Week of ski racing action hits Golden Peak
VAIL — Golden Peak is abuzz with the U16 Rocky/Central Junior Championships this week. Featuring more than 180 of the fastest 14 and 15 year olds in the country, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association event started on Saturday with training runs.
Fresh off his top American performance at the 7 Nations Cup, one of Europe’s premiere under-16 events, local boy Gus Leblanc won the training run.
“I was trying to be as fast as I could just to get my confidence up for the rest of the week,” he said.
A lifelong member of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Leblanc, 16, said while it’s nice to have the Junior Championships on his home course, the event also brings some expectations with it.
“We’re definitely known as a strong club, and we have our home hill advantage. So you’ve got to nail it,” Leblanc said. “Lindsey Vonn is from here. I think it would be really cool to go all the way, represent and be known for coming from Vail.”
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Also competing at Golden Peak this week is the Buck Hill Ski Racing Club in Minnesota, where Vonn began her ski racing career before moving to Vail as a teenager. Slalom specialist Katheryn Cossack, 14, is a member of the Buck Hill team who will race in the Junior Championships this week. She’s joined by her mother, Beverly, and brother Bryce. They said she watches Vonn on TV and has signed posters from Vonn hanging in her room.
“One of her race suits that Lindsey Vonn signed she won’t even wear. It’s still hanging in the closet with the tags on it,” Beverly Cossack said.
Bryce, 21, is student at Iowa State, currently on spring break.
“I’ll be able to spent time with family, watch my sister and hopefully ski some powder,” he said.
HUGE VOLUNTEER EFFORT
The event is a lot of work for the large group of coaches, parents and other volunteers who helped to bring the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s U16 Rocky/Central Junior Championships to Vail. The advantage it creates for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes drives the effort, says Rob Worrell, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Head U16 alpine coach.
“We were up there putting up all that blue fence and making sure it’s ready to go,” he said. “But it’s all worth it … home field advantage is huge in ski racing, probably more so than your ball sports because all the hills are different, you get used to the terrain.”
Local kids also get to sleep in their own beds, which is a big advantage, said Donny Leblanc, Gus Leblanc’s father.
In return, parents such as Leblanc will volunteer at the races.
“Through his whole career, even his away races, I’m always a volunteer,” Donny Leblanc said.
“These races wouldn’t come off without parent volunteers,” Worrell said.
FUN FOR SPECTATORS
Crowds gathered at the base of the course during Saturday’s training runs to check out the action. It was a little surprising to see just how many people were there, given the fact that it’s just a training run, Worrell said.
“Golden Peak, from the bottom, you can see a lot of the course,” Worrell said. “You can almost see Afterthought from some places.”
And if there’s a part of the track that you want to see, then it’s the section following the pitch known as Afterthought, Gus Leblanc said after winning Saturday’s training run.
“It’s a cool feeling, you go over that steep pitch on Afterthought and you just feel yourself accelerate,” he said.
You can watch the kids hit Afterthought in the speed races beginning today with training runs starting at 9:45 a.m. and the official downhill race scheduled to start following training. A super-G is scheduled for Monday, followed by an exciting giant slalom on Wednesday. The championships will conclude with a slalom on Thursday, which should be a great event for spectators.
“The slalom is great action being right at the bottom of the course,” Worrell said.
All races begin at 10:30 a.m. with the exception of Thursday’s slalom, which starts at 9:45 a.m.