Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier hopes to build off experience at World Juniors
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In just a few months, Landon Wendler will graduate from Steamboat Springs High School and begin his quest to make the U.S. Ski team.
It’s a dream in the works for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier, but after his performance at the FIS Junior World Championships and several NorAm appearances, Wendler sees more potential when he’s not trying to juggle school.
“I’m hoping to get a World Cup start at U.S. Selections in December,” Wendler said. “Or working really hard to win the NorAm tour and get full World Cup starts for the following season.”
In his recent trip to Chiesa In Valmalenco, Italy, on April 5 and 6, Wendler skied to a fourth place finish in dual moguls and 10th place in singles. Wendler attended as the only Steamboat athlete since Kenzie Radway tore her ACL and meniscus.
“I heard a lot of things about that course being steep and icy, but when I got there, it was soft snow,” Wendler said. “The second day, it actually snowed between 3 and 6 feet overnight, so I didn’t train the second day. [They] completely rebuilt the course the morning of the singles event.”
The key to Wendler’s performance was his adaptability. Due to the heavy snow in the first day’s singles’ competition, Wendler had to reconstruct his strategy on the course with no practice.
“We had to change his jump package for what the course allowed,” SSWSC high performance head coach Lars Johnson said. “In the singles run, he did back tuck on top instead of back full [off the top air]. Changing lines and changing jumps were all really course dependent.”
The second day’s duals competition was warm and slushy, also not ideal for the back full off the top air, which is a backflip that includes a twist and can be slower to execute. In duals, the mogul skiers compete side by side and want to complete faster tricks at the top that are also well-executed, so they can make it across the finish line before their competitor.
Wendler called an audible: going for the cork 720 off the top air instead of a back tuck or full. The cork 720 involves two spins with the skis crossed in the air.
He made it through two rounds before facing the eventual champion, Canadian National team member Elliot Vaillancourt. Wendler crashed, putting him in a battle for third instead of first or second. He crashed against Alex Lewis, a U.S. teammate from Vermont, to finish fourth.
“It was really cool to compete against people from all over the world and see countries I didn’t know had freestyle teams,” Wendler said.
Wendler earned his first spot at Junior Worlds after winning the U.S. Junior National Championships last year. He competed in all four NorAm Cup competitions this year in Stratton, Vermont; Val St-Come, Canada; Steamboat Springs and British Columbia, Canada.
His top finishes were at Apex Mountain in British Columbia, where he took fourth in singles and second in duals. He was a consistent top-10 finisher throughout the NorAm tour, with the exception of one singles competition where he took 18th.
The success came from his emphasis on training at the water ramps last summer because jumps tend to be his weakness. He plans to do the same this summer while also getting his real estate license for a job to help fund his skiing career.
“I’m not worrying about what I have to do,” Wendler said. “I’m just doing it, stepping it up a notch.”
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