What: Alpine Training Center
Where: 1840 Commerce St., Boulder
More info: www.thealpine
W hen professional skier and guide Donny Roth couldn't pay for training at the Alpine Training Center after a few months working out there, he told founder Connie Sciolino that he wouldn't be coming to the gym anymore.
Sciolino refused, saying that Roth needed the conditioning for upcoming months of guiding -- situations where other's lives depended on his ski fitness. She let him come, free of charge, until he was back on his feet.
"For the entire spring, my life was incredibly uncertain, but I knew that three days a week, without fail, there was a place where I could go in the right direction," Roth said.
Sciolino doesn't make a habit of letting athletes train for free, and Roth pays her now, but when his clients' lives depended on it, there was no way Sciolino could turn him away, she said.
"The reality is these guys need to be as strong, if not stronger than a regular athlete because they do it every day, they have a huge responsibility if anything goes wrong," Sciolino said. "He's got to be able to get someone out of the backcountry if he needs to."
Sciolino opened the Alpine Training Center three years ago after moving to Boulder with her husband and young daughter, Lee, from Jackson, Wyo.
Since then, her athlete-client base has grown from six to around 70. Sciolino doesn't advertise much; she likes the slow growth of her business by word-of-mouth so that she has time to get to know each new person. Roth also helps Sciolino by bringing new, quality athletes on a regular basis.
The group dynamic is important. Sciolino doesn't like to play drill sergeant, so it's up to athletes in each workout group to motivate, push and encourage each other.
Sciolino has designed sport-specific workouts for skiing, cycling and climbing, as well as a base-fitness workout for general strength and conditioning. She has a master's degree in exercise science from Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia -- which led her to move to Jackson, Wyo., where she delved deep into running, climbing and skiing.
One icy Thursday morning in January, three climbers ran back and forth between stationary bikes and kettlebell swings, while David Guetta's "Sexy Bitch" blared through the gym.
After the workout, Sciolino asked each of the athletes a string of questions, mostly about their upcoming climbs or trips. One by one, they hugged Sciolino and told her "thanks" for kicking their butts.
Sciolino then ran to turn up the heat in her east Boulder warehouse, which has no mirrors, no juice bars and "no frills," as Sciolino likes to say. She wore a puffy red coat inside the gym while her athletes continued to sweat through their T-shirts and shorts.
Boulder's Rebecca Yarmuth said the hugs that Sciolino doled out that day are rare. More than likely, it was the athletes who hugged their leader for helping them get stronger.
"She's not a touchy-feely person in terms of making everyone feel like they're going to come in there and get a massage," Yarmuth said, laughing. "Part of what makes Connie a really powerful coach is that she's really created a community and a group of athletes who want to work really hard by supporting them, not coddling them."
Yarmuth has been training at the ATC for the last two years after the birth of her twins left her feeling "not particularly strong or fit."
She gives herself over to Sciolino two to three times a week for an hour each day. It's Yarmuth's "me" time away from the responsibilities of home.
"There's no gimmicks," Yarmuth said. "It's not trendy, it's not fashionable, it's not how cute your workout clothes are. It's really about the drive that each individual person brings to the gym. There are people who lift the lowest amount of weight, but because they try the hardest they're the heroes of the gym."
According to her clients, Sciolino is herself one of the heroes of the gym. Last summer, a group of athletes pooled their money to surprise her with a weeklong vacation to Disney World.
The gift was a "thank you" to Sciolino for the hours she put into crafting her workouts, which 34-year-old Ira Lewis, of Boulder, said has made him a stronger climber and skier.
"Year over year, going to Ouray for ice climbing, my strength is so much better having done her ice climbing workout in October and November," he said. "You're doing all the hard work during the week and then you go play in the mountains. You're not struggling in the mountains."
Sciolino said she's a fan of pre- and post-tests because they show athletes real results from their time in the gym. But what really tells Sciolino she's designing effective programs are the stories she hears from her athletes when they return to Boulder from a long weekend or expedition.
"I like to see their strength gains and work capacity gains, but that's not as important as when they come back and say 'I can climb harder now. I can run faster now, or I've never done this before and now I can,'" she said. "Those are the real measures for me that count."
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.