| AspenTimes.com

American ski legend Bode Miller’s 19-month-old daughter drowns in pool

LOS ANGELES — The 19-month-old daughter of U.S. Olympic skier Bode Miller drowned in a Southern California swimming pool, authorities said Monday.

Emeline Miller died at an Orange County hospital Sunday, the day after paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive her after the drowning incident.

"We are beyond devastated," Miller said in an Instagram post that showed several photos of the blonde, blue-eyed, chubby-cheeked toddler.

In a video, Emmy, as she was known, was being kissed on the check by her mother Morgan, a professional beach volleyball player, as she repeatedly said, "Hi Dada."

One photo showed her covered in suds in a tub and another showed her smiling as she pushed two baby dolls in a pink stroller on a street with large homes in the background.

"Never in a million years did we think we would experience a pain like this," Miller said in the post. "Her love, her light, her spirit will never be forgotten. Our little girl loved life and lived it to its fullest every day."


The death was under investigation, Orange County sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.

Paramedics were called to a home in the upscale enclave of Coto de Caza just before 6:30 p.m. Saturday, said Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority.

They tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the girl and rushed her to an emergency room, Bommarito said.

"They had no pulses the whole way," Bommarito said. "It didn't end well."

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team tweeted its condolences to Miller and his family.

Miller, 40, is the most decorated male U.S. skier with 33 World Cup win, two overall titles, four world championships and six Olympic medals, including gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games in the super-combined. At the 2014 Sochi games, he was the oldest alpine skier — at age 36 — to win a medal.

Despite his skill on skis, he has been known at times for eye-raising comments and behavior, claiming he had raced in a World Cup event while still drunk from partying the night before.

Miller, who has three other children, asked for privacy for the family in his Instagram post.

Associated Press writer John Rogers contributed to this story.


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Olympic medalist Alex Ferreira highlights Aspen High School’s senior graduation

Aspen High School almost didn't have a commencement speaker for Saturday's senior graduation inside the Benedict Music Tent.

Fresh off a trip to Singapore, professional halfpipe skier Alex Ferreira had his morning flight from Dallas to Aspen postponed until later that evening, after the ceremony, and it took a lot of good fortune for him to make it home in time.

Thanks to his travel agent — aka mom — a calming girlfriend for his panic attack and a private, unplanned air taxi from Montrose, the Olympic silver medalist was able to address the Class of 2018, mostly as planned.

"Before I start this speech, a few people need to be mentioned for physically getting me here, and on time," Ferreira said. "All said and done, we are Aspenites and we don't give up. We are instilled with true grit."

Despite roughly 40 hours of non-stop travel to get home, Ferreira, a 2013 Aspen High graduate, didn't miss a beat when speaking to the 127 seniors who graduated Saturday, the 129th graduating class in school history. Of those 127, 102 received an academic letter, meaning they had a GPA of at least 3.2, while 44 graduated with no less than a 4.0 g.p.a. Nearly all will attend college in the fall.

"Admittedly, my goal was to be ranked third in an effort to avoid this responsibility of giving a speech at all costs," AHS senior Sarah Scharlin Ben-Hamoo joked. "But being the overachiever I am, I somehow overshot, only to find myself standing here today. Big mistake."

Ben-Hamoo, a future Tufts University student, was this year's co-valedictorian alongside Owen Ramberg, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania. Neither had any issues instilling a bit of comedy into their speeches, with Ramberg even getting in a nice jab at Aspen's current construction woes.

"I've never been a valedictorian before, and in true second semester, senior fashion, I wrote this speech in the backseat of my parent's car on the way here," he said. "Luckily, the detour bought me an extra 20 minutes."

The roughly two-hour long ceremony also included a speech from salutatorian Sydney Forster, the giving of Tharyn Mulberry's Principal's Award to senior Emily Driscoll, and a tearful recognition and goodbye to longtime AHS counselor Kathy Klug, who is retiring.

"I feel like I'm also graduating today," Klug managed to say.

Still, it was Ferreira's miracle appearance that highlighted the afternoon. He turned professional and started competing in big events like X Games Aspen while still in high school, and thanked the staff for letting him miss a day or two to pursue his dreams.

"Where in the world do high schools have a ski lift in the back of the building? Aspen is truly one of a kind. It is abnormal to attend such a fine educational system," Ferreira said. "While I was attending AHS, I loved every second of it. I would still go back there this day. Ask vice principal Sarah Strassburger or woodworking master, Mr. (John) Fisher, and they will tell you it's true — I'm in the building as much as I used to be."

Much of Ferreira's talk was about his journey to Olympic stardom. It started four years ago when he was the first person left off the U.S. team for the Sochi Games, and how he wasn't really in the picture for the Pyeongchang team after the first two Olympic qualifiers this past winter.

It was here he learned a valuable lesson and was happy to pass it along to the class of 2018.

"Victory lies within preparation," Ferreira said. "I wasn't kidding when I said this is where dreams are actually achieved. I'm also saying it isn't easy to achieve your dreams. Get what you want. The only person stopping yourself is yourself."

He finished in the same way he always does, by sharing his favorite quote.

"Love all, trust few and paddle your own canoe."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Colorado plans to pursue Olympics

DENVER — Colorado leaders plan to pursue the Winter Olympics — but only if voters back the idea.

