It was a week to remember for Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club alpine racers. First, alumnus Wiley Maple won a Europa Cup downhill Jan. 23 in Val d'Isere, France. On this side of the Atlantic, AVSC's U18 racers traveled to the Midwest for three slaloms at Spirit Mountain, Minn. Its proximity to Lake Superior assured icy conditions; the racers with strong gliding skills performed best on this flat slope.
Podiums were plentiful. Ben Throm took a silver and a bronze in two of the races, and Julia Mueller-Ristine, long known for her strength in speed events, was second on Saturday behind Paula Moltzan, who has benefited from several World Cup starts.
According to AVSC alpine director Greg Needell, "We went out there to these events to see some new competition and ski on some different hills. It worked out well for all of our athletes, and they should be proud of their effort and results, every one of them."
Meanwhile, the U14 team enjoyed some unusually warm weather at Breckenridge, where the team dominated the top spots during a trio of super G races. In addition to hosting the International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge also hosted a field of more than 220 racers the weekend of Jan. 26 and 27.
Aspen native Anna Patterson won two of the three races, as did teammate Cooper Cornelius. Dexter Edelman continued his excellent season with two silver medals (he was only five-hundredths behind Cornelius in the final super G) and one bronze.
Anna Patterson was so fast in the second race that she would have placed among the top 10 of the men!
"The super G at Breck was a great weekend for us," Needell said, adding that the four wins and eight podiums "were beyond expectations."
In addition to the podiums by Patterson, Cornelius and Edelman, "we also saw great results from Olivia Clauss, who had two top-10s," Needell said. "But more than anything, I was very impressed with the improvement throughout the weekend by all of our kids. There were also several athletes who were just a tiny mistake away from having their personal best results. In all, it was a very encouraging weekend."
The youngest members of the alpine squad traveled to Sunlight Mountain Resort, where they competed in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Skills Quest race Saturday and a pair of slaloms Sunday. Again, the fields were large, reflecting the growing interest in the discipline (AVSC's largest team is alpine).
"The kids who attended the race all fought hard and skied well," Needell said. Many are now looking ahead to the Roaring Fork Series slaloms on Saturday at Aspen Highlands. The following weekend, Feb. 9 and 10, Aspen hosts four Age Class Open slaloms, which also are open to racers from Steamboat, Loveland and Sunlight.
It's fitting that the week of AVSC alpine excellence concluded with Alice McKennis, who trained with Aspen during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, being named to the 2013 World Alpine Championships Team for the United States.