Steamboat freeskiers have chance to compete in 2022 Winter Olympics |

Steamboat freeskiers have chance to compete in 2022 Winter Olympics

Steamboat Springs’ Riley Jacobs competes in the women's freeski halfpipe qualifier of the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup on March 19 at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Steamboat Springs resident Sammy Schuiling has been on the U.S. Freeski Rookie Halfpipe Team for six years now. He hasn’t made the jump to the pro team, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the running for a chance to go to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Schuiling was first named to the rookie team in 2016 and has yet to be “promoted” to the pro team, but that’s not a bash on his abilities. It just goes to show how competitive the halfpipe freeski roster is.

“I just haven’t had those breakthrough couple results that I needed,” he said.

Schuiling is still happy with where he’s at, though, since he still gets to compete with the pro team and train with the coaches and skis in the same environment as everyone else.

“I know when I have that season I’ve been looking for,” he said. “Moving up to the pro team will be the natural next step.”

Schuiling has been through an Olympic cycle before, but this year, he has a decent chance at going. He has trained with the national team for years but previously trained with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, which offered better park and pipe facilities than the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Schuiling, 21, trained with the SSWSC briefly. He moved to Steamboat from Telluride in 2009 when his dad got a job in the Yampa Valley. He went to high school and trained in Vail, where he had access to the facilities in Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. His parents still live here, though, so he claims Steamboat as his hometown.

Riley Jacobs, of Oak Creek, took a similar path, starting with the SSWSC but training with Vail as she outgrew local facilities. She, too, is on the rookie halfpipe team. Jacobs, 18, has slightly fewer people to beat out, but that doesn’t make her race to the roster any less competitive.

“I’m a little lower on the list for the Olympics,” Jacobs said. “But my hopes are up for next time. This year, I want to really progress as much as I can and compete in the competitions and just improve my skiing as much as I can.”

2021-22 U.S. Freeski Olympic Qualifying Events

Dec. 8-10: Copper Mountain

Dec. 16-18: Dew Tour at Copper Mountain

Dec. 29-30: Calgary, Canada

Dec. 31-Jan. 1: Calgary, Canada

Jan. 6-9: Mammoth Mountain, California

Earning a spot on Team USA’s freeski halfpipe roster will be tough for everyone. Just three athletes of each gender make the cut and compete in a 25-person field in the Olympic qualifying round. There are six women and nine men on the pro team. There are also two women and five men on the rookie team. Whittling down the top three is a process.

According to a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Athlete Selection Procedures document, the two highest-ranking athletes per gender from the International Ski Federation (FIS) points list Jan. 6, 2022, will be nominated to the team. Athletes must be in the top six on the rankings list. The third quota slot or any remaining slots unfilled will be selected based on an athlete having a top-three result in one of the identified qualifying events. If there are more athletes that fit the criteria than remaining spots, there are tie-breaking mechanisms in place.

There are five qualifying or designated tryout events this winter with the first two at Copper Mountain next month. First, there is a freeski halfpipe World Cup event at Copper Mountain on Dec. 8-10.

“Copper is where, training at Vail, I went the majority of the time for my halfpipe training,” Schuiling said. “It kind of feels like a home event almost. … I really appreciate that my family can come down from Steamboat. I have other family in Denver; all of that makes those events nice and special. That’s something I really value.”

The following weekend, The Dew Tour returns to Copper Mountain on Dec. 16-18, which is also a qualifying event. There will be two qualifying events Dec. 29-30 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 in Calgary before the team wraps up the qualifying season at Mammoth Mountain in California on Jan. 6-9.

In 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Brita Sigourney was the best performing American woman, winning bronze. The men swept the podium; Aaron Blunck won gold, Alex Ferreira, of Aspen, earned silver, and Torin Yater-Wallace, also of Aspen, finished bronze. All are back except for Yater-Wallace, so the 2022 Team USA will likely do just as well no matter who makes the cut.

“The pro team is probably the most deep and crowded team of any U.S. Ski Team roster,” Schuiling said. “And with halfpipe being one of our strongest events, it’s very competitive to be on that team.”

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