Steamboat Springs ski racer hoping to overcome setbacks, regain his position with U.S. Ski Team
Steamboat Springs — As a ski racer Hig Roberts has never backed down from a challenge, and he’s never been scared to cut through the powder to find his own path.
As the international ski racing season approaches, the Steamboat Springs native and 2014 Middlebury College graduate, will again pursue his own avenue in ski racing. He is looking to reclaim a spot on the U.S. Alpine Ski Team.
Roberts took a few moments to reflect on his summer and the goals he has set for this season from Finland Wednesday. He was there training and will compete in a Europa Cup next week.
“I’m going to be skiing the same circuit as last year, but this time, I’m part of an independent program,” he said. “I will continue to train, off and on, with the U.S. team.”
His drive to chase his ski racing goals at international events is fueled by his passion for skiing and by the memory of his younger brother Murphy, who fell while hiking in Southern Utah last summer after he experienced a seizure related to his Type 1 diabetes. The fall resulted in a series of complications, and Murphy died in the hospital the next day.
The brothers were close and shared a love of ski racing. They both attended Middlebury University, and both were members of the ski racing team there.
“His spirit is an incredible motivation,” Roberts said. “It (his death) still impacts me every day, and life is tough to navigate in general. We all took some time off, and our lives halted as we took some time to start evaluating what will happen next … it felt right to be out there training again.
“I think my pursuit of ski racing makes my family happy, and it reminds me that it’s important that we keep living passionate and driven lives,” Roberts explained. “It’s very difficult to leave my family at this time, but it’s the right decision for all of us.”
Since making the decision to return to skiing, Roberts has been training hard and looking for opportunities to climb the international skiing ladder after failing to be named to this year’s national team. He is coming off some promising finishes in ski races in New Zealand.
“My goal is to score World Cup points and to make it into the top-three in the world,” Roberts said. “My goals are not dependent on me being on or not being on the team. I’m self-funded, but I’ve been busy fundraising, and I have sponsors that are helping.”
Roberts is sponsored by Team America, a program that offers ski racers some of the funding they need to keep racing. The program also offers technical support for the racers at competition sites.
“This is an incredibly hard sport,” Roberts said. “It’s very important to find funding, and I’m lucky because I have a lot of people who believe in and support me.”
In fact, Roberts refuses to look at his funding challenges as a roadblock.
“I’ve had to go out and convince people that I’m worth supporting. I’ve had to learn how to go out and talk to people and how to sell myself to them as a person and a ski racer,” Roberts said. “It’s been an incredible learning experience.”
Roberts’ journey through skiing is somewhat unique.
Like many athletes in Steamboat Springs, he grew up with dreams of making the U.S. Ski Team and racing at the Olympics. But when he reached the end of high school, his results fell short of what was needed to earn a spot on the U.S. Team.
Roberts elected to pursue his college degree at Middlebury in Vermont, but he never surrendered his desire to make the U.S. Alpine Ski Team. At Middlebury, he competed in slalom and giant slalom events and continued to sharpen his skills as a ski racer.
He was a two-time All-American and a three-time academic All-American as well as the captain of the university’s Alpine ski team. He competed at the NCAA championships and also made an appearance at the 2013 World University Games.
He left Middlebury in the spring of 2014 after earning a degree in economics, but instead of looking for a new career he resumed his efforts to ski race. He went to Vail to compete and train with Team America under legendary coach Peter Lange.
The move paid off with a third-place finish at the NorAm Cup finals in giant slalom, and he capped off his successful season with a sixth-place finish at U.S. Nationals. By the end of the 2014-15 season, Roberts was named to the U.S. Ski Team B Team.
“I don’t regret the route I took. Honestly, I didn’t take this route by choice,” Roberts said. “But now that I’ve done it, I’m very happy that this is how I’ve gotten here. I think I’ve paved the way for other athletes, and I’ve been able to hone my skills. I hope to be an inspiration for other kids that find themselves in a similar situation.”
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The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a winter storm warning for much of the West Slope ahead of a major weather system expected in the area starting Thursday.