Steamboat native starts Nordic ski team in Fort Collins
December 1, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — An open trailer with over 100 pairs of skis and poles and 40 pairs of ski boots is parked in the Steamboat Ski Touring Center parking lot.
Kyle Steitz has been loading it all morning.
He needs the equipment to start the first high school Nordic ski team at Poudre High School in Fort Collins.
Steitz, a Steamboat Springs native, grew up skiing in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and at Steamboat Springs High School. His dad, Tom Steitz, was the USA Nordic combined Olympic coach throughout his childhood.
Steitz was a cross country skier for Montana State University for two years before transferring to Colorado State University.
HOW TO HELP
Send donations to:
Poudre High School
Athletic Department/Nordic Ski Team
201 Impala Drive
Fort Collins, CO 80521
Contact for any questions:
Carey Christensen, Poudre Athletic Director
“Honestly, just got super burnt out on skiing,” Steitz said. “And thought I would never pick up a pair of cross country skis again after Montana State, and I didn't ski for years. But the edge slowly started to come back.”
Steitz said there’s not much to do in Fort Collins during the winter, but he usually coaches high school swimming in addition to working his public relations job at Safe Built.
“I poked around my swim team like, ‘Hey have you ever heard of Nordic skiing? Would you do it if there was a program?'” Steitz said.
The logistics that come with starting a ski team in Fort Collins are difficult. Access to the appropriate equipment is slim and not as high in quality.
“Anything they had was if you were going to go up on Rabbit Ears and punching around,” Steitz said.
He’d look to his hometown for the proper equipment, calling Kajsa Lindgren at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center for rentals.
“We actually could outfit 98 percent of kids on the ski team with the skis that we had in stock because we do have a seasonal rental program in Steamboat,” Lindgren said. “That being said, there are other areas in the world that do not have a seasonal rental program.”
Lindgren said they’ve shipped skis out to further destinations before, so hauling a load of equipment to Fort Collins in a trailer wasn’t a problem, and neither was replenishing the fleet.
To make the sport possible in Fort Collins, Steitz put together a $23,000 budget with the goal in mind of getting 20 kids to sign up. The team is based at Poudre High School, but encompasses athletes from Rocky Mountain, Fossil Ridge and Fort Collins high schools. He currently has 40 athletes on the team. The athletes did a leaf-raking fundraiser, while Steitz sought out donations from local businesses for funding. But the sport is pay to play because of the equipment, and Lindgren came up with a reasonable deal.
She sent a link to the athletes’ parents to order the skis directly from the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, asking for measurements and a payment of $215 for a season rental of skate skis, classic skis, a combination boot and two pairs of poles per athlete.
“We couldn't have done it without the Steamboat support and the Fort Collins support,” Steitz said.
“Just being in that ski community, obviously I've been out of it for almost a decade now,” Steitz continued. “But it's almost like I never left.”
Steitz said all of the races involve overnight trips, and he’ll take his team for a training camp at the Ski Touring Center and Haymaker Nordic Center sometime between Christmas and New Years. Anytime the kids come to Steamboat on their own, they can practice for free at both facilities since their names are on a team list that Lindgren keeps.
“One thing about Nordic is it has that small town feel. We're kind of a family,” Lindgren said. “We are all about kids on snow, all we have to do is sign a liability release saying you know the danger of the sport, but we're happy to donate our grooming hours, our man hours to help these kids go on snow.”
Steitz also in the midst of making the team’s course on the rolling hills of the Colorado Youth Outdoors land in Fort Collins. It just so happens they have two snowmaking machines from an old sledding hill project that never came to fruition, and Steitz is learning how to work them.
His assistant coach, Jasper Gantick, also from Steamboat, came in to town this weekend to pick up a snowmobile to help with the course.
The sport is new to most of the kids on his team. He said during dry-land training, he’s also made them watch videos on cross country skiing.
“We're certainly not going to win state; we won't be in the top 3 or top 5, I don't think,” Steitz said. “But, honestly, the biggest measurement of success is how many kids come back next year. Did they have fun? Did they learn something? Are they ready to do it again?”
Steitz said he consulted Durango High School on implementing the ski team, since they also have lower snowpack and lengthy travel. The Demons have now held a program for two years. He’s confident that his program has the support it needs because he’s able to call for help from home. On Feb. 9, his team will line up on the same course he used to race on in Steamboat.
“It'll be a little weird honestly lining up against the Sailors and seeing the old coaches,” Steitz said. “But it's going to be fun.”