On teles, Gore Rangers can (and do) go everywhere
Vail, CO Colorado
EAST VAIL ” Anywhere you can ski, they can ski.
And chances are they’ll be able to keep right up, if not show you up.
The Vail Mountain School’s Telemark team is ubiquitous ” they’re hucking cliffs, in the pipe, in the backcountry and, yes, even in the gates.
“We’re keeping the palate diverse,” Vail Mountain Telemark Team coach Mike Ioli said. “We’ll ski any terrain out there. We’re doing everything an alpine skier does and more.”
Since Ioli started the team five years ago ” and kids were just figuring out what telemark skis were ” the team has grown exponentially.
“First, we went to one competition, then we had team jackets, and now we have 29 kids, three teams based on ability, and we’re skiing every day,” Ioli said. “In some ways, it’s indicative of what’s happening at resorts and with the youth market. We’re riding that wave.”
The Gore Rangers’ wave crested in late March at the 11th U.S. Extreme Telemark Championships in Crested Butte. Vail Mountain saw skier Kjell Ellefson bring home the junior division title. Rob Wear was third among the junior men, and Riley Ebel was third for the junior women.
“For the last few years, we’ve had someone on the podium, but this is the first time we’ve had a few in the top three,” Ioli said.
“It was one of the biggest competitions for telemark skiers in the nation,” said Molly Etters, who was seventh among senior women. “It was a lot of fun to see how you compared to the older women.”
The Gore Rangers brought 10 skiers to the Crested Butte event, which was the team’s final event of the season. Earlier this winter, the telemark skiers joined their alpine counterparts at Ski Cooper for a giant slalom competition ” the first time telemark skiers have been allowed to race under the Colorado High School Activities Association rules.
“We did what we considered well,” Wear said. “But I don’t think we beat too many alpiners.”
While he may not be able to ski the gates faster than most alpiners, Ellefson has proved his worth airing it out in the park. In one event at the Copper Series, Ellefson took third.
“I was the only (tele skier),” he said. “Most people think people telemark because they like to tour and go in backcountry. It’s becoming nowadays that people telemark ski for a living.”
Ellefson, one of the top skiers on the Vail Mountain team, is sponsored and has been in videos. Etters learned to ride in the park on her tele skis and is now sponsored for alpine freeskiing.
“We go in the park (on teles) and show some alpiners up,” Etters said.
Even though the Gore Rangers don’t have competitions every weekend like most other teams, they are as dedicated as any other high school sport ” along with on-mountain time, they have dryland training, as well.
“People like to ski every day,” Wear said. “All of us like to go out there. That’s pretty much what it is, along with a few competitions.”
Over spring break, Ioli took five skiers to Italy, where they participated in a weeklong festival, in which Ellefson and Etters won. Next year, Ioli hopes to bring some skiers to the World Telemark Freeskiing Championships.
Recently, Colorado Rocky Mountain School added a telemark team, and there are more younger skiers taking interest in the competitive side of the sport.
“It’s starting to get more recognized,” Etters said. “It’s fun to be a part of the early growth of this.”
Whether it’s in the park, at nationals or just on a groomer, the Gore Rangers are proud to just be out there, doing what they do.
“I think people don’t realize what tele skiers can do,” Ellefson said. “I know a lot of people, when they see our team on they hill, they are really impressed with what kids our age can do on tele skis.”
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