Ski and Snowboard Club Vail peppers the podium at YSL championships
SSCV claimed 16 podiums and had 44 top-10 finishes at the Rocky Mountain Division YSL championships last month
It’s the time of year where Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Alpine ENL programs and age-class prep head coach Anje Worrell can relish in the progress made by her U8, U10 and U12 athletes. It could be summarized as follows: from snowplow to super speedy.
“At the beginning of the year, we have kids still snowplowing, still in power wedges,” she articulated.
“The growth that we see from November to now — they’re literally different skiers and different kids.”
The youngest of the SSCV pipeline peppered the podium at the Rocky Mountain Division Youth Ski League championships at Eldora Mountain Resort on March 25-26. Worrell’s squad claimed 16 podiums and had 44 top-10 finishes. The girls took the overall team award and the boys came in third. When asked about any individual standouts, Worrell had a hard time pinpointing one.
“There’s so many of them,” she said. “We have a lot of depth, and they all improved and did so well.”
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One particularly impressive performance came from U8 athlete Sophie Swanson. In a field of 134 U8, U10 and U12 athletes, Swanson posted the top overall slalom time on March 26.
“It was a complete surprise,” Worrell said of the bubbly skier’s performance. “The whole day she was just smiling and had no idea she just won the whole race.”
Swanson was one of those who started the year making turns with her skis in the pizza position.
“Just seeing that kind of progress — that’s why I keep doing this every year,” Worrell continued. “Her, being the youngest kid, to beat all the U10 and U12s. You just never know with these kids what their potential is.”
Swanson led three SSCV athletes into the top 10, with Francina Jordaan and Margaret Owens tying for seventh overall. Jordaan was the top U10 finisher in the event. In the girls giant slalom, Swanson and Katherine Perkins went 1-2 in the U8 field and Elizabeth Perkins was second overall in the U10, followed by Jordaan in fifth and Tegan Costello in eighth. Phoebe Murchison and Greta Borgen swept the top two spots of the U14 races and Katherine McAbee and Rose Smith did the same in the U16 races.
In the boys slalom on March 25, U10 athlete Joseph Halovanic finished second overall out of 102 starters (and also second out of all U10 athletes). Aiden LaMotta finished seventh overall (fourth in U10) and Forrest Cannava and Callum Murchison were just out of the top 10 in 11th and 12th, respectively. Murchison finished third in the U8 field with his performance.
In the slalom, Dustin Ward finished fourth in U8, Patrick Coyne was second in the U10 field and Marshall Laney was 10th in the U12. Ward also finished third overall in the YSL season standings. “Which was really impressive for him,” noted Worrell.
On April 1, the athletes and their parents celebrated the season with a parent-athlete dual event at Vail Mountain. After getting their kids to practices every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from November to April, the parents left impressed with the improvement, too.
“Some are kind of bummed because they can’t keep up with them anymore,” Worrell laughed.
“That’s the cool thing about this age. They make changes so quickly and you start to see them figure it out. There is a lot we’re throwing at them.”
When the year starts, Worrell focuses her attention on skill work; she said there’s a lot of free skiing in those early-winter sessions.
“My belief is that kids have to be good skiers first to be able to become good racers,” she said. In January, the group starts to progress into gated environments, using obstacle courses and other similar setups to challenge athletes’ balance and basic skiing fundamentals. When the YSL races begin in February, they increase the gate-training and get on longer courses.
Many of the athletes will progress to SSCV’s full-time program after a season or two in the grassroots level. Some athletes will also join the U14 or U16 part-time team, which also competed at Eldora.
“That’s what’s so awesome about our club right now is that we have that pathway for those kids,” Worrell added of athletes not sure if a 5-6-day-a-week full-time commitment is right for them. “It’s an integral part of keeping those kids involved in our sport.”
Though the slew of podiums and top-10 finishes is a nice reward, Worrell said it’s the smiles on the kids’ faces, enthusiastic to hear the day’s agenda at practice — and the improvements which follow — that keep her coming back.
“I have this goal for myself that I want to keep seeing these kids continue to improve. It’s so much fun to see that much progress, and I look forward to this end of the season and I know we’re going to get to that point because that’s just what we continue to do,” she said.
“It’s working, and I’m proud of that and I’m proud of our staff. We have such an amazing coaching staff and we couldn’t do it without them. They’re so committed to these kids.”