SSWSC Alpine programs extend winter with training at Copper Mountain
FRISCO — With temperatures soaring and the river dropping, spring is quickly ripening into summer in the Yampa Valley. Skis have long been put away and sit in an already dusty corner of the garage. Bikes have been tuned and broken in.
There are a select few who still strap on heavy boots and click into bindings every morning. The U14, U16 and FIS level skiers at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club are clinging onto the last remnants of winter, extending their training season at Copper Mountain.
“Rule of thumb for us, when you get into a competitive program, you try to get up to about 30 days on snow after a winter,” said SSWSC Alpine Competitive Program Director Tyler Shepherd. “If we can capture a good chunk of those days here locally, you don’t have to look at going out of state or somewhere else that’s going to be far more expensive at this time of the year. It’s pretty advantageous to us.”
Copper Mountain peaks at 12,441 feet above sea level, whereas Steamboat Springs is just under 7,000. The team gets up early and hits the mountain at 6 a.m. The second session of skiers are off the mountain by 11:30 a.m.
“The snow is still awesome early in the morning,” Shepherd said. “We’re capitalizing on staying close to home. It’s been super high quality because of that elevation.”
About 50 SSWSC skiers are taking part in the late-winter or spring training. They’re also skiing alongside U.S. Ski Team members, including Mikaela Shiffrin.
“If it’s good for the No. 1 person in the world, it’s good enough for us,” Shepherd said.
Usually, when the U14 skiers hit the mountain, the older Steamboat kids and the U.S. Ski team are wrapping up, so they’ll watch Shiffrin blaze down the run beneath them as the lift takes them up to the higher portion of Copper Mountain.
“The kids were up there and got pictures with Mikaela; she was talking with them, and they were all super pumped,” U14 Head Coach Michael Britton said. “Skiing is the only sport where this could happen.”
The training isn’t low quality runs either. Skiers are getting in 10 runs or more on the courses thanks to the fast turn around of the lift in the area they’re skiing.
Once off the mountain, the athletes take part in video sessions, dryland training, team runs and more casual activities like using slacklines and playing capture the flag.
The SSWSC skiers have spent a few weekends at Copper after spending some of May at Winter Park. Once school let out, they allotted larger training blocks. The U14’s have been at Copper for five days and will stay until June 16.
In July, some competitive FIS and U16 skiers will travel to Mt. Hood in Oregon, where snowfields allow for year-round skiing.
This year is the second spring that SSWSC has gone to Copper, but it’ll very likely become a regular occurrence on the spring schedule.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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