Vail Daily column: SSCV Nordic team looks to new season | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: SSCV Nordic team looks to new season

It has been an exciting first 10 years for the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic team, with an expansion of the team and ever increasing success.

A few years back, SSCV was celebrating its Nordic team being named the 2013 United States Ski & Snowboard Association Cross Country Club of the Year. Recognized for our national team members, World Cup competitors, Olympian, national champion and multiple NCAA athletes, the Nordic program joined Alpine and Freeskiing as Best in Class among the nation’s 400 clubs.

Although some may have rested on these extraordinary achievements, SSCV’s first and to-date only Nordic program Director Dan Weiland focused the program on developing the next generation of champions from the ground up.

Bringing Them Up ‘The Right Way’

In August 2014, Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, the public school created by Eagle County Schools to support SSCV’s snow sport athletes, welcomed its first group of fifth and sixth grade full-time Nordic athletes, the youngest group of full-time Nordic athletes in our history. Dan created a customized, age appropriate on- and off-snow training program for them in a sport where athletes typically peak around age 25. That same month, the Minturn Fitness Center opened, providing U14 and above full-time Nordic athletes a state-of-the-art strength training and conditioning facility and human performance laboratory.

In November 2014, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Sylvan Ellefson, retired World Cup competitor and 2013 U.S. national champion, was named SSCV Nordic Future Stars head coach. This entry level one- to two-day a week after school program for 6-11 year-olds grew to an all-time high of 42 athletes that season.

Last season’s participation and competition results for U12-U20 athletes (ages 10-19) were at an all-time high.

• Three U16 athletes nominated to a U.S. Regional Elite Group and Western Regional Elite Group

• Ten athletes qualifying for Junior Nationals, producing SSCV’s first Junior National champion, seven individual podiums and 11 All-American Awards

• SSCV won the Colorado Cup (based on overall Junior National Qualifier Series results for U8-U20 athletes), with a record 52 SSCV athletes competing in the final JNQ.

SSCV’s philosophy – bringing a focus to the youngest of athletes to bring them up “the right way” in the sport – is clearly paying off. For 2015-2016, Dan will continue working with SSCV’s competitive Nordic athletes in the U12 and U14 Prep and Junior Prep Programs. A veteran staff will lead our youngest athletes in the Nordic Future Star Program under Head Coach Sylvan Ellefson, Kevin Hochtl (both former World Cup athletes), Karl Hochtl and Sarah Hochtl. Through this pipeline, Dan inherits Future Stars who have learned from masters of the sport, and passes on U16 and older athletes to seasoned SSCV Head Nordic Coach Eric Pepper, a nationally recognized sport leader. Evan Elliot, new to SSCV, is a development coach for U16 and older development level athletes recently drawn to the sport.

Senior Nordic Athletes Continue to Thrive

Six SSCV Nordic alumni competed as NCAA athletes last season and three more matriculated in 2015 to continue their skiing careers as NCAA athletes. Noah Hoffman, after recovering from an early season injury requiring surgery, competed on the World Cup circuit as a U.S. Cross Country Team B Team member last season and was again nominated to the national team for 2015-2016.

An Exemplary Off-Season

SSCV Nordic full-time athletes of all ages are no strangers to off-season training, including running, hiking, roller skiing along with strength training and conditioning, averaging five days per week in summer and fall. Outstanding on this front are SSCV full-time Nordic athletes Sharon Seabury and Inge Vandenberg.

Relatively new to the SSCV Nordic Program, Sharon Seabury took her commitment to the next level, enrolling this year as a full-time athlete and Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy eighth grader. Over the course of two months, giving it her all at every dryland session, Sharon took three minutes off her running time in a 15-minute race, posting the fifth fastest time ever recorded by an SSCV female Nordic athlete.

Inge Vandenberg, a freshman at VSSA, has been with the full-time program attending VSSA for several years. Like Sharon, Inge was at every dryland training session all summer and fall, realizing great gains in the off-season. A strong student, Inge is training well above her previous bests, catching up to the top five at Junior Nationals.

It will be exciting to see how Sharon’s and Inge’s grit and determination during their off-season translate into on-snow performance.

Nordic Athlete Wins SSCV October C3 Award

The October C3 (Character, Courage and Commitment) Athlete Award Winner, Lizzy Harding, recently traded in her alpine race equipment for Nordic gear. Lizzy made the courageous decision to switch disciplines, committing to a new sport as a Nordic athlete. Her coaches are looking forward to a season of great strides and personal bests for this VSSA ninth grader.

Upcoming Season

Highlights for the upcoming season include SSCV junior athletes competing in the final JNQ of the season at Maloit Park on Feb. 20-21 with the goal of qualifying for the Junior National Championships in Telemark, Wisconsin this March. SSCV hosts the NCAA Western Regional Championships the following week-end allowing U16 and older athletes to compete alongside SSCV alumni and other collegiate athletes as they qualify for the NCAA Championships

Complimentary Nordic Days

The SSCV Nordic Program continues to expand ways to provide the best possible opportunities “For the Kids” in a snowsport with universal accessibility. Three complimentary sessions are available for kids to experience Nordic skiing and learn from the passionate and committed SSCV Nordic Coaching staff. Please contact Sharon Schmidt sschmidt@skiclubvail.org or 970-790-5161 for more information or to enroll.

Aldo Radamus is the executive director of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. For more information, go to http://www.skiclubvail.org, email sschmidt@skiclubvail.org or call 970-790-5161.