Vail big mountain ski team finishes successful season
8 athletes make finals at North American junior championships
International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes, 2018-19 season
12-14 Male Snowboard:
Finn Eisenman, fourth
12-14 Ski Male:
Sam Heller, third
Finn Griffith, 19th
12-14 Ski Female:
Molly Reeder, third
Jenna Meyers, seventh
Caroline Ungar, 10th
15-18 Male Ski:
Reagan Wallis, 17th
Tait Hargreaves, 42nd
With big mountain being a relative niche discipline in skiing and snowboarding, it’s rare to see a club as well represented as Ski & Snowboard Club Vail was at this year’s IFSA North American Junior Freeride Championships.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail took eight athletes to this year’s championships, which wrapped up on April 13 at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in British Columbia.
In his six years coaching, Justin Holder with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has never seen a club take all of its qualified athletes through to the final round, but this year all eight of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s competitors made finals.
“It’s hard to do just because it’s such a competitive event,” Holder said. “The top 10 percent or better of the best kids in the country, or North America, for freeskiing.”
‘PICK YOUR LINE’
Following the championships, the IFSA announced their overall series leaders, with several Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes making the top five, including Finn Eisenman (fourth, 12-14 male snowboard), Sam Heller (third, 12-14 ski male) and Molly Reeder (third, 12-14 ski female).
Reeder’s mother, Lisa Reeder, said her daughter enjoys the sport of big mountain for its creativity, as competitors can choose any route they want down a challenging piece of terrain.
“It’s fun, you’re given a big face and you gotta pick your line,” Reeder said. “She got to travel to some really cool mountains, culminating with Kicking Horse.”
Reeder said she could see her daughter benefiting from the coaching at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail as the season progressed.
“They do a great job of coaching each kid a little differently based on what their needs are,” Reeder said. “You can’t coach everybody the same — everybody functions differently, and not only need different things, but react differently to different types of coaching — and they did a terrific job with that.”
SPORT AND SCHOOL
Holder said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s willingness to invest in coaching is paying off in results.
“We’ve been really lucky to have consistent, full-time or three-quarter time help,” Holder said. “It’s been really exciting to work with local coach Matt Luczkow now for a couple of years, we’ve started to develop a strategy to supplement each other’s coaching strengths.”
Luczkow, who grew up in Vail, said while it’s not known as a big mountain skiing area, Vail Mountain has provided an excellent training ground for the athletes.
“You have lots of resources here which, if you know the mountain, you can make the most of,” Luczkow said. “We don’t have sustained steeps, but we have pretty much have everything else, we have a lot of cliffs and technical terrain and lots of different options, lots of vertical and good snow.”
Freeskier Reagan Wallis, 17, moved to Vail when he was 11, in pursuit of all the club’s Alpine program had to offer.
“He’d be going into the park in his race suit; he just started loving park and pipe so much that he wanted to switch,” said Reagan’s mother, Cynthia Wallis. “And then last year he said to me ‘Mom, is it OK with you if I compete in big mountain next year?’”
Reagan Wallis also competes in ski halfpipe, where he finished fourth at the junior world championships this year in Switzerland. He’s a junior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy; the school’s flexible schedule for snowsports competitors allows athletes to balance the rigors of sport and school.
For most skiers and snowboarders, however, that means one discipline of competition. Balancing halfpipe, big mountain and school hasn’t been easy, but Reagan Wallis loves it, his mother said.
In the extremely competitive boys 15 to 18 age division of the IFSA, Reagan Wallis ended the season ranked 17th after making finals at the championships in Kicking Horse on April 12.
“The last couple years, with all the travel, being able to attend VSSA has helped tremendously,” Cynthia Wallis said.
Cristhian Ravelo, 27, looks back on a successful 2019 before starting training again.