An exploratory committee that has been reviewing whether or not to pursue the Olympics announced Friday that Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have accepted its recommendation that Denver and Colorado pursue a bid subject to approval of a statewide referendum in 2020 or later.

Denver had to back out of hosting the Winter Games in 1976 after voters rejected funding for the event, making it the only city in Olympic history to give up a winning bid.

This time, the committee thinks the Olympics can be held with private money — meaning it wouldn't require a public vote, which is needed to raise taxes or issue debt in Colorado. But given the state's history, the committee of top business and political leaders wants to ask voters for their blessing, nonetheless.

Polling commissioned by the exploratory committee found that most Coloradans would support an Olympic bid, which is expected to cost $1.9 billion or more. The committee plans to finance it through a mix of private sponsorships, ticket and operational revenue and an estimated $559 million contribution from the International Olympic Committee.

But anti-growth sentiment is on the rise, particularly in the Denver metro area, where residents are increasingly choked by traffic congestion and housing costs after years of explosive growth. An organized opposition, calling itself "NOlympics," has already surfaced, with the backing of former Gov. Dick Lamm, who led the effort to torpedo the 1976 bid. The group is skeptical taxpayers can be shielded from the costs, pointing to budget overruns in other host cities.

Even supporters cite concerns — and not just with the costs. The exploratory committee's report listed a number of possible drawbacks, including traffic, the environmental impact and the potential effect on low income, elderly and homeless people who could be displaced without sufficient housing.

Backers, though, suggest that hosting the Olympics could have the opposite effect that some opponents fear. They say it could spur long-needed investments in infrastructure and mass transit to alleviate traffic along the I-70 corridor between Denver and the mountains. In ski resort towns facing existing housing shortages, new housing built for athletes could be converted and maintained as an affordable option for workers.

"These events could serve as a catalyst to help solve challenging issues statewide, including growing traffic congestion and the housing crisis," Mayor Hancock said in a statement.

The U.S. Olympic Committee doesn't plan to try to bring the Winter Games to the U.S. until 2030. Salt Lake City also plans a bid.

Aspen skier Alex Ferreira receives his World Cup crystal globe in Vail

VAIL — A crystal globe, for many competitive skiers, is the ultimate accomplishment.While an Olympic medal is earned for one good performance, a globe recognizes a full season of good skiing, and there’s no globe given out for second place.

In May, Aspen halfpipe skier Alex Ferreira finally got to add to his trophy case the crystal globe he earned this season. It was presented to him at the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail awards dinner on May 14.

Ferreira secured the globe with a second-place finish at the World Cup finals on March 23 in Tignes, France, but continued to travel Europe for a month following the competition and didn’t get to see his globe until May. It now sits in his room, in a trophy case next to his Olympic silver medal.

Ferreira said the globe means more to him than the medal.

“I think it’s a pretty high honor,” Ferreira said of the globe. “It’s about consistency with the globe, it’s not just one event.”

Ferreira’s 2017-18 season got off to a strong start when he won the first World Cup of the year in September in New Zealand. A few months later, however, things weren’t looking so good. Ferreira wasn’t thinking about a globe as his sole focus was to make the Olympics and after two of the five Olympic qualifiers, he still had not notched a podium as New Zealand wasn’t actually an Olympic qualifier.

“I broke my collar bone six weeks before the Copper Grand Prix, the second Olympic qualifier,” he said. “Of course, I’m extremely chapped, and frustrated … I got 12th, I didn’t even make finals, and there’s only three Olympic qualifiers left.”

‘FRIENDLY RIVALRY’

Ferreira went on to finish first and second at the next two Olympic qualifiers and make the team. He also notched a second-place finish at the third and final Olympic qualifier — a U.S. only competition that resembled U.S. Nationals more than a World Cup — placing him well on his way to earning the crystal globe.

But the globe was not on his mind at that point, with the Olympics coming up.

In Pyeongchang, he landed a run that contained nothing but double-inverted tricks, a first-ever accomplishment and a life-changing moment. It earned him the silver medal behind his teammate, Nevada’s David Wise.

Following the Olympics, Ferreira and Wise enjoyed a month-long break from competition, but a final contest loomed on the calendar, the last World Cup event of the season in Tignes.

Burned out from the long season, Ferreira considered skipping the event, but only for a moment.

“There was only one way (to get the globe),” Ferreira said. “I had to battle it out with David Wise in Tignes.”

Wise wanted the globe, as well.

“I would say it was a friendly rivalry,” Ferreira said. “We both really wanted to win.”

Dropping into the halfpipe in Tignes, Ferreira had tricky light conditions, as the event was taking place at dusk.

He gave his coach a fist bump, followed by a head bump, and landed an abbreviated version of his Olympic run, with 720s where his double-inverted 1080s were in Pyeongchang.

It proved to be more than enough for the globe, as Wise struggled in the finals, finishing 9th. Ferreira’s second-place finish earned him a podium in Tignes and the crystal globe on the season.

“After the event, (Wise) came over and he shook my hand,” Ferreira said. “He said congratulations, I was very appreciative of that, and our friendship continues.”

SPORTSMANSHIP AND SHOWMANSHIP

Ferreira got to kiss his globe for a quick photo, but didn’t have it in his possession for long as he continued on a tour of the Alps, competing in a few non-International Ski Federation events including Laurent De Martin’s 7Peaks Riverstyle big air in Switzerland, the Freeski Playoffs and Pipe Ground in France.

