Top Nordic skiers compete at Minturn races
Special to the Daily
MINTURN — Locals rang their cowbells again this weekend as Nordic skiers slid through the finish line at Minturn’s Maloit Park on Saturday and Sunday. It was the first time the National Rankings List Nordic races took place in the Vail Valley. The event was originally scheduled at another park, but it didn’t have enough snow. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail offered to host.
“To be able to help out winter races that would have been canceled otherwise is like, really good to be able to do,” said Eric Pepper, a coach at SSCV.
Skiers had the chance to compete and improve their individual points profile on the National Rankings List of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. The rankings give racers a chance to see their individual standings compared to other athletes nationwide. Individual racers hailed from Nordic teams across Colorado, including Vail, Crested Butte, Durango, Boulder, the University of Colorado and the University of Denver.
This race was particularly special because it featured Nordic skiers from all levels, ranging from beginners to world-class athletes.
“That doesn’t happen in other sports,” said Brandon Dyksterhouse, athletic director of SSCV,
For many of the older athletes, it was a chance to come home. Christian Shanley, of Edwards, returned to race in order to prepare for the upcoming Nordic collegiate season with the University of Denver. Shanley placed eighth in Saturday’s MSR league.
“Its really nice to get on snow and be able to get some really hard sessions in,” Shanley said. “And so, I mean, that’s why you see there’s some CU guys here, New Mexico’s here, some other professional athletes like Tad Elliott. They’re all here, just getting time in on snow before we head to some bigger races.”
The race course in Minturn is notable for its technical terrain, with short, steep hills and faster downhill slopes. Saturday and Sunday each brought different terrain challenges, with icy trails on Saturday for the skating race and powder on Sunday for the classic race.
“Compared to yesterday, it was pretty polar opposite,” said Madi Schriefer, a Nordic skier with SSCV.
The racetrack was well prepared thanks to the monumental effort of the staff at the SSCV to groom and set the course in time.
The parents of skiers from SSCV joined the effort to shovel the snow onto the course and record finish times. Other fans stood along the sidelines, migrating to different phases of the course before the racers disappeared off into the trees.
“The people who route for it are good fans because they all know how much suffering and pain it is,” said Ron Constien, a parent from Edwards. “And they’re all really supportive of everybody.”
Nordic is Life
Nordic skiers with SSCV train 11 months out of the year. The club is one of the valley’s oldest nonprofits, with 600 winter sport members and many full-time athletes from fifth through 12th grade who train half-days in the winter and cross-train in the summer. Cross-training exercises may include roller-skiing, jogs from East Vail to Frisco and climbs up 14ers.
It is not surprising that many athletes qualify for Junior Nationals each year, matriculating to collegiate and professional teams. The SSCV offers academic support through its partnerships with The Ski and Snowboard Academy and the Vail Mountain School.
Hannah Hardenbergh, of Edwards, finished first in her class of Nordic U20 racers on Saturday, and she is taking a post-graduate year to train before competing at Harvard.
Some other Nordic skiers even return to the Club after their careers to help coach.
Sylvan Ellefson of Edwards, the director of Future Stars, a Nordic program in Eagle for youth ages 6-10, began his Nordic career at SSCV before racing in college and then professionally for the past five years.
“This is the first race I’ve been to I guess technically as a coach,” Ellefson said “Yeah, so it’s fun to see.”
Next weekend, several Nordic ski racers with SSCV will be competing at Winter Park in hopes of qualifying for Junior Nationals. Given their track record, they are well on their way.