Ski & Snowboard Club Vail moguls skiers headed for World Cup in Ruka
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s mogul skiers head to Ruka, Finland, this week for the first World Cup of the season. And in an uncommon combination of circumstances, their coach from the club will get to join them in the starting gate along with the U.S. Ski Team coach.
Ski Club Vail coach Riley Campbell has been working with U.S. Ski Team athletes Morgan Schild, Tess Johnson and Emerson Smith for years. They just wrapped up a training session at the Gold Peak Competition Arena, and now the group is headed to Europe to begin the World Cup season. Ordinarily, when a club athlete heads to a World Cup event, the club coach is not able to gain access to the venue, as the U.S. Team already has a coach there and the total number of coaches is limited.
Riley Campbell, however, is an unusual case. He doubles as the team coach for the Bermuda Ski Team, which will have an athlete — Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Matt Leseur — competing at the World Cup this year. That means Campbell will have a chance to be there for all of his athletes, not just Leseur.
“There’s five of us on the U.S. Team who are kind of based out of Vail, and I think we all agree it’s nice having Riley there,” Johnson said. “Just to go back to him as a home base, whether it’s for technical advice or tactical advice, he knows us the best.”
STRONG SUPPORT SYSTEMS
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail moguls program director John Dowling said the end goal of the collaboration is, simply, to product the best results possible for American moguls skiers during this Olympic year.
“We’re trying to add a level of support for athletes, but also figure out how Ski Club Vail can work better with the U.S. Team,” he said. “And other clubs too, hopefully we’ll just form a closer, more unified U.S. program.”
Clubs from across the country have produced strong moguls skiers over the years, and in recent years those athletes have been getting younger and younger. Johnson, who is now 17, is starting her third year on the U.S. Team. Dowling said younger athletes will have better chances of thriving when they have stronger support systems, and that’s where local ski clubs can help.
“There are strong programs all across the nation, and they’ve got these great relationships with athletes,” Dowling said. “They know those athletes so well, to help them transition and be successful on the U.S. Team, and even once they’re on the team, if programs are collaborating and working together, then everyone is involved and it’s not an us versus them situation.”
Dowling first noticed Campbell had the potential to be successful in coaching years ago, when Campbell was one of Dowling’s athletes in Breckenridge, before he came to Vail.
“We understood each other implicitly,” Dowling said. “He was a really slight build, and often competing against bigger guys, but his technical prowess was what allowed him to be competitive. It was all on his technical understanding and ability.”
Now a coach at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and also the Bermudian national freestyle coach, Campbell said he’ll be able to continue to gain access to all World Cup venues — and possibly the Olympics, should it come to that — for all of his athletes.
“It’s an in that we have, a technicality, that allows me to be able to be there,” Campbell said. “But once I’m there, I’ll be able to support everyone to whatever degree we see fit.”
The run-up to the Olympics will be competitive for several of Campbell’s athletes. Schild looks all but guaranteed to have a spot, as she has recent World Cup podiums on her resume, including a win in February in Deer Valley, Utah.
For the rest of the field, the World Cup circuit will serve as the Olympic qualifiers.
Johnson is expecting to make starts at every World Cup event this season. She notched a pair of top-10 finishes earlier this year and is hopeful for her chances moving into 2018.
“(Johnson) is about as strong, pound for pound, as you’ll find,” Dowling said.
Johnson’s best results on the World Cup last season came at the “home” events, in Lake Placid, New York, and Deer Valley. Through his Bermuda connection, Campbell was there in Deer Valley with Johnson for her ninth-place finish.
“I’ve been working with (Campbell) since I was 12 years old,” Johnson said. “I ski the best working with him.”
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.