The globe was flown back to the U.S. and Ferreira was finally reunited with it at the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail awards dinner.

At the event, Ferreira’s coach, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail freestyle program director Elana Chase, said Ferreira brought an infectious degree of energy to Ski & Snowboard Club Vail that season.

“When Alex came to the Vail freeski summer water ramp camp this last summer … he would shout things like ‘fire me up,’ and get all the other athletes to hike hard with him all session long,” Chase wrote. “Alex could be heard shouting ‘Let’s do this boys,’ — and he was talking about doing the dishes after the coaches cleared the meal.”

Ferreira said Chase put the “award” in awards dinner by arranging for him to receive his globe there at the event.

“This … FIS award … is rarely actually seen in person,” said event emcee J.C. Cole.

Leslie Tabor with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail donned white gloves to remove the globe from its protected case and present it to Ferreira.

“It’s the full Vanna White treatment we’re getting right here,” Cole said.

“Seeing Leslie put the white gloves on (unscripted) was truly priceless, funny, and carried real weight,” Chase wrote in an email.

Ferreira said he would expect no less from Chase, who he described as not only a master of sportsmanship, but of showmanship, as well.

“Elana is one of the most classy and most intelligent people I’ve ever met,” Ferreira said. “Just being around her is a special thing … one minute she’s teaching me how to establish credit, and the next minute she’s teaching me a doublecork 1260 tail grab.”

On May 22, the U.S. Freeski team announced its halfpipe pro team nominations for the 2018-19 season, with Ferreira joining seven other athletes on the list.

He said while life has changed a bit for him after becoming an Olympic medalist, many thing remain the same.

“I still feel like I have a lot left to accomplish in this sport,” he said.

jlaconte@vaildaily.com

Liz Stephen retires from U.S. cross-country ski team after lengthy career

PARK CITY, Utah — Cross-country skier Liz Stephen is not totally sure what’s next. After competing with the U.S. national team since 2006, her retirement leaves a lot of questions, but she is sure of one thing: It’s going to be great.

“I’m kind of jealous of myself,” she said a few days after finishing her final race of her career — the Super Tour Finals at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury Commons, Vermont, where she finished seventh in the 30K mass start classic.

“This last year I’ve been feeling this transition coming a bit and gotten really excited to say, ‘Yes I can go do that; no, I’m not going to go roller ski. I’m going to go camp out on top of a mountain.”

Stephen has been working toward a career in nursing by taking courses from several Utah colleges over her skiing career, but for now, she is more focused on getting outside and, for the first time in a long time, not having a life tied to a competitive schedule.

That doesn’t mean Stephen will be laying on the couch.

“I did a 30K two days ago, and already I had to leave my house,” she said, calling while on her way to go backcountry skiing with friends. “I can’t stand myself when I sit still, and others can’t either.”

So, she’s planning trips around Utah, her home since making the national team, and looking forward to experiencing a strange luxury – being tired.

“I’m excited to not be afraid of being tired,” she said. “When you’re trying to be an elite athlete, it’s a fear to be too tired or to make yourself too tired at something that’s not actually training, just because recovery is such a huge part of the picture. I’m excited to not feel guilty about feeling tired from life.”

At the time of her interview, she had already planned a backcountry skiing trip (a different one) near Bozeman, Montana, and enrolled in an avalanche safety course.

“I want to do all these things, but I know nothing about them, so I want to be safer,” she said.

She is also an avid runner, and Cannis Harte, president of Park City Running Company, said he is excited to see what Stephen does now that she doesn’t have to leave fuel in the tank for cross-country training. Despite her professional obligations, Stephen has won the Red Bull 400 hill climb and the 21K, XTERRA Trail Run National Championship four times. She has also helped with the Moose on the Loose trail run series and has helped host the Fast and Female events, which are meant to empower young female athletes.

Harte also has a vested interest in Stephen’s running, since Stephen will join Park City Running Company’s running team and will work with the store this summer while she tackles personal goals, including running the New York City Marathon in November.

She expects that she won’t hit the same performance peak that she would if she was training for the World Cup circuit, or the Tour De Ski, both of which were venues where Stephen pushed boundaries for the U.S. team. Over her 12 years with the team, she has established three records for the U.S. team, starting with a 15th-place finish at a World Championships at Liberec in the Czech Republic in 2009, which had never been achieved at that distance by the team before, followed by a fifth-place finish in the 10K skate at the World Championships at Val di Fiemme, Italy, in 2013 – another distance record for the U.S. team.

“Where she was really good was on hill climbs,” said Tom Kelly, vice president of communications at U.S. Ski and Snowboard. In fact, she was given the nickname “Hill” after her ability to push herself up inclines when others couldn’t. Those skills shone in 2014’s Alpe Cermis portion of the Tour De Ski, which ended with a 9K hill climb.

“She was just amazingly good at this event,” Kelly said.

Though she never finished in first outright, Kelly said she was usually in the top of the pack, which helped her take fifth overall in 2015, raising the bar for the American team yet again.

“She was one of the first to really have success across all stages, which was an amazing achievement,” Kelly said.

Stephen said one of her favorite memories was a frigid 10K climb in Rybinsk, Russia, partly because of the “barely legal race temperatures.”

