All together now: Synchro team wins again
Beaver Creek team collects fourth World Championships titleBy Ian CroppDaily Sports WriterBEAVER CREEK – There’s the Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s, the New York Yankees of 1950’s and the Beaver Creek Synchronized ski team the last five years. The Beaver Creek team has solidified itself as a dynasty by winning four of the last five Aspen World Synchro Championships. Last month, the Beaver Creek team pulled off a sweep at the Aspen competition, winning all of its runs en route to defending its title.In a sport that blends creativity, teamwork and skill, staying on top is constantly challenging. But for these guys, it may not be the hardest part.
“There’s always pressure at the beginning of the season to make the team,” said Fredrik Gustafsson, who was on the team, but couldn’t compete last month because of a knee injury. “And you put a bit of pressure on yourself while skiing. You don’t want to be the one who makes the mistake. You need to ski your run perfectly.”From the very start of the Aspen competition, the Beaver Creek team skied with composure and impressed the judges. After the first three passes, all of the teams were given their scores and Beaver Creek stood in first – having won all three passes. For the final run, the teams ran in reverse order, and Beaver Creek won the run, and the overall.”For some reason, Beaver Creek has always been into synchronized demo skiing,” said A.J. Jones, one of the team members. “It feels good to keep it going.”Vail’s team took fourth in Aspen.On to SwitzerlandAfter their win in Aspen, the Beaver Creek team headed to a synchronized competition in Leuker Bad, Switzerland called the Swiss Snow Happening.
In the two-day 52-team event, the boys from the Beav’ were in 13th after the first day, and moved on along to the second with 17 other teams. On the second day, with their scores wiped clean, the Beaver Creek team sat in sixth after a compulsory run. On their final run, which ran in reverse order, they moved into first, until the final four teams – all Swiss – placed ahead of them. Although the winning squad stood out, the second through fifth teams had very little separation.”We had high scores of day on second pass,” said Beaver Creek’s Chris Scherpf. “I think we were closer than the rest of the teams.” The atmosphere in Switzerland was quite different than that in Aspen.”There were a lot of people watching,” Scherpf said. “They respect ski instructors a lot over there.”Gustafsson, who began synchronized skiing in his native Sweden in 1994, was glad to be on the only American ski resort team in Switzerland.”We’re putting Beaver Creek on the map for Europe,” he said.
Early to riseTryouts for the team came a little later than normal this year, and they started practicing in early February. Along with Jones, Gustafsson and Scherpf, the other members include Rob Mahan, Tobias Forsberg, Evan Gilhome, Jamien Hawkins, David Ayers and Jason Curnow. Three days a week, the team would meet and ride the lift up at 7 a.m., do a warmup run, then practice formations and other technique. After some breakfast, they would head up again and ski until 8:45.”It’s all about the passion for the sport for us to do this,” said Hawkins.The guys take time to hang out off the hill, too. “It’s not just practicing – it’s more team spirit that we have. We are very close to each other,” Gustafsson said. A devoted and skilled group of guys certainly helps the team, but the sport also requires ingenuity in the choreography.
“Give our coach credit,” Jones said of Todd James, who heads up the squad. “He draws up the demos.”At the Aspen competition, the team did a compulsory pass of a ski-school formation (which is five short turns, two long turns, five short, two long and then six short).For the other three, the team used formations James designed.”The judges are looking for formation changes,” Scherpf said. “You have to stay in synch with who you are following. Our two captains Dave Ayers and Rob Mahan set the pace and rhythm.”A little helpWhen ski lessons ended in early April, the team still had its work cut out.
“It takes a toll at the end of the season, but it’s a pretty big reward,” Hawkins said.”Everyone wants to work hard to do well and represent Beaver Creek,” Jones said.One reason the Beaver Creek team has been so successful is the support it gets from the resort and the ski school, Hawkins said.”The main factor is the support from the ski school – they do a lot to help us out. And so do our sponsors. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do,” Hawkins said.Jones said that many of their clients and their clients’ companies cover their travel expenses, while ski companies provide them with bindings, skis and other equipment.This summer, some of the members will be working at other ski resorts, and next year, the team will try to expand its legacy in Aspen.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.