Snowboard cross national teams train at Ski Cooper before World Championships
SKI COOPER — The world’s fastest snowboard cross racers have been training in Eagle County en route to the World Championships.
With a high-level practice opportunity available at nearby Ski Cooper, the last couple of weeks have brought racers from Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic and Canada to the small resort, which straddles the border of Eagle County and Lake County on U.S. Highway 24.
The training camp wrapped up on Friday and was hosted by the International Snowboard Training Center (ISTC), a Summit County-based club which specializes in snowboard cross.
In watching ISTC founder Ross Hindman prepare the course for the camp, Ski Cooper General Manager Dan Torsell said it was the most dedicated effort to snowboard cross he had ever witnessed.
“He’s the hardest working guy I think I’ve ever met in my life,” Torsell said of Hindman.
Preparing the course required countless hours in design, shoveling snow and shaping features.
“It’s a blue run and it’s shut down for two months,” Hindman said. “Not many resorts would do that.”
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Torsell said Ski Cooper enjoys snowboard cross as a sport, and what it brings to the resort. Snowboard cross, unlike most disciplines of snowboarding, is not a judged competition.
“It doesn’t as get much TV footage in the U.S. as halfpipe or slopestyle, but the fact is it’s easier to understand for the common person,” Hindman said. “You have a start, and you have a finish line, and you race to it.”
The sport is popular in Europe, which is where many of the most competitive teams will hail from when the Snowboarding World Championships hit Solitude, Utah, starting Friday.
“I think it’s going to take grass-roots efforts like this to get it going in the U.S.,” Torsell said. “That’s why when we saw what Ross was doing, we just asked how can we be a part of it.”
Torsell said all the international competitors visiting Ski Cooper over the last few weeks has brought a fun vibe to the resort.
“There’s a big curiosity factor — ‘what’s going on here, everybody’s speaking a different language,’” Torsell said.
Speaking English, Lucas Eguibar, of Spain, said he has really been enjoying his first-ever visit to Ski Cooper.
“I’m so happy to be here,” Eguibar said on Wednesday. “It’s a very good place. The course is very good for training.”
Eguibar is a former World Cup overall winner in snowboard cross and also won a silver medal at the last World Championships, which were in Spain in 2017. He was practicing starts and turns last week at Ski Cooper.
“We trained like six days here,” Eguibar said. “It was important to train on the turns, because World Championships will have some nice turns.”
Locals Senna Leith, of Vail, and Megan Tierney, of Eagle, were also training with the ISTC at Ski Cooper last week. Leith was the top finishing American at the first World Cup of the season in December and Tierney, who competed in the Olympics in 2018, said she is hungry for a strong finish at the World Championships.
“The course that ISTC built I think is perfect to get ready for World Championships,” she said.
Leith said while he is not sure if he will get to compete at World Championships, he will definitely be traveling to Solitude and expects to get to forerun the course.
Leith said in snowboard cross, training is different than racing, so the layout of the Ski Cooper course was ideal for practicing many starts in a short time period.
“There’s some really fast, technical movements that are hard to dial in, so you’ve got to put a lot of energy and focus into them,” Leith said from Ski Cooper. “The repetition gives you that much more time to get your muscles used to them and really progress your riding. It’s an amazing set up we have up here.”
Leith was one of many athletes who put in long hours readying the course.
“There’s no free rides out here, Ross puts us to work,” Leith said. “He was in the cat for 15 hours a day for a week getting this thing built, and every athlete on the ISTC was out here for seven hours a day shoveling snow.”
Leith said the effort rewarding, to say the least.
“You put in those hours and you get a nice place to train on, so it’s worth it,” he said.