After finishing second in the race, she wanted to celebrate with her teammates, but first she had to talk to the media and go through the anti-doping protocol.

“What I’ll remember about all of that is the team, on one of the coldest days of my career, just waiting there because they knew how important it was to me,” she said. “If I had advice to give people that are trying to create a team — notice the little things that matter to people. Maybe that wouldn’t matter to someone, but the team knew that their presence there would matter more than anything else to me.”

Matt Whitcomb, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard women’s cross-country coach, has coached Stephen since she switched from alpine racing at the Burke Mountain Academy at the age of 15.

Over that time, Whitcomb said Stephen has established herself as one of the team’s most nurturing members, even providing massages to teammates during the team’s early days when it didn’t travel with physical therapists or masseuses. But Whitcomb said Stephen’s mental strength gave her the ability to switch from nurturing teammate to fierce competitor at race time.

“She can absolutely turn herself inside out on the race course,” Whitcomb said. “She is limited less by pain and physical limits than most are. The normal person might think (their challenges) are physical barriers, but to Liz they are mental barriers and to Liz that’s opened up a whole new level of racing.”

Whitcomb said Stephen’s longevity on the team stems in part from how close she is with her teammates — considering them first as friends — and said it’s telling that the team has kept so many of its athletes for so long, given the modest financial incentives.

Stephen said finding that kind of community elsewhere will likely be the hardest part of leaving the team, though it’s a good time for her to get out. She said the goals that her generation of skiers set out to achieve for the U.S. team have largely been met. For example, there was a time when she was skiing competitively that the U.S. didn’t even have a national cross country team. Since then, she and her teammates have made the U.S. one of the most competitive teams in the world. The recent gold medal in Pyeongchang, earned by Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins in the team sprint, was the icing on the cake — showing what the team knew it could do all along.

“The medal was so important in so many ways,” Stephen said. “I never felt like our team needed the medal to know we could do it, but I’ve always felt there is this need for the next generation — that we could have done it, but to show that it could be done, I think that provides a lot of drive in the future and support for the sport.”

Her departure from the team, along with Randall’s, will force some major organizational adjustments, Whitcomb said, though the adjustments for the athletes will be just as large.

“These guys are endorphin junkies, and they have also adjusted their norm to being some of the fittest people in the world,” he said. “There are things like depression that can enter your life that you never expect would.”

To help prevent that, Whitcomb said the team tries to keep former members involved, providing coaching and cameo opportunities at races and training camps — opportunities that will be open to Stephen.

But between the adventures, races, nonprofits and classes she plans on taking, Whitcomb said he doesn’t anticipate Stephen needing additional direction.

“I think that’s going to be very fulfilling for Liz,” he said. “I should add we are going to miss her like crazy.”

sports@parkrecord.com

AVSC’s Cassidy Jarrell eyes next step after strong season, repeat national title

Last week at Copper Mountain, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete Cassidy Jarrell defended his USASA national championship by winning the men's open class division in the freeski halfpipe competition.

Eric Knight, AVSC's freestyle program director, was there to see it. And what he saw was a much different skier than the one from a year ago.

"It really seemed like he kind of took the step this year from one of the top amateurs to a legitimate pro," Knight said. "Last year it was a pretty stacked competition, and this year he looked a step ahead of everybody. He looked like he didn't belong there anymore."

Jarrell, who is a senior at Aspen High School, is among the country's best up-and-coming talents in halfpipe skiing. And his repeat national championship at Copper was simply the cherry on top of a strong season for the Aspen teen.

Only a few weeks prior, Jarrell clinched the overall Revolution Tour title, which is among the top honors for amateur skiers. Now, it will be about legitimizing himself as a true professional, following in the footsteps of AVSC products Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace, veteran X Games athletes and Olympians. Ferreira won Olympic silver earlier this year in Korea.

"Just needs another offseason like last year. A few more tricks and be ready to come back strong and hard next year," AVSC pipe and park coach Greg Ruppel said of Jarrell. "He's working his way up into those elite riders. Finally starting to gain confidence with his doubles and some of his bigger tricks. He'll need to add some new ones in the offseason to get him closer to those guys like Alex and Torin."

Jarrell certainly tasted the big time this winter. He competed in three World Cup events — Copper, Snowmass and Mammoth — with varying results. He failed to make finals in any of the Grand Prix, but did finally put down a solid run Jan. 17 in Mammoth, where he finished 12th.

His most notable result, other than maybe his Dec. 15 Rev Tour win at Copper, was his third-place finish at a February Nor-Am Cup contest in Calgary. He finished 18th overall on the Nor-Am Cup this winter.

But ask him, and his highlight came when he was invited to compete in December's Dew Tour in Breckenridge, which outside of X Games is considered one of the ultimate bucket list competitions for any freestyle skier or snowboarder.

"That was a huge standout — probably the biggest accomplishment. That was the craziest one," Jarrell said. "It was crazy. It's almost unexplainable. I was mind-blown."

Jarrell struggled to even put down a run on the big stage in Breck, but that's the sort of experience that could bode well for him going into the future. His coaches believe he has a good chance to be named to the U.S. Ski Team's rookie team this spring, which could open more doors, from extra training camps with the U.S. coaches to more big-time competitions next winter.

