2020 brings new era of snowboard racing to Vail
VAIL — Coach Phil Reynolds’ daily commute just got a lot shorter.
Now in his second year with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Reynolds has been able to increase on-snow time for local student athletes by brining the practice grounds back home to Vail.
But it wasn’t easy; the club had to raise about $15,000 first, before they could even think about setting up at home. The community pitched in, setting up a crowd funding page, and the club is now ready to offer a four-lane, full training opportunity at Golden Peak.
The difference maker was the purchase of a Settele-brand start gate, the industry standard in ski and snowboard cross racing.
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Like motocross, ski and snowboard cross racers take to the track simultaneously, usually in groups of four or six. Getting the hole shot, or first position out of the start gate, can be crucial.
“With our sport, the hole shot is always the goal,” Reynolds said. “If you can get a good start, and practice your starts, you can get the hole shot. So now that we’re in Golden Peak, we’re able to set up different training scenarios — the gate is very versatile.”
‘So much more convenient’
In years past, the team had been traveling as far as Crested Butte to seek out training opportunities. Even at the closer training ground of Ski Cooper, it was still a challenge.
“Our (Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy) students have to be back in school around 1 p.m.,” Reynolds said. “So if we’re in Breckenridge or Ski Cooper, we’re leaving at around 11 a.m. so that we can allow time to travel safely and be back in Minturn. Now we can leave at noon or later, there’s a bus that leaves Golden Peak at 12:30 p.m. for all the VSSA athletes, so we can go much longer.”
Student-athlete Connor Schlegel, who is a senior at VSSA, says practicing at Golden Peak has been a refreshing change.
“We used to set some gates and do a little bit of training at Golden Peak, but now it really feels like we have a home here,” Schlegel said. “It’s so much more convenient.”
The new location is also quite visible from Chair 6, which Reynolds expects will help garner interest in snowboard cross. Expecting some inquiries among snowboarders who have never tried racing, he’s working to set up some training camps later this year.
“We’re going to offer kids and younger people who are a little newer to the sport some general racing tactics and things that may help them,” Reynolds said. “We’re really excited to roll that out.”
Reynolds got his start at the Perisher race club in Australia and has brought a few Aussies to Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
Schlegel, who lives in Edwards with his grandparents, said the talent that has come this way from down under has helped his riding tremendously.
“It was really nice to be able to chase some people and get better as a team,” Schlegel said.
Schlegel qualified for the Youth Olympic Games, an extremely coveted event for athletes under 18 years of age, and will now have a new teammate to join him at the Games as Amber Essex has just joined Ski & Snowboard Club Vail from Australia. Essex will compete on the Australian team.
With the Australian connection comes some reciprocity, as well. Schlegel trained in Australia this summer, saying the offseason, on-snow time kept him race ready for the start of this season.
“The Australian athletes are always looking for that Northern Hemisphere training opportunity, and we’re excited to be able to host them,” Reynolds said.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.