Skiing Steamboat siblings share dreams, thus a rivalry |

Skiing Steamboat siblings share dreams, thus a rivalry

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Elijah Vargas powers his way up the trail on Emerald Mountain on Saturday during a Nordic combined race in Steamboat. Vargas finished second in the race, holding off his older brother, Koby Vargas for the second time in four races this season.
Joel Reichenberger

Junior Nationals qualifier results

Nordic combined podium finishes

U10 girls

1 Shea Sias, Steamboat

2 Eva Minotto, Steamboat, +0:45

3 Shea Rossi, Steamboat, +2:26

U10 boys

1 Owen Wither, Steamboat

2 Koen Stroock, Steamboat, +0:01

3 Adrian Beauregard, Steamboat, +0:40

U12 girls

1 Aspen Bennett-Manke, Steamboat

2 Alena Rossi, Steamboat, +3:26

3 Sophie Anderson, Park City, +4:11

U12 boys

1 Thomas Miller, Steamboat

2 Jason Colby, Steamboat, +0:45

3 Wyatt Graves, Steamboat, +1:40

Open girls

1 Tinsley Wilkinson, Steamboat

2 Ella Stroock, Steamboat, +0:22

3 Paris McMahon, Steamboat, +1:33

U14 girls

1 Alexa Brabec, Steamboat

2 Tess Arnone, Steamboat, +1:21

U14 boys

1 Gunnar Gilbertson, Steamboat

2 Reid Sias, Steamboat, +5:54

U16 girls

1 Annika Belshaw, Steamboat

U16 boys

1 Bennett Gamber, Steamboat

2 Niklas Malacinski, Steamboat, +0:30

3 Erik Belshaw, Steamboat, +0:36

U20 women

1 Esther DelliQuadri, Steamboat

Senior men

1 Jared Schumate, Park City

2 Elijah Vargas, Steamboat, +0:24

3 Koby Vargas, Steamboat, +1:53

— Elijah Vargas didn’t decline the chance to answer. He simply paused for a second and let his older brother go first in a moment perhaps showing wisdom beyond his years.

He let Koby Vargas, 18 years old and two years his senior, answer first when asked about the budding rivalry between the two Nordic combined skiers.

They’re close on and off the snow but readily admit, like most siblings, more Monopoly games when they were growing up ended in wrestling matches than bankruptcy. Still, they care about one another and about each other’s results and prospects in the sport.

Is there a sibling rivalry?

Soon after finishing off his second head-to-head win over his brother of the season, Elijah hesitated and, with a reluctant grin, Koby answered.

“I don’t think he really cares, but I care,” Koby said. “I like to not get beat by my younger brother, but it happened today.”

Friday and Saturday brought ski jumping and Nordic combined competition back to Steamboat Springs in a Junior Nationals qualifier. The results of the weekend’s events meant plenty to many of the weekend’s younger competitors.

From young to not-so-young, Nordic combined racers got their chance, and plenty of Steamboat competitors climbed up on the podium. Winners included Shea Sias in the U10 girls division, Owen Wither in the U10 boys, Aspen Bennett-Manke in the U12 girls, Thomas Miller in the U12 boys, Tinsley Wilkinson in the girls open class, Alexa Brabec in the U14 girls, Gunnar Gilbertson in the U14 boys, Annika Belshaw in the U16 girls, Bennett Gamber in the U16 boys and Esther DelliQuadri in the U20 women.

For some of the older athletes, however, it was all a bit of a warm up. Both Vargas brothers made the cut for the Junior World Championships team, Koby the fourth one on the squad of six and Elijah the fifth.

They’ll compete in that event for a week starting Jan. 30 in Park City, Utah.

“It’s fun to see us both make it, and it will be fun to have him there, because now that he lives in Park City, we don’t see each other as much,” Elijah said.
 Still, these days it always seems like there’s something more on the line when it’s Vargas v. Vargas.

Park City’s Jared Shumate actually outshone both in the men’s senior class, thanks, first and foremost, to a dominating jump off the HS 100 jump at Howelsen Hill. That gave him a six-second lead on the field, and he built on that to win handily.

Elijah Vargas was second, both in jumping and in the race, and Koby Vargas was third, a lackluster jumping starting him 60 seconds behind Schumate and 54 seconds behind his younger brother.

He made up a little time on the ski course, but not nearly enough.

“It wasn’t the best day on the hill, but I got to compete at home, and it’s always a fun time, so enjoyed it at the end of the day,” Koby said.

Team Vargas certainly isn’t the only brother-brother Nordic combined duo. They don’t have to look far for examples of others.

Koby left Steamboat last year to live and train in Park City, and among those he works with are Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, the Steamboat Springs brothers who are the two top United States World Cup skiers.

The Vargas brothers aren’t exactly looking for tips on how to handle sibling rivalry, however. They’re fine doing it their own way.

Both wanted to win Saturday, and there may come times when their aspirations butt heads in more important circumstances. In head-to-head situations, they’ve gone 2-2 this season, and given the stiff competition for Nordic combined World Cup and Continental Cup starts, not to mention the Olympics, that day could come.

It’s already happening. It wasn’t clear until the last moment, for instance, that both would make the Junior Worlds team.

How would they have handled it if only one had, and especially, if that one was younger brother Elijah?

They’re happy they didn’t have to find out.

Instead, they’re content cheering for one another, even in the same competition. Each is thrilled to have such a close friend to share big experiences with, and Elijah, at least, is happy to let his brother do the talking for a hard question.

“It’s competitive, but I always want to see him do well,” Elijah said.

“I’m proud of him,” Koby added. “He’s having the season of his life. He’s killing it, and I’m really happy for him.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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