"He's on the right path," Ruppel said of him joining the ranks of pros like Ferreira and Yater-Wallace. "If you look at those guys' runs, Cassidy has two doubles and those guys have four or five doubles in their run. So he's just got to add some of that stuff and up his difficulty a little bit."

Jarrell has long made it clear what his ultimate goal is, and that is to one day compete in his own backyard at X Games Aspen. However, unlike a Grand Prix, which can have 40-some invited athletes, ESPN's iconic winter showcase at Buttermilk more often than not features a limited field.

"I got to learn a couple new tricks, for sure. But just landing those runs at those bigger contests gives you a huge, huge step toward it," Jarrell said of continuing to climb the food chain. "I definitely want to land my runs at all the World Cups. I definitely want to try and put X Games in the future."

A BRIGHT FUTURE

While Jarrell continues to chase at the heels of Ferreira and Yater-Wallace, he's not alone. AVSC's Tristan Feinberg, who turns 15 next week, is already pushing Jarrell. Feinberg finished fifth in the open class at the USASA national championship last week in Copper, the same event Jarrell won.

Then there is AVSC's Kai Morris, who is a year younger than Feinberg. Morris won the overall freeski national championship in the boys' 12-13 age division last week at Copper. All told, Knight said AVSC won 14 total medals in freeski pipe and park competitions at nationals.

Ruppel said Morris will make his Rev Tour debut next winter, while Feinberg is set to return for his second season.

"They are well on their way chasing on Cassidy's heels," Ruppel said. "Those guys are just looking to kind of get themselves used to that non-age group competition and handling the stress. They both have pretty good tricks. They can hang."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Noah Hoffman retires from cross-country ski racing, readies for next phase of life

There was a hint of sadness in Noah Hoffman's voice, but no regret. He had long since made peace with his decision.

"It feels very right, though there are mixed emotions," Hoffman said Thursday while gazing at Aspen Mountain. "I'm going to miss the people. I'm going to miss the competition. But I'm not going to miss the roller skiing. At least for a while I'm not going to miss all the travel. It's time. This was not out of the blue. It's been a long time coming."

Hoffman's stay in Aspen, the place he has considered his home since moving here from Evergreen before the third grade, was brief. He was en route to Montrose, where his parents now live, and eventually Park City, Utah, where he plans to set up base camp, at least for a while. Only a few weeks into retirement, Hoffman is still struggling to find his new place in the world. The 28-year-old identified as a professional cross-country skier even before he graduated from Aspen High School in 2007. With that life now being set aside, there is a lot of uncertainty facing the two-time Olympian.

"It's bittersweet because we lived vicariously through his triumphs and disappointments through the years," said Maggie Blatz, Hoffman's sister. "His career hasn't been in an upward trajectory for the last couple of years. It's been a question that he has been grappling with. We definitely knew it was on the horizon, but now that it's here it doesn't feel there was preparation for it. It's a huge change."

beginning of the end

By most standards, Hoffman's career has been hugely successful. He's competed full-time on the World Cup since the 2010-11 season and earned his first World Cup points back in 2009 in Whistler, Canada. He has 127 individual World Cup starts to his name. He's competed in every World Championships going back to his first in 2011, and was part of Team USA for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"For a lot of years he was the best distance skier in the country and had some great results on the World Cup circuit," said Aspen's John Callahan, a 1992 Olympian who coached Hoffman since middle school. "He's doing it the right way. He's ready to move on. Once he made that decision he's sticking with it and not looking back. I've seen athletes who can't seem to finish up and wrap up and they just sort of wither away."

Hoffman has one official World Cup victory, when he won a stage of a 2013 15-kilometer freestyle pursuit race in Kuusamo, Finland. He won the 30-kilometer classic race at the 2012 U.S. Championships, and finished second in the 15k classic race at the under-23 World Championships that same year.

But since the 2014 Olympics, where Hoffman was 11th in a team relay and 26th in a 50k mass start, he has struggled to find that same success, injuries and illness often hindering his path.

"Obviously it wasn't all roses. The last four years since the Sochi year have been a struggle. It's not been what I hoped it would be," Hoffman said. "I wanted to be the best skier in the world. I had a couple of days where I was the best skier in the world, but I didn't make it happen consistently. But it isn't about the results anymore for me."

past his prime

Ahead of the 2017-18 season, Hoffman wasn't officially named to the U.S. Ski Team, although he was awarded starts in the early-season World Cup races. While his season results weren't overly impressive, he did enough to stay relevant, although a spot on the U.S. Olympic team was far from guaranteed.

In the weeks leading up to his selection, Hoffman stayed with his sister, who now lives in Sun Valley, Idaho. While he was hopeful about a return trip to the Olympics, there also was a small belief that his career might already have ended.

"We started talking about it back in December. At that point we had to make the decision on whether he wanted to keep going throughout the winter," Callahan said of Hoffman's pending retirement. "We came to the decision to keep going and go to the Olympics. He wasn't having a great season. He was always in it to be the best, and once that wasn't happening anymore and he hit a high point for himself, he said it was time to go."

Hoffman's 2018 Olympic results weren't noteworthy, but the experience will last a lifetime. With the pressure off his shoulders, he was able to enjoy watching Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, who he says are like sisters to him, win the first Olympic gold medal in U.S. cross-country skiing history.

