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Ready for next big dream

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has a tradition of making children’s big dreams come true, whatever the dreams may be

Logan Sankey has decided to put off college to pursue her opportunities with theU.S. Women's Ski Jumping Team. She is hoping the trade off will pay off with an Olympic appearance in 2018.
Joel Reichenberger

» Off to college

This list includes Steamboat Springs or former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes who are currently competing for NCAA ski teams across the United States.

University of Colorado

» Lucy Newman (junior)

» Max Scrimgeour (sophomore)

» Charlie Von Thaden (senior)

» Danielle Brownell-Patty (freshman)

» Katie Hostetler (junior)

University of Denver

» Lars Hannah (freshman)

» Max Marno (senior)

University of New Mexico

» Nick Veth (freshman)

» Tyler Theis (freshman)

» Alex Barounos (freshman)

University of Utah

» Nick Hendrickson (sophomore)

Dartmouth

» Mary O’Connell (senior)

» Emily Hannah (senior)

» Haley Piske (senior)

» Cara Piske (sophomore)

Middlebury

» Evan Weinman (sophomore)

» Murphy Roberts (junior)

Colby College

» Sam Glaisher (senior)

University of New Hampshire

» Tyler Smith (sophomore)

» Celine Guilmaneau (senior)

Montana State

» Gretchen Burkholder (sophomore)

» Madi McKinstry (senior)

» Holiday Classic Collegiate skiing panel

What: An informal panel discussion about collegiate ski racing that includes current and former college ski racers talking about what it takes to get to the college level and be successful.

When: 1 p.m. Dec. 23

Where: Olympian Hall at the base of Howelsen Hill Ski Area

Who: The event is open to anyone interested in taking skiing to the college level. This includes current student athletes and their parents.

Cost: The panel discussion is free to attend and is held during the annual Holiday Classic because many of the top college ski racers in the country are in town competing in the long-running Steamboat Springs Alpine ski races.

MORE INFORMATION: Steamboat Springs residents will have a chance to see what college ski racing is all about this March when the University of Colorado hosts the national championships on the slopes of Mount Werner and historic Howelsen Hill.

The championships will take place March 9 to 12, with the Nordic races and the slalom race being decided at Howelsen Hill and the giant slalom on Mount Werner. A staple of the 2006 and 2010 NCAA Championships was a night slalom race on Howelsen Hill.

The United States Collegiate Skiing Association will hold its 38th annual USCSA National Championships, March 6 to 12 in Lake Placid. The USCSA national championships will include Alpine, Nordic, freestyle, freeskiing and snowboard events.

In the neighborhood of 178 colleges from coast to coast, fielding some 4,700 men and women, Alpine, cross country and snowboarding athletes in more than 200 race events, will be represented. Competition takes place across three progressive tiers. Conference qualifiers determine the participants at the six USCSA Regional Championships. The regionals are the last step on the road to the annual USCSA National Championships — the showcase event in college ski and snowboard competition.

— The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has a tradition of making children’s big dreams come true. For some athletes, that means a ticket to the Olympics and a shot at representing their country on a world stage. But for others, ski racing provides an opportunity to meet personal goals and find a formula for success both on and off the slopes.

» Off to college

This list includes Steamboat Springs or former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes who are currently competing for NCAA ski teams across the United States.

University of Colorado



» Lucy Newman (junior)

» Max Scrimgeour (sophomore)



» Charlie Von Thaden (senior)

» Danielle Brownell-Patty (freshman)

» Katie Hostetler (junior)

University of Denver

» Lars Hannah (freshman)

» Max Marno (senior)

University of New Mexico

» Nick Veth (freshman)

» Tyler Theis (freshman)

» Alex Barounos (freshman)

University of Utah

» Nick Hendrickson (sophomore)

Dartmouth

» Mary O’Connell (senior)

» Emily Hannah (senior)

» Haley Piske (senior)

» Cara Piske (sophomore)

Middlebury

» Evan Weinman (sophomore)

» Murphy Roberts (junior)

Colby College

» Sam Glaisher (senior)

University of New Hampshire

» Tyler Smith (sophomore)

» Celine Guilmaneau (senior)

Montana State

» Gretchen Burkholder (sophomore)

» Madi McKinstry (senior)

» Holiday Classic Collegiate skiing panel

What: An informal panel discussion about collegiate ski racing that includes current and former college ski racers talking about what it takes to get to the college level and be successful.

