Vail ski racers qualify for world’s top event for kids ages 14-15
The biggest ski race in the country for 14- and 15-year-old athletes took place over the weekend in Burke Mountain Resort in Vermont.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes had a number of strong finishes, and a a result, local athletes Emma Resnick and Sebastian Kohlhofer have qualified for the prestigious Opa Cup in Switzerland, and Bayli McSpadden and Nick Kirwood made it to the Pokal Loka races in Slovenia.
Dubbed the National Performance Series, the recent races that took place at Burke Mountain – in addition to serving as a selection event for the above mentioned contests abroad – were a chance for the under-16 (U16) athletes to enjoy a rare race outside of their regions, as the Rocky/Central (our region) is allowed 10 athletes, along with the West and East regions, which also send 10 athletes each.
With 30 of the top U16 ski racers in the country getting together for two slalom and two giant slalom races, the event truly is a test of the nation’s performance when it comes to youth racing.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s women’s U16 Head Coach, Urska Rabic-Bevc, said the trip to Vermont was successful for many reasons.
“We had challenging conditions in both GS days,” Rabic-Bevc said. “In Colorado, we don’t get to experience these challenging conditions as much as the other regions, because here it’s very sunny, very nice, but they were very confident and they skied better than I expected.”
Of the 10 boys and 10 girls from the Rocky/Central region to be selected to participate in the National Performance Series, five boys and six girls were from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. They were selected based on their performance last season and the early part of this season.
“My overall evaluation of the project was that I hope everyone learned a ton at the project,” said Darlene Nolting, Rocky/Central Region Development Director. “We saw different conditions almost every day and the conditions were difficult. Our (Rocky/Central Division) athletes responded with positive attitudes and work ethic every day. I was so proud of them all. Everyone had challenges throughout the work and I didn’t see anyone give up.”
HEADED TO EUROPE
The Opa Cup, formerly known as the Seven Nations Cup, is considered to be the most competitive event in the world for ski racers ages 14 and 15. It takes place February 4-15 in Meiringen, Switzerland.
Immediately preceding it is the Pokal Loka, which would be the second most competitive event in the world for athletes ages 14 and 15. If an athlete pulls out of the Opa Cup, an athlete from the Pokal Loka will likely take his or her place.
A native of Slovenia, Rabic-Bevc has been selected by U.S. Ski & Snowboard to travel with the Americans to the Pokal Loka. She herself is a former winner of the Pokal Loka.
Now 33, she has fond memories of the event, which she participated in nearly 20 years ago.
“I still have friends that I met at those races,” she said. “I’ve met some of my best friends on those trips.”
Originally from the Kranjska Gora area, where the famous World Cup giant slalom race has been taking place for more than 60 years, Rabic-Bevc said she’s excited to share the European excitement of ski racing with the Americans.
“It’s as big there as American football is here,” she said.