He also was there to see fellow Aspenite Alex Ferreira win Olympic silver in the men's ski halfpipe. And more than anything, it's his ski family he is going to miss the most.

"One of the things I'm most scared about is losing that community. I hope not to. I think there is a way I can keep it," Hoffman said. "I'm lucky that I've had a bunch of people who have gone through this transition that can guide me a little bit. But it's not going to be easy."

fantastic finish

While Hoffman's career may have peaked sooner than he wanted, it did come with somewhat of a storybook ending. He went public with his retirement announcement in early March, just before the final race of his career in Oslo, Norway.

The Holmenkollen Ski Festival and its noted cross-country ski race is one of the most prestigious stops on the World Cup and can bring in more than 100,000 spectators. That same course also hosted the 2011 World Championships, which Hoffman called the "start of my career."

"To come around full circle and finish my career at the same venue with the same unbelievable crowd was just so cool," Hoffman said. "Skiing into the stadium, to my surprise, my entire team was out there and they made a bridge for me with their arms. I was pretty emotional because I was not expecting that."

Hoffman only finished 51st in the March 10 race, a 50km mass start, but that didn't matter. His father, Mike Hoffman, and coach, Zach Caldwell, made the trip to Norway to see him race one final time. All of his U.S. teammates were there to celebrate with him at the finish.

"I felt so grateful to be a part of that group," Hoffman said. "It was the perfect way to end. Not every athlete gets to script their ending like that and to have that opportunity was a really cool experience."

the next phase

Late last week, Hoffman hiked Mount Sneffels, a fourteener near Telluride, with his sister. For a world-class athlete like Hoffman, this is hardly worth mentioning. But for so many other reasons, it's a major step toward his new life.

"That never would have been possible if he were still thinking about his career. On a personal selfish note, I am so excited to be able to go on adventures with him anytime of the year," Blatz said. "I am really excited for him in the next stages of life. He always had a lot of potential in a lot of different areas and he is an incredibly hard worker, which his career has been the proof of that. It's exciting to see what is going to happen next for him."

Hoffman looks forward to getting to do all the things his career and training regime didn't allow, like mountain biking, tennis and soccer. In Park City, he plans to find a somewhat sedentary lifestyle and wants to begin work toward a college degree. He's applied to numerous schools and hopes to start taking classes in the fall.

It'll be an adjustment from his previous lifestyle, but it's one he's ready for.

"I feel like I can do anything because there are so many people who believe in me and who are helping me and invested in my success beyond skiing. That was more than I was expecting," Hoffman said. "I'm lucky to have all the opportunities I did have and I'm really looking forward to the next chapter in life."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen comes together to celebrate with Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira

On the gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain on Friday, Alex Ferreira promised he was "still Alex."

Sure, an Olympic silver medal has changed a few things for the Aspen-raised halfpipe skier, but all in all, he remains the same good-natured kid who enjoys spending time on the trampoline at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club as much as anything.

"It's been so good being home. I love it here, obviously. It hasn't been normal, though," Ferreira said with a laugh. "Just being (at the Olympics) was an honor in itself. Representing America and representing Aspen in the best light possible was what my goal was."

When Ferreira hopped off the Silver Queen Gondola at the top of Ajax, he was instantly bombarded by dozens of his friends and fans. They were there to celebrate his recent accomplishment, which put him into rarified air in the Aspen community. While the ski town has produced its fair share of Olympians, very few came home with a medal.

This was reason enough for Aspen Skiing Co. to host a celebration Friday, complete with an autograph session and a "ski parade" led by Ferreira back to the bottom.

"There are a lot of cool things about being mayor of Aspen, but nothing more than the pride I felt watching Alex represent us on an international stage," Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said.

On behalf of the City of Aspen, Skadron made a proclamation that Feb. 22, 2019, would be "Alex Ferreira Day." Feb. 22, 2018, was the day of the men's ski halfpipe finals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where Ferreira finished second to Nevada's David Wise, one of his close friends.

Skico's Rich Burkley also did Ferreira a solid, presenting him with a free lifetime ski pass. Skico's Tyler Lindsay, AVSC's Eric Knight and Ferreira's longtime coach, Elana Chase, all spoke during the short presentation as well.

"I've always known Alex would be a champion at the highest level. He always stood out," Knight said. "In over 20 years I have not seen an athlete who has embodied our core values more so than Alex. Alex will be a hero and an inspiration for years to come and a reminder to us all that obstacles, adversity and bad luck doesn't define us."

At 23, Ferreira is close to wrapping up what has easily been his best season as a professional skier. Four years ago he was the first person left off the U.S. Olympic men's ski halfpipe team ahead of the Sochi Games. He came close to calling it quits at the end of the 2016-17 winter season, with injuries and disappointing results mounting up.

Ferreira then re-discovered his love for skiing while touring through Europe last spring, and with that came a new level of professionalism that he said helped bring him to another level of skiing this winter. He won Dew Tour in December, took second in front of the hometown fans at the Snowmass Grand Prix in January, won silver at X Games Aspen two weeks later, and then took home Olympic silver in Pyeongchang. With that most recent medal, he's become somewhat of a hot commodity.

"To me it's just another contest, but there is so much more credential behind it where you can actually get a lot more things done," Ferreira said of his Olympic medal. "I've seriously never been this busy in my life. I didn't know it was possible to be this busy. But like I said, I kind of like that. It's kind of my style."

