More kids moving over to Tele skiing
EAST VAIL – When almost a third of your school is participating in a sport, it’s hard to ignore.The Vail Mountain Telemark team, in its fourth year, boasted a squad of 30 in high school of just under 100. On numbers alone, the school gets noticed, but then they head to competitions and stick out a little more.Last year, the team took 10 to the U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Telemark Championships in Crested Butte. This time around, seven went, and four ended up in the top five at last month’s competition.”Overall the results were great – we’re really proud of the kids,” said coach Mike Ioli.Sophomore Rob Wear took second in the junior men’s division thanks to a difficult line choice on challenging terrain.”I told myself I had to make it all the way down,” Wear said. “It was really rocky and icy. It’s pretty intense. It’s definitely the toughest inbounds (terrain) I’ve skied.”Kjell Ellefson, also a sophomore, was fifth in the junior men’s, while Cole Graskamp took 12th.On the girls’ side, Molly Etters took third, while Lucy Sackbauer was fourth.
“We were psyched this year, and hopefully a lot of those kids are returning next year,” Ioli said. “I think they’re going to own it next year.”Only three years ago, the team was an elective club formed by seniors.”The following year there was a lot more interest, and we went to a couple competitions,” Ioli said. “The third year, we went to more competitions, had close to 20 kids and bought (team) jackets.”Now, the team is split into three separate squads, based on skill level and has three different coaches. And next year the team will only get bigger, as nearly all are underclassman and there are more than 20 kids in the middle school program.”Our kids are riding this wave,” Ioli said.The waveMost of the kids on the team have come over from other disciplines, like alpine skiing or snowboarding. Wear and Ellefson made transitions from alpine skiing their freshman year and jumped right into Telemarking.
“The alpine background helped a lot,” said Wear, who took sixth last year in Crested Butte.While the Crested Butte competition was a big-mountain event – where contestants were judged based on a line they chose and then how the performed on the run – members of the team also competed in slopestyle and halfpipe events.Ellefson, who landed two sponsorships last year, enjoys riding the park, which takes a little more precision on Telemark skis. “It’s almost the same as alpine – you can’t pop off you toes, and when you are landing switch you need to lean back,” Ellefson.Recently, Ellefson competed at the Spring Massive in Breckenridge and was one of only two Telemark skiers. In the slopestyle, Ellefson pulled a 360 and a 540, then proved his ability to land switch in the pipe with a few 540’s.More than a sportOne of the biggest appeals for the kids on the team is that they practice frequently.
“We get to ski everyday,” Ellefson said. And practice, is, well, fun.”We mostly just ski and every once in a while, we go into the park or do moguls,” Wear said.”Most of them have been bitten by the bug, and that’s all they do now,” Ioli said.While it is sport, Ellefson sees the team as an extension of the opportunities afforded to him at Vail Mountain.”Our school teaches us skills we can use for having a job … but also about the outdoors and how lucky we are to be surrounded in our environment,” he said.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.