SSWSC cross country opens season at West Yellowstone Ski Festival

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club U20 skier Trey Jones competes for a podium finish in the 10K race at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival on Nov. 26, 2022.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club/Courtesy Photo

Kicking off the ski season at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club sent 16 of its cross country athletes to attend the weeklong training camp from Nov. 19 to 27. 

Cross country program director Brian Tate has been going to West Yellowstone for around 16 years and after the SSWSC took a two-year hiatus from the camp due to COVID-19, Tate said going back was like coming home.

“In those 16 years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such fantastic conditions,” Tate said. “It just stayed fantastic for the eight days we were there. No meltdowns, no weird weather, it was just really good.”

The festival culminated in a massive race featuring many of the best Nordic skiers in North America. Typically, it is always the first race of the year for most athletes.

Cross country head coach Josh Smullin says West Yellowstone is a historic place for early season skiing and remembers making trips there as a young athlete. 

“They usually have good early season snow,” Smullin said. “We have not been for a few years due to weather and COVID stuff but we got to go this year. They got snow early so we knew the conditions would be good. It was a great camp because the conditions were so good.”

The team trained twice per day, mainly doing zone one training, which is the lowest of five training zones. The lower intensity but higher volume of training served as an appetizer for the season ahead. 

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete Henry Magill takes third in the U18 10K race at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club/Courtesy photo

The hope was to get the athletes back into race shape while putting in a lot of hours on the snow. Smullin explained the No. 1 goal of the festival was not to get top results, it was to train. 

“The real purpose of the camp is to get on snow and train a lot,” Smullin said. “It’s great that there’s a race at the end but that’s not the priority of the week. We definitely did not go into the races rested like we maybe would later in the season trying to put together our best performances.”

Despite the week of non-stop practices, Steamboat athletes competed in 5-kilometer, 10-kilometer and biathlon races, bringing home several podiums.

U20 athletes Trey Jones and Ruby May both earned third in the boys and girls 10K skate races, respectively. Grey Barbier and Henry Magill finished second and third in the male U18 10K. Barbier also won the male novice biathlon while Tristan Thrasher took home first for the youth male sprint race.

Beyond the race results, it was the training and ski community that brought the whole festival together. Tate said it was an exceptional camp in all aspects. He has high hopes for the season ahead, which continues with the Rocky Mountain Nordic Junior National Qualifiers in Crested Butte on Dec. 17 and 18. 

“I was proud of all our athletes for the professionalism they used and the focus they had for the training at the camp,” Tate said. “They made it such a good experience.”

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