What's Ferreira been up to since the Olympics? Well, he got to be on "The Dr. Oz Show," attend a few Oscar parties and landed a few more key sponsorships that could help carry him through the rest of his skiing career.

Getting to celebrate with his hometown supporters wasn't really possible until Friday on Aspen Mountain. And he's getting back on a plane for Europe as soon as Saturday, where he's set to compete in the final World Cup competition of the season Wednesday and Thursday in Tignes, France. With 282 points, Ferreira leads the men's ski halfpipe standings on the World Cup and is one good run away from taking the season-long title, the cherry on top of a breakout season.

He plans to stay in Europe for the next couple of months where he hopes he can finally find time to reflect on his recent success. And while the 2022 Winter Olympics are a long way off, Ferreira said it's certainly a possibility if his heart is still in it.

"Last year I was going to find my love for skiing again in Europe for that two-month period, and now I'm already loving skiing so much I just think it's going to go up from there," Ferreira said. "If I keep loving skiing by 2022 and loving halfpipe skiing, then I will absolutely do it. If I don't love it, then I won't participate. It's as easy as that for me."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

AJ Ginnis outduels David Chodounsky for World Pro Ski Tour win in Snowmass

Even if they just put up a few gates on the backyard hill, there will need to be a rubber match between A.J. Ginnis and David Chodounsky.

It all came down to the U.S. Ski Team duo on Saturday in the finals of the Rocky Mountain Pro Ski Classic at Snowmass, the second of three stops on the World Pro Ski Tour this winter. The two also met in the finals at Sunday River last year, Chodounsky sneaking away with the win.

The rematch didn't quite go his way.

"He got me this year. He's such a fast skier. It was a lot of fun just competing against each other," Chodounsky said. "The last round I made a mistake on the blue course. It definitely cost me that match. I held it together the second run there but I couldn't make up what I lost there. But no, I'm happy. Second place is sweet."

Chodounsky, a Minnesota native who moved to Crested Butte when he was 11, is a veteran member of the U.S. Ski Team and a two-time Olympian. The 33-year-old was the top American in last month's Olympic slalom in South Korea, placing 18th.

Ginnis, the 23-year-old native of Greece, said he's long looked up to Chodounsky.

"Dave is one of the guys I idolized growing up and when I made the (U.S. Ski Team) he literally took me under his wing and taught me the ropes," Ginnis said. "Last year he got me and I got him back this year. It's a great rivalry I guess."

The World Pro Ski Tour is built off the roots of World Pro Skiing, which Aspen's own Bob Beattie helped launch in 1969, and the U.S. Pro Ski Tour, which folded in 1998. Last year, Craig Marshall and a team that included organizers of those past tours launched the World Pro Ski Tour with that single event in Sunday River, Maine, won by Chodounsky.

It returned in 2018 with three events, the first of which was the White Mountain Dual Challenge on Feb. 10 in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, won by now three-time Olympian Nolan Kasper. Saturday's stop in Snowmass was its first foray into the American West.

"We were a little worried this morning. It was cloudy and grey and the weather was looking a little ominous, but in the end it was a perfect Colorado day," Marshall said after Saturday's races. "The snow was definitely a little soft and challenging the guys, but in the end it made it a lot more interesting. I think we had some really good matchups — some really close races. It's just another great event and Snowmass was an awesome host."

The dual slalom format of the World Pro Ski Tour had its heyday in the '70s and '80s, but there is hope of bringing it back to its former glory. Instead of racing the clock, skiers go head-to-head on parallel courses, with the winner being the first one to the bottom. The finals at Snowmass featured a 32-skier bracket, with each head-to-head matchup having two runs down the track, located on the Blue Grouse trail near the Spider Sabich race venue. Skiers were seeded based off Friday's qualifying.

"We talk a lot of smack with each other, so it's pretty cool to go head-to-head with each other," Ginnis jested. "When you are racing against the clock you have a game plan. You got to stick to it because you don't know what's going on. But in head-to-head if the guy next to you makes a mistake you kind of adapt and see what's going on."

Ginnis, who now calls Waitsfield, Vermont, home, made the most of his two runs in finals to take home the $10,000 check awarded first place. Minnesota's Michael Ankeny beat Slovakia's Andreas Zampa in the small final for third place. Zampa knocked out Kasper, one of the pre-race favorites, in the round of eight.

Ankeny entered the day as the top seed after recording the fastest time in qualifying, while Kasper was second, Chodounsky was third and Ginnis was fourth.

The final race of the World Pro Ski Tour season will be March 29-31 at Sunday River. Ginnis said he'll for sure compete — he's going to school at nearby Dartmouth — while Chodounsky said he'll have to wait and see how his schedule plays out. Whether the rubber match happens in Maine or elsewhere remains to be seen.

"I'm going to try and make him come, absolutely," Ginnis said with a laugh. "We need a rubber match."

While the organization is based on the East Coast, Marshall said he fully intends to have the World Pro Ski Tour back in Colorado, and possibly Snowmass, in 2019. For the athletes, it's something they hope will continue to grow as it provides them a different avenue to compete in outside of the more mainstream World Cup and Nor-Am races.