When: 1 p.m. Dec. 23

Where: Olympian Hall at the base of Howelsen Hill Ski Area

Who: The event is open to anyone interested in taking skiing to the college level. This includes current student athletes and their parents.

Cost: The panel discussion is free to attend and is held during the annual Holiday Classic because many of the top college ski racers in the country are in town competing in the long-running Steamboat Springs Alpine ski races.

MORE INFORMATION: Steamboat Springs residents will have a chance to see what college ski racing is all about this March when the University of Colorado hosts the national championships on the slopes of Mount Werner and historic Howelsen Hill.

The championships will take place March 9 to 12, with the Nordic races and the slalom race being decided at Howelsen Hill and the giant slalom on Mount Werner. A staple of the 2006 and 2010 NCAA Championships was a night slalom race on Howelsen Hill.

The United States Collegiate Skiing Association will hold its 38th annual USCSA National Championships, March 6 to 12 in Lake Placid. The USCSA national championships will include Alpine, Nordic, freestyle, freeskiing and snowboard events.

In the neighborhood of 178 colleges from coast to coast, fielding some 4,700 men and women, Alpine, cross country and snowboarding athletes in more than 200 race events, will be represented. Competition takes place across three progressive tiers. Conference qualifiers determine the participants at the six USCSA Regional Championships. The regionals are the last step on the road to the annual USCSA National Championships — the showcase event in college ski and snowboard competition.

It can also provide a chance to pursue a higher goal, a college education.

“The majority of the skiers in our programs will not go to the Olympics or be a part of the national team,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Assistant Executive Director Sarah Floyd said. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for our athletes to compete, to reach their own personal goals and to participate in winter sports through high school and beyond.”

Right now, there are at least two dozen Steamboat Springs skiers on the roster of NCAA teams. That number doesn’t include Steamboat skiers going to schools outside the NCAA or competing with the United States Collegiate Skiing Association, which also offers opportunities in freestyle, snowboarding, Nordic combined and ski jumping.

Though it’s a well-known fact that Steamboat consistently produces top-level skiers, Floyd insists that producing collegiate athletes, or national ski team members, is not the Winter Sports Club’s main goal; however, it is a nice side effect of what the club is trying to accomplish.

The club’s vision is to produce champions on and off the mountain, and it wants to be the best in the country at developing the “complete” athlete — coaching every individual to achieve their highest level of human and athletic performance — resulting in healthy, contributing members of the community, as well as skilled and passionate athletes.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic coach Josh Smullin, who found his own success while skiing at the University of Colorado, said everything starts in the classroom.

“Our skiers take their ACTs during their junior year, and then, we can really start the conversation about what’s possible and where they want to go,” Smullin said.

Smullin uses his own college experience to inspire his athletes at the Winter Sports Club.

He grew up in Alaska before walking on to the ski team at the University of Colorado, where he earned a scholarship. He qualified for the NCAA championships all four years and was named a team captain during his senior season. He graduated with degrees in kinesiology and psychology. After CU, he migrated to the University of Utah, where he worked as a coach while earning his master’s degree in sports psychology.

“Being a part of a college ski team is like being a part of a family, part of a culture,” Smullin said. “It’s a pretty unique experience. The great thing about skiing is the places that it can take our athletes, whether that’s around the world or on to college.”

Floyd said all the club’s athletes are better served when staff and coaches focus on the process that fosters successful athletes. She said the process leads to success in everyday life and is one of the reasons so many skiers from the Winter Sports Club go on to college to ski or to get an education.

For some athletes, the Winter Sports Club has paved the road to the Olympics and the international stage. But that’s not the goal for every skier, Floyd said.

Others have taken what they have learned at the club and used it to earn college scholarships and admission to elite universities.

“We very much encourage our athletes to go to college, but we also understand that path isn’t for everyone,” Floyd said. “We recognize the importance of academics in our programs. Our athletes must maintain academic expectations, and our coaches realize that there are times when school work is more important that training.”

Each year, the club hosts an informal forum during the Holiday Classic at which athletes and parents can listen to a panel of current and past collegiate racers and coaches talk about the college racing experience. They discuss the challenges and the rewards of competing in college.

