Avon’s Florian Szwebel starts in first World Cup
Avon resident Florian Szwebel finished the 2016-17 season ranked seventh, fifth among Americans, in the North America Cup, a level below World Cup.
His season was impressive, notching a few top-10 finishes including a sixth-place finish in the downhill — third among juniors — in February in a race that doubled as a national championship downhill for Americans.
“I’ve had some good results this season, but I’m poised to make a little bit bigger move, I think,” Szwebel said at that time.
On Thursday, Dec. 28, he made that bigger move, starting in his first ever World Cup competition on the Stelvio downhill course in Bormio, Italy.
Szwebel started 60th and finished in 55th position.
“Made it down, took some time off and I had fun, so it was a good day,” Szwebel said following the race.
‘THE BOOT SKIER’
Szwebel is a Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete who is a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s C Team. Szwebel — along with teammate River Radamus, who also made his first World Cup start this season — made the U.S. Ski Team’s development squad during the 2015-16 season through the team’s new National Performance Series pipeline, where athletes from around the country get together in head-to-head competitions.
Szwebel is fondly remembered locally as “The Boot Skier” for a Bode Miller-esque recovery he put on display at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek when he was forerunning the men’s slalom race on the final day of competition.
Attacking the gate
Szwebel was attacking the course and hit a gate hard, losing both skis but maintaining his balance and skiing down the track on his boots alone.
Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud gave Szwebel a shout out via Twitter right after it happened.
“That forerunner,” Jansrud wrote to his 42,500 followers. “Give him/her a special medal. That was unbelievable!”
Szwebel, now 21, was a senior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy at the time he became known as The Boot Skier. The incident quickly received millions of views and put Szwebel’s athleticism on display in front of a international audience, but a memorable part for locals watching the clip was the heavy snowfall Beaver Creek was receiving at the time. It showed something local ski racers take pride in, an ability to stay poised in dumping snow.
Szwebel said in his first World Cup race on Thursday, tricky conditions were again in play. The resort reported 16 inches of fresh snow on Thursday morning.
“I didn’t think we were going to out of the top start this morning, there was just a ton of snow,” Szwebel said. “But the surface held up really well and all the chop that was there, I expected.”