"I'd love to see more races over here in the West," Chodounsky said. "I think we can get a good crowd. It's great weather. It would be really cool if it gained some traction and people started getting a little more interested. It's just starting up. It's just going to take a little time before it gets going."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Nordic Notes with Noah Hoffman: One final race before calling it a career

The following is a letter from Aspen-raised cross-country skier Noah Hoffman, who plans to retire after this weekend’s races. Hoffman, 28, is a two-time Olympian and a 2007 Aspen High School graduate.

Saturday's World Cup at the famed Holmenkollen Ski Festival in Oslo, Norway, will be the final race of my professional ski career.

This decision comes with excitement and gratitude mixed with sadness and some fear. In many ways, this decision has been a long time coming, but there also is an abruptness to the ending that is unavoidable. I will wake up on Sunday morning and my identity as a cross-country ski racer, which has been my primary identity for my adult life and the better part of my adolescent life, will be gone.

There are many reasons why it is the right time for me to step away from the sport. The most important is that I now want to invest my time and energy in things other than training and racing, but I would be lying if I said results had nothing to do with this decision. The reality is my career was on a steady upward trajectory through the 2013-14 season, culminating in two wins in World Cup stage races and a great 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Over the past four years, I have not come close to repeating that success, let alone continuing to build on it. My coaching team and I have taken nothing for granted and have continually tried to find creative ways to break through. Unfortunately, we have not been successful in putting me back on a path toward being the best in the world. Even still, I look back on my career with nothing but pride and gratitude.

One of the reasons I know it is time for me to move on is that results are no longer as important to me as they once were. It is ironic that my signal to turn the page is also one of the greatest gifts of my career: I have learned that results do not define me nor do good results guarantee happiness. That is not to say I won't look back with pride upon my World Cup stage wins, my silver medal at the Under-23 World Championships, or my performance in the Olympic 50k in Sochi. I do, and I will. But I doubt any of those moments will stand out compared to the memories of laughing and crying with my teammates and friends at ski resorts all over the world.

It is a fairy tale ending to finish my career at Holmenkollen, two weeks after the conclusion of my second Olympic Games. Not only is this the most prestigious World Cup race of the season with the best fans and the hardest course, it also has particular significance to me and my career. I raced my first World Championships at Oslo 2011 and have competed here six times since. Some of the best performances of my career have come on these trails.

On top of that, both my dad, Mike Hoffman, and my coach, Zach Caldwell, will be in Oslo this weekend to watch and support me.

Very few athletes are afforded the privilege of ending on their own terms. Somehow, despite less than stellar results, I raced an almost full World Cup schedule, was named to represent the U.S. in Pyeongchang and will finish in Oslo. I am so grateful to have had each of these opportunities.

Of course, I am indebted to more people than I can possibly name for making my career possible. Skiing professionally has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life, and I am overwhelmed with love, humility and appreciation when I think about all of the people who have supported me throughout my journey. You all helped me grow into the person I am today and gave me more than I could ever repay. I will forever hold you in my heart.

My future is full of uncertainty and opportunity. Most likely I will pursue a bachelor's degree in public policy, economics or law, but I also plan to take Zach's advice and savor the transition with patience. I will find new goals to pursue with the same dedication I committed to skiing, but I will also enjoy the moment and the unique freedom of my present situation.

Ironically, as I retire from a career as a professional athlete in an outdoor sport, one of the things that I crave most is more time in the outdoors, without a watch or a heart rate monitor or a training plan or a destination. I am also looking for more stability and less travel. I want to spend more time with the people who matter most to me in my life.

I do not know what my future online identity will be. I am grateful for the personal marketing, blogging, social media, photography, podcasting, website management and video editing skills that skiing has taught me, but I also know that my digital life is not contributing to my happiness. I will search for balance as I move forward.

Of course, I am nervous for and anxious about my uncertain future. I am grateful that I have many friends to lean on who have gone through this transition and others who are also in the midst of it. I plan to take advantage of resources available to transitioning athletes at the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Ski Team.

My greatest fear about this transition is losing the amazing community that surrounds and supports me in everything I do. This group includes my friends and family, coaches and teammates, supporters and fans. I do not know what my future involvement in cross-country skiing will be, but I do know that cross-country skiing is full of the most driven, successful, motivated, smart and caring people I have ever met. I hope that you will continue to consider me one of your own.

I would be remiss to end this essay without naming a few of the individuals who sacrificed the most to make my career happen. First and foremost, my parents have challenged me to justify each of my decisions, but, ultimately, they have fully and unequivocally supported me in everything I've done. My sister has been my rock, always and unquestionably there for me. Zach Caldwell and John Callahan have given more of their time to my career, without pay, than any of us care to remember. Mark Doughty and Thoughtforms, the entire team at K2/Madshus, the Rocky Mountain Nordic Angel team (Mike Elliot, Craig and Becky Ward, Ruthie Brown, Dan Weiland, Dave Peterson and many, many others) and numerous other people and organizations have made my career financially possible. Last but certainly not least, the families who have taken me into their homes have shown me what true love and openness and generosity look like.

Thank you all.

I will give everything I have for 50 kilometers on Saturday, and when I cross the finish line I will be proud of everything that I have given to the sport, tremendously grateful for everything the sport has given me and so very excited for the future. Thank you for being a part of my remarkable journey.

Editor's note: Nordic Notes is a column written by Aspen-raised cross-country skiers Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman as they compete on the World Cup circuit and in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.