Frisco native Riley Campbell appointed U.S. Ski Team moguls coach
After seven years on the other side of the Gore Range with Ski Club Vail, Frisco local Riley Campbell will play a crucial role in the immediate future of the U.S. Ski Team’s moguls program.
In time for next season, the 30-year-old Campbell, who was born and raised in Frisco, will join U.S. Ski Team moguls head coach Matt Gnoza as a World Cup coach along with fellow assistant Joe Disco. Effectively, the trio are the three mogul skiing coaches for the United States’ best men’s and women’s mogul skiers.
Resigning from his post as Ski Club Vail’s moguls coach, Campbell said a large part of his coaching role moving forward will be to build and maintain relationships between regional teams, such as Ski Club Vail or Team Summit, and the U.S. national team.
“That’s something that in past years, perhaps, has necessitated some improvement,” Campbell said. “And Matt (Gnoza) has made it a priority to build strong relationships and work with regional teams to help athletes transitioning from the regional to the national team. Because, largely, in the past, that transition process was difficult because there was kind of an iron curtain between the national and regional teams.”
Campbell, who grew up competing in moguls for Team Summit under Ski Club Vail’s current moguls program director John Dowling, has coached under Dowling for many years in Vail and for Team Breckenridge. Since they’ve worked together at Ski Club Vail, Campbell said the club has placed eight skiers on the U.S. team in that time, including four Ski Club Vail athletes — two men and two women — on the Olympic team last year in South Korea.
“At the end of this past year, 50% of the U.S. team was from Vail,” Campbell said. “So I think that had a huge part in my getting hired.”
Thanks to his time with Ski Club Vail, Campbell is no stranger to World Cup- and Olympic-level competition. Campbell traveled to Pyeongchang last year to help coach Colorado native and Vail skier Casey Andringa at the Olympics. Campbell said he’s also worked in the past as a private coach for U.S. Olympic mogul skier Morgan Schild.
“Already, in many ways, I was working in the hospice of the U.S. team as a Vail coach,” Campbell said.
Campbell has found a life competing and coaching in mogul skiing after he, as he put it, was “born into a skier family” here in Summit, as both his parents were avid skiers. After his mother taught him how to ski when he was a young child, Campbell joined the Team Summit racing program at the age of 8. But Campbell remembers at an early age that, though he definitely loved skiing, he wasn’t connecting with racing. His Team Summit coaches at the time began noticing Campbell would take roundabout routes back to the top of the ski race course, such as through mogul runs. Campbell said that led him to give moguls a try, particularly once he met some new friends at Summit Middle School.
“Mogul skiing drew me in. I just really responded to the culture that exists there,” Campbell said. “… Just the whole thing, the whole culture ensnared me, almost. And that was kind of that. I don’t remember all of it at once. And I think with moguls skiing, it’s a fun sport to do as a kid, because you are training moguls, training on jumps, training on trampoline — it’s very dimensional. That’s something I responded to, as well, because I love jumping on the trampoline, water ramping and all of these different things that all go into being a competitive mogul skier.”
Campbell competed in moguls from the age of 10 to 19, one of the state’s best before a knee injury ended his competitive career. It was a year after he suffered the injury when his old childhood Team Summit moguls coach Dowling reached out asking if he’d like to try coaching under him at Team Breckenridge. Campbell did that for three years before he joined Dowling when he departed for Vail.
“I think one thing that makes him such a great coach is he’s constantly in a state of learning,” Campbell said about his mentor. “A lot of times, when you talk about somebody super technical like him, you’re talking about somebody who is set in their ways, that they’ve got a philosophy that is kind of hard line. But Dowling is constantly watching the sport and making these observations that kind of give him as a coach, myself as a coach, Ski Club Vail an edge. Constantly reimagining his philosophies, and I think that’s something that made him such a strong head coach, and it’s something I’ve definitely taken away from working with him.”
Campbell said that element of setting an edge for an athlete as well as helping them through the inherent fear in moguls skiing are two of the more important parts of being a good moguls coach. He’s hopeful his extensive past experience with many of Team USA’s highest-level moguls skiers will help him to do that consistently and well in his new role.
That said, Campbell also said the intricacies and strategies specific to competition will dictate his success as a Team USA coach. For example, Campbell said that in recent years World Cup and Olympic moguls judges have responded to the progression in the sport by asking for more refined and exact execution of ground-breaking, big tricks, such as a cork 720.
“When I was competing, or even five or six years back, a cork 7(20) was kind of like a blurry trick where, as long as you throw it and land it and have a good cross and it’s big, that’s fine. Then they started using something called the pie chart, where they really start to track the shape of the trick, make sure it’s on a flat axis. And it caused us to reprogram several of our athletes’ corks so that they were scoring properly.”
Speaking of those athletes, Campbell said that although mogul skiing is often thought of in four-year, Olympic cycles, his focus is on improving results for next World Cup season. In general, that means a goal of podium placements at World Cup events for some of the country’s top skiers. But stronger results aren’t out of Campbell’s grandest hopes for what he can help do with the team.
“Last year, we had the No. 1 ladies team,” Campbell said. “So, how to get the No. 1 men’s team? Maybe we can get one of our top girls, Jaelin Kauf, maybe she can take the Crystal Globe? Maybe one of the new athletes can snag rookie of the year? There are a bunch of different benchmarks.”
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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.