Steamboat skier treasures lessons learned on once-in-a-lifetime trip |

Steamboat skier treasures lessons learned on once-in-a-lifetime trip

Steamboat Springs High School senior Waverly Gebhardt just got back from trips to Europe to compete in her first World Junior Championships, OPA and Alpen cup races and several camps. She is hoping to use what she has learned as she looks forward to continuing her skiing career at the University of Vermont. (Photo by John F. Russell)
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, Waverly Gebhardt is spending her final year learning important lessons, but after spending more than three weeks training and competing in Europe this winter, the cross-country skier also discovered that not every lesson is confined to a classroom.

“The biggest thing I learned was being able to balance the travel and listening to my body about what it needs — whether that was that I needed a day off or if I could push through intervals,” Gebhardt said.

Thanks to an outstanding performance at the National Championships in Craftsbury, Vermont, Gebhardt was invited to travel to Europe where she took part in her first World Junior Championships in Lahti, Finland, as well as OPA and Alpen cup races in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, and camps in Italy and Switzerland.

She was able to train with top-level American skiers, including several from the U.S. Team, and compete against some of the world’s best in several international races.

“I was with a really good group of girls,” Gebhardt said. “Just training with them in an environment where we are all super motivated — just skiing behind them and picking up some technique from them was really awesome and beneficial.

“It was also a chance to listen to what they had to say about their races, and it was just good to get some feedback and bounce it off of them,” Gebhardt added.

During her first week in Europe, Gebhardt competed in the World Junior Championships in Lahti, Finland, where her results were not exactly what she had hoped for, but the experience was rewarding just the same.

“I definitely learned a lot that week. They were not my best races, but I was able to take a lot away from it,” Gebhardt said. “The big thing about international racing is that you have to be ready to go — it’s no joke. You have to show up.”

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Josh Smullin said the chance to go to Europe and train and compete with the world’s best skiers was a huge opportunity for Gebhardt, and one he thinks will benefit the Steamboat skier as she prepares for her first year at the University of Vermont, where she will be a member of the ski team.

Smullin is hoping Gebhardt can connect with Lina Sutro, who is a sophomore from Carbondale who’s had a lot of success at Vermont.

“I’m going to encourage her to latch onto someone that can be a mentor,” Smullin said. “It seems to me that the best way to learn is by finding the people who are successful and seeing what worked for them and figuring out a way to make that work for you.”

Gebhardt is eager to use the knowledge she gained from her competitions in Europe as she moves forward with her collegiate career.

“I’ve committed to skiing at UVM, so going into next year a lot of my goals are going to be NCAA skiing focused, but I’m always going to be trying to make the international trips,” Gebhardt said. “I wouldn’t say certain things, like making the U.S. Team, are really my goals. I just want to become a better skier and focus on the different things that I need to become a better skier. If those things get me to those places, then that is just extra special.”

Gebhardt is part of a strong class of skiers to come out of the Winter Sports Club the past several years.

“I think the community of it was a huge thing for me,” she said of the Winter Sports Club. “It is such a positive and motivating community, and everyone who does it wants to be doing it. I think it is so easy to have success in a community that is focused on good values and helping each other.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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