| AspenTimes.com

Preps: Aspen hockey tops Crested Butte for first win; AHS boys basketball also wins

The good part was the Aspen High School hockey team won its first game Saturday. The bad part was it took a lot of goals to get it done.

Hosting Crested Butte for the second time in less than 24 hours, the Skiers won 5-4 at Lewis Ice Arena to get victory No. 1 on the season. Friday night, AHS lost 5-3 to the Titans, resulting in a split of the two-game homestand.

“They found a way to win,” Aspen coach Dru Lucchesi said after Saturday’s game. “They know they need to take care of business. They know this shouldn’t have been this close, but once again we can’t take care of the puck on our end. We are just giving them freebie goals, and that can’t happen. Our team can score goals, it’s just we have to keep the puck out of our net right now.”

Aspen’s season opener was a 6-1 loss at Battle Mountain on Wednesday. Meaning, through a 1-2 start, the Skiers have allowed a combined 15 goals, Lucchesi pointing out a sloppy zone defense as the culprit. The AHS offense has tallied nine goals of its own in that span.

“When they get into the offensive zone they make really good plays and they are using their bodies really well. They are getting opportunities. It wasn’t a ton of shots, we wanted more, but they are making the most out of them right now,” Lucchesi said. “We have a lot of speed, they just need to realize how to use it and the biggest part of it is getting out of our ‘D’ zone.”

Saturday against the Titans, Aspen’s offense came out firing with goals from Robbie Fitzgerald and Jack Pevny, but a pair of goals by Crested Butte that straddled the first two periods made it 2-2. A goal by Eli Hunt midway through the second period briefly gave Aspen the lead back, but it was 3-3 going into the third.

The Titans’ Graham Barrett scored his second goal of the game less than a minute into the final period, putting the Skiers in a 4-3 hole. About five minutes later, Aspen’s Connor Chesner scored the equalizer and it was Pevny’s goal with less than five minutes to play that won it.

With only four official practices under their belt to go with three games, Lucchesi said the team just needs more ice time and it can all come together.

“That really is our biggest hindrance right now is just taking care of our ‘D’ zone, getting the puck out. We have bodies in front of the net we still aren’t taking care of,” Lucchesi said. “Once again, the base of what we have is really exciting. It’s just getting everything together, getting all the glue and eventually it’s going to gum and it’ll be buzzing, it’ll be fun.”

Aspen will play once more before the holiday break when it hosts Steamboat Springs at 7:45 pm. Friday at Lewis Ice Arena.

Aspen boys basketball starts winning streak, beats Lotus

The Aspen High School boys basketball team wrapped up play in Meeker on Saturday with a 58-39 win over the Lotus School of Excellence. The victory came a day after Aspen rolled over Soroco for its first win of the season, 65-35. Now 2-2 overall with losses to Rifle and Mancos, Aspen is scheduled to play Vail Christian on Thursday in its home opener and final game before the holiday break.

The AHS girls basketball team’s game Saturday at Hotchkiss was canceled. They will also host Vail Christian on Thursday.

Basalt basketball falls to Riverdale Ridge on Saturday

The Basalt High School boys basketball team closed out play at the Weld Central tournament on Saturday with a 77-70 loss to Riverdale Ridge. BHS lost 67-51 to Weld Central on Friday, but got its first win of the season on Thursday, a 57-48 victory over Vail Mountain. The Longhorns, now 1-5, will play Friday at Rifle in their final game before the holiday break.

The Basalt girls (1-2) did not play this weekend after Friday’s game against South Park was canceled due to the weather. They also play Friday at Rifle to close out the early-season schedule.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

James, Castallet prevail in Copper Grand Prix final despite snowy conditions

COPPER MOUNTAIN — Inside the cozy confines of the Copper Mountain Resort Conference Center while a snowstorm continued to brew outside, Maddie Mastro put it perfectly in the post-competition press conference at Saturday’s Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix.

“It wasn’t my day, I guess,” the 2019 Burton U.S. Open champion said. “Mother Nature was a bit angry at me. That’s OK.”

What Mastro was referring to was the torrid, gusty snow squall that blew into the 22-foot Woodward Copper superpipe right before she was set to drop in for her third and final run. Sitting in third place, Mastro — the favorite heading into the competition — needed to improve her score to an 87.75 or better to top eventual women’s snowboard winner Queralt Castellet of Spain.

But the conditions Mastro was staring at through her goggles was blowing snow engulfing the 540-foot-long superpipe — so much snow that those at the bottom couldn’t see past halfway up the pipe and Mastro couldn’t see very far down it.