Floyd said the club is also hoping to develop more opportunities to help athletes find a path to college, but right now, she acknowledges that responsibility falls mainly on coaches and former athletes who set the standard for what it takes to ski at college. She said the club’s efforts must reach every athlete, not only those wanting to ski during college.

Different disciplines

The Winter Sports Club encompasses a number of different disciplines serving the needs of nearly 800 athletes, however, college opportunities are somewhat limited to Alpine and Nordic athletes. Sports such as freestyle, snowboarding, Nordic combined and ski jumping are not part of most mainstream college programs.

Andy LeRoy, former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete and current head coach at the University of Denver, said that, though ski racing opens up college opportunities, it doesn’t mean getting a spot on a collegiate ski team is easy.

“It’s very competitive,” LeRoy said of earning a scholarship to the University of Denver — a team that has won 22 national championships since1954.

LeRoy has been at DU for the past 10 years, and he said the final decision on which skiers will make up a team is heavily influenced by the pressure to win.

“Coaches have some discretion, but in the end, it always comes down to putting the best skiers possible on the slopes,” LeRoy said. “If I have to choose between the No. 27 on the U.S. Men’s Team or the No. 6 from some European country, chances are that I’m going to choose the skier with the lower points (national points ranking).”

Value of college racing

LeRoy said a number of factors are at work, and the U.S. Ski Team and American skiers are starting to see the value of college ski racing.

“If I could get the No. 6 guy on the U.S. Men’s Team to take a scholarship, I would do that,” LeRoy said. “But those skiers are not lining up. It’s crazy when you consider that I’m offering them $50,000 a year in tuition, room and board and a degree on top of it. But it’s impossible to pursue the World Cup and the Olympics and attend college classes at the same time.”

The U.S. Team recognizes the challenge many of its skiers face and recently created a University Team, where skiers spend their winters competing at the college level, then attend camps and training sessions with the U.S. Team in the off-season.

Other skiers, such as Steamboat Springs’ own Hig Roberts, decided to go to college and then made the U.S. Ski Team after graduation.

Stiff competition

University of Colorado coach Richard Rokos agrees with LeRoy when it comes to persuading top-level skiers to consider college instead of the U.S. Ski Team, and he also points out that competition for the limited number of college spots is pretty intense.

The coach, who led the Buffaloes to a national championship in 2015, said it’s not unusual to have 200 skiers vying for a single spot on his team.

Out of that group, he said, about 30 skiers have a legitimate chance of being a Buff. He added he thinks the pressure is similar at most of NCAA schools that have skiing programs. Of those 35 schools, two — Brown University and St. Cloud State University — only have women’s teams. The other schools feature both men’s and women’s programs in both Alpine and Nordic.

Rokos said that means each school has roughly 24 spots available each season, but only a few of those spots will be open each season, and he said there have been years when his team added no new skiers.

“It’s difficult to get a spot on one of the top teams,” Rokos said. “Normally, it comes down to the skier’s points when making a choice, but sometimes, outside factors can play a role. I have to work within the budget, and there are times when I have to send a lot of really good skiers down the road.”

Rokos said the pressure to win normally guides his decisions, and the pressure to win a national title is almost always in the back of his mind. He said a coach will always pick the skier who gives the team the best chance to win.

Some of those skiers will earn a scholarship or partial scholarship, but most will not. Some schools, such as Dartmouth, don’t offer athletic scholarships, but reward skiers by helping them advance through the admission process.

Other options

The NCAA isn’t the only option available to young skiers hoping to pursue their competitive careers after high school. Many top skiers have been drawn to the United States Collegiate Skiing Association, where skiers can continue to ski competitively while pursuing a college degree.

Colorado Mountain College competes in the USCSA and is a regular in the regional and national championships. Most of those schools offer fewer scholarships, but the USCSA also supports snowboarding, freestyle, Nordic combined and jumping programs.

Floyd said the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has a tradition of producing skiers who advance and have success at the college level, and the class of athletes looking to ski this year is pretty typical.

“There is a culture at the Winter Sports Club that encourages skiers to compete in college,” former SSWSC Nordic skier Evan Weinmen said. “You see older skiers go to college, and when it’s your turn, skiing at college just seems like the thing to do.”

Weinmen, who is a sophomore at Middlebury College in Vermont, said his Winter Sports Club coaches talked about college and what was possible based on his own goals. He said the coaches didn’t tell him exactly what to do, but they helped him do the things he needed to do to make a college team.


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