen calls “the best cardiovascular or aerobic workout.”

“With cross-country skiing, you get the thrills of downhill skiing without the risk,” says Stray-Gundersen. himself a cross-country skier, because skiers can enjoy the majestic mountain scenery or the snowy-woods while moving at a slower speed. And when you can’t go to Snowmass, West Yellowstone, or Lake Louise, you can hit the pavement in Dallas with Roller-blades. Stray-Gundersen recommends the trail around White Rock Lake or any fresh blacktop in a low-traffic area like Highland Park.