“I was like, ‘holy cow, this is windy. This is a lot of snow,’” Mastro recalled of her thoughts at the top of the pipe. “So I was just trying to stay in the right mindset to drop in when it did clear.”

The event officials at Copper Mountain Resort moved the competition to a weather hold — as Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” played over the speaker system — until conditions improved. About 15 minutes later, though snow was still falling in clumps at Copper, the wind died down enough for officials to deem Mastro’s drop in to the pipe as safe. Mastro dropped into the pipe and attempted a trick on each wall of the pipe before calling it a day.

Mastro finished third behind Castellet and runner-up Jiayu Liu of China (80.00) to a large degree because she had the misfortune of dropping into the pipe when the wind and snow kicked up. It’s not normally the case the top qualifier for finals has a disadvantage by dropping in last, but it was the case Saturday.

“I was hoping to put down the run that I wanted,” Mastro said. “Obviously that didn’t happen, weather effected it. But I definitely had a run that I wanted to put down and tricks I wanted to do. But it wasn’t my day, I guess, for that.”

Castellet won the women’s competition with a five-hit run through the pipe that featured a backside air, a frontside 900 (three 360-degree rotations) with a Lien grab, a backside 540 with a mute grab, a frontside 360 with an Indy grab and a cab 720. Mastro’s third-place run, which took place earlier in the competition, included a backside air, a Crippler 540 with an Indy grab, a backside 540 with a mute grab, a frontside 720 with an Indy grab, a Haakon 720 with a stalefish grab and a frontside 540 with a melon grab.

Weather also effected the men’s competition, particularly the third and final round of runs for the 10 competitors through the pipe. Before the weather really socked in though, the heavy favorite, Scotty James of Australia, capped a thrilling first round of runs with his eventual championship score of 96.00. The run consisted of a frontside double cork 1080 with a stalefish grab, a cab 900 with a melon grab, a switch backside double cork 1080 with an Indy grab, a backside 1260 with a mute grab and a frontside double cork 1260 with a stalefish grab.

On that final 1260 at the bottom of the pipe, James was able to keep his balance and ride the landing out despite landing deep on the back of his board. In the post-event press conference, James said before the competition he thought the weather would be inclement through each of his three runs. As such, the strategy was to go for his biggest and boldest run out of the gates rather than wait to see what the other competitors were landing. When the weather wasn’t that bad for his first drop-in, he knew what he needed to do.

“I definitely did take the opportunity because the weather was nicer for the first run,” James said. “That was good that everyone got to put a run down. And, yeah, that was the run I wanted to do whether it was snowing a blizzard or sunny. I was really happy that I got to put it down.”

Not every competitor put down their best run on Saturday. The top-scoring American, Toby Miller of Mammoth Lakes, California, scored an 87.75 on his first run. That eventually placed him fourth but also put him in contention after the first round of runs. On his second and third runs through the worsening conditions, Miller opted for safety, choosing not to huck big tricks.

“That today — I must admit,” James said, “there was definitely a point there where I thought it was starting to get unsafe. And it would have been on the third runs when people were riding, it might have been better to pull the pin, but it is what it is.”

Before James dropped in for his victory lap, he had one snowboarder to dodge: eventual runner-up Yuto Totsuka of Japan. On the second round of runs, Totsuka showed he wasn’t scared of the gradually worsening conditions, going big to see if he could best James.

Despite the conditions on his third run, Totsuka said he dropped in with the intention of laying down a run to beat James. At the top of the pipe he bested the conditions and landed a 1260, but on his second hit he lost speed in the pipe’s flat bottom and pulled up and resorted to a 360, signaling he was waving the white flag to James.

Totsuka’s best run of the day ended up being his first: a 94.50-point run that included a frontside double cork 1440 with an Indy grab, a cab 1080 with a nose grab, a frontside double cork 1260 with an Indy grab, a backside 900 with a mute grab, and a frontside 1080 with a tail grab.

James then proceeded to take one hit on his victory lap before riding up onto the top of the halfpipe sidewall where a few intrepid fans remained. Their reward was a high-5 from the man who picked up his seventh win in seven contests.

Chase Blackwell of Dillon finished in ninth place with a score of 70.50.

aolivero@summitdaily.com

Blunck, Wise go 1-2 at Copper Grand Prix, Aspen’s Alex Ferreira finishes seventh

COPPER MOUNTAIN — Even though he had a U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe championship to defend later in the morning, U.S. pro freeskier Aaron Blunck of Crested Butte woke up Friday at Copper Mountain Resort with the same desire as so many in Summit County: to ski powder.

Blunck rose at 5:45 a.m., looked out his window and saw it nuking.

