Ski and Snowboard Club Vail hosts Colorado Ski Cup Spring Series at Golden Peak
Four day tech event featured many of the country's top club and NCAA athletes
Birds of Prey came and went, Shiffrin got 87 (and 88…and a real goat), and the World Cup globes have been handed out — but until the last racer came streaking down Golden Peak at last Saturday’s Colorado Ski Cup spring series event at Golden Peak, ski season wasn’t quite over.
From April 12-15, several of the country’s top club and NCAA programs took part in a pair of giant slaloms and slaloms at a high-level FIS competition hosted by Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.
“It’s a great diverse population of athletes here — there’s a lot of laughing and smiling and that’s what we like to see,” Bryan Rooney, SSCV Chief Operating Officer, said at the finish area of Saturday’s annual season-ending finale.
“Historically, we hosted this race series for a number of years. Took a break, and now after a few-year hiatus, we’re back hosting this tech series.”
Tianna Bruce’s second run of day two of giant slaloms — the fastest in the field — was a highlight for the group of 17 SSCV ladies competing, according to women’s FIS coach John Kemp.
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“(The spring series) is typically a good scoring opportunity so you try to take advantage of that,” he said. “We did do that on the first GS day.” The group was hoping for a little more on the other days, though.
“Overall, given the conditions and it’s the end of the season — yeah, we’re tired and it’s been a long season,” Kemp summarized. “It’s time to take a little break, but we get right back to work and right back to it.”
“Conditions were tough,” added fellow women’s FIS coach Ryan Wilson.
With mercury teasing almost 60 degrees over the first two days, followed by fresh snow and cold temperature before the final event, organizers were forced to move courses lower on the hill. Rooney said it was “equal parts patience, hard work and grit by our staff,” to pull everything off amidst spring’s full weather gamut.
“Everyone really pitched in to work through those warm temps and now here today, it’s almost midwinter conditions again. We had a lot of help from race crews from Vail and Beaver Creek. That with the SSCV staff has really made this happen.”
Bruce produced a 10th-place finish in the second GS competition and was 11th in the slalom on the final day. Kyleena Lathram was one spot behind her SSCV teammate in that race, one of her two top-15 slalom finishes on the weekend.
“They went pretty well; it’s kind of sad because it’s everyone’s last race,” she said of her weekend.
“I tried my hardest; it was kind of scrappy because of the soft snow, but it was good. It was fun.”
Lathram, 17, a senior at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, lost all vision in her left eye in August. She still doesn’t know the cause and raced through the mountain bike season despite the setback.
“Mountain biking is a little easier because of the dirt and the shadows; I see light and that’s it,” she said, adding that she hopes to club mountain bike race on the side at whatever New England-area college she decides to attend for ski racing next fall. “So skiing — it’s like I’m skiing on a flat piece of paper — I have no depth perception. It’s kind of crazy.”
Kemp said it took Lathram a while to get on snow. “Then slowly in the middle of the winter, she got back into it,” he said of the athlete, whose season also included a slalom win in Winter Park on Feb. 4 and two second-place giant slalom finishes at Breckenridge Feb. 25-26. “She seemed to rebound and things started to get better.”
“I got on snow, and once I got in gates, just kind of took off from there,” Lathram explained of her comeback. “I’m taking every day and just kind of being grateful and trying to improve.”
She said her goal coming into the final race — in addition to lowering her FIS points and sending off the graduating athletes with a bang — was simplifying her skiing.
“So just with the pole plant — I’m going back to the basics, so that was my goal for both runs,” she said. “I forgot about it a few times but I think overall there was a pretty good shelf to push against where I ran, so the snow was pretty solid.”
Hunter Roach and Hunter Salani led 15 SSCV boys into competition. Roach placed 14th in Saturday’s slalom and Salani took 17th.
“It was not how I hoped,” Salani said, noting that he had two DNFs in addition to a 21st place in the GS.
“But it was really fun being out here and the weather was awesome. Great group of people and it was fun being on the home mountain for the last race of the year.”
“Hunter’s an unbelievable skier across all four disciplines,” said Alpine director Brad Wall. Salani competed in both speed events at the Junior World Championships back in January and was third, fifth, sixth and 12th, respectively, in the junior national super-G, downhill, slalom and giant slalom. He said that while he doesn’t remember putting formal goals to pen and paper back in the fall, he thinks he exceeded whatever expectation he might have had for his 2022-23 campaign.
“Which is great,” he said, adding that he feels his slalom has improved the most this season. Still, at the moment, he hasn’t pinpointed a specialty event.
“I think once I get to a high level, I’d like to do more tech, but my speed events have been really good this year and that’s where a lot of my success came,” he said. “But I’m super excited, hopefully to do all four and improve. And in the next year or two, start to excel at one and start to lean into that one in my future.”
As far as the immediate future goes, Wall said Salani, a 2005 year of birth athlete, has met the criteria for the U.S. D-Team for the 2004 age group, based largely on his exceptional speed results.
“We’re confident he will be named to the team, but you never know what they’ll do,” Wall said.
Top notch competition
FIS sets limitations on how low the penalty— the result calculation based on a field’s caliber — can be in each category (World Cup, Europa Cup, national championships and FIS races) — and Wall noted that last weekend’s spring series mens field — which included athletes from the University of Utah, Colorado, the University of Denver, Montana State, and a few U.S. Ski Team members — achieved the minimum penalty on three of the four days. It provided a great opportunity for SSCV athletes to achieve their goals of lowering their FIS points and improving their world rankings.
“That will determine where you start at the next race you go to,” Wall explained.
“Some decent results, but I think some of them were hoping for a little bit more,” he continued.
“I think it’s been good for some of the first-year FIS guys like Stewie — all those guys are just battling back from the back — that’s just how it goes. He had a couple of good GS days and that was good to see.”
Stewie Bruce finished 22nd and 28th in two giant slalom events, respectively. Carson Hume’s 19th in the second GS (third for U18 athletes) was another notable result.
“We also had some epic retirement runs in full costume (and 1980s straight skis) from Mason Renick, Kai Ogawa, Spencer Peterson and Miles Rucker,” noted Ian Lochhead, head FIS men’s coach. “And we’d like to congratulate them on great careers with SSCV.”
“It’s really good to be out here with all these guys,” Salani said of the field as a whole. “Especially since the colleges have all the different nationalities — Swiss, Austrians — it’s cool to be out here with them and compete with them and it has been all season,” he said.
“These guys really know how to go for it, even in conditions that might not be the best. I think sometimes I kind of try to back away from it. They know how to send it — super aggressive — and I think I need to start doing that more.”
Don’t worry, skiing still isn’t done
“We’re looking to move onto our next endeavors with the spring training camps and keep these athletes progressing towards their dreams,” Rooney said when asked about what comes next. Though the race season has wrapped up, the pursuit of Alpine skiing improvement doesn’t stop.
“Overall the whole year’s been good, across the board,” Kemp said.
“We’ll take a little time off and then we’re back to skiing; it never ends.”
SSCV athletes will be back at Vail Mountain for a spring camp starting at the beginning of May and will head over to Copper, where on-snow training is slated well into June.
“We spend the time getting this great surface down in the fall and being able to utilize it, with the help of Vail Resorts and Vail Mountain and their approval, is just crucial for our athletes,” Rooney said.
“It allows them to stay close to home; so the opportunities within this proximity of where we are is really unheard of. We have such great resources here.”
Full results for all four days can be found at fis-ski.com.