“‘Alright, I’ve got to get to the hill ASAP,’” Blunck said he thought to himself.

Blunck tried to get up the hill with a crew of officials at 7:30 a.m. When that idea failed, he waited until 9 a.m. first chair to be one of the first skiers to rip a couple of laps on the 10 inches of powder off the American Eagle lift.

He then proceeded to drop into the 22-foot-tall Woodward Copper superpipe and win the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix men’s freeski halfpipe event for the second year in a row. No big deal.

Battling slow, snowy and low-visibility conditions, the 23-year-old former Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete earned an 87.00 to win the Grand Prix.

“I think the last time we had this much snow in the pipe was maybe two or three years ago,” Blunck said. “I think it was about three years ago it snowed about 13 inches — very similar conditions to today. But the snow was a little bit lighter then, so I think most people were able to get two doubles in rather than barely getting one (inversion) around.”

Despite the powder, Blunck began his championship run with a massive switch alley-oop double cork 900 — skiing backward and rotating to the left with two inversions and three rotations — with a Japan grab. Continuing his five-hit run through the pipe, Blunck landed a switch rightside 1080 with a tail grab before setting up the final two tricks down the pipe with a leftside flat-spin 540 with a safety grab. Those final two tricks were a rightside 900 with a tail grab and a leftside 1080 with a tail grab.

Blunck said the challenge to his run Friday was keeping speed through the pipe despite starting out with two switch tricks. The first trick was especially tricky to navigate, as the switch alley-oop double is blind until you put skis to snow.

“It more or less came down to having a down-the-pipe line,” Blunck said. “That rather than going as big as possible, just trying to maintain speed as you went down.”

Blunck was joined on the podium by multi Olympic and X Games halfpipe gold medalist David Wise of Reno, Nevada. Coming back from a broken femur suffered just months ago, the veteran Wise said Friday’s conditions forced him and the other competitors to use all the torque they had to get tricks around, namely doubles, despite not being able to soar as high out of the pipe.

At the end of his 85.25-point second run, Wise skied to a stop at the bottom of the corral before saying, “That took everything I had.” He was referring to the sheer strength necessary to get his leftside double cork 1260 with a mute grab around as his first hit at the top of the pipe. Wise followed that up with a rightside 1080 with a tail grab, a switch leftside 720 with a Japan grab, a rightside 900 with a tail grab and a leftside 900 with a Cuban grab.

“If I’m being totally honest,” Wise said, “I was lucky with the weather. Because I haven’t done a lot of my normal tricks yet ’cause I’m still coming back from this pretty big injury.”

“All of us like to do doubles 12 to 15 feet out, not 8 to 10,” Wise added. “So it was definitely a ‘Who can do the smallest doubles and still get the grabs and make ’em look good’ game today. In terms of power and strength, I don’t have as much snap as I normally do. … I think it’s kind of fascinating seeing how everybody’s strategy has to change so much.”

Canadian Noah Bowman took third place with a run Blunck described as the “most stylish” of the day: a rightside 360 with a stalefish grab, a switch leftside 540 with a high safety grab, a switch leftside alley-oop double cork 900 with a safety grab, a switch leftside 720 with a tail grab and a rightside 1080 with a tail grab.

Those three ended up on the podium after dodging a brave take to the pipe by 20-year-old U.S. pro team halfpipe skier Birk Irving of Winter Park. Coming off a win at last winter’s season-ending World Cup halfpipe event at Mammoth Mountain and a win earlier this season in Cardrona, New Zealand, Irving was going for the “turkey,” or three World Cup wins in a row. Irving might have earned it if he was able to hold an edge skiing backward through the pipe’s powdery flat bottom after landing his huge double-cork 1440.

U.S. women’s freeskier Brita Sigourney, who took second place in Friday’s women’s competition, put Irving’s fearless attempt at the 1440 in perspective.

“That trick is insane,” Sigourney said. “… There is a lot of snow in the flat bottom, and dropping last out of the field, it doesn’t help because that pipe is getting choppy. … It’s accumulating like crazy out there in between every run.”

Irving finished fourth with a score of 84.50, followed by Americans Taylor Seaton of Avon (fifth, 80.35), Alex Ferreira of Aspen (seventh, 70.00) and Jaxin Hoerter of Breckenridge (eighth, 66.25).

Sigourney’s score of 85.00 in the women’s comp came on the strength of a leftside alley-oop with a Japan grab, a leftside 900 with a tail grab, a leftside alley-oop 540, a leftside 540 with a mute grab and a rightside 720. She, like Wise, also podiumed after bouncing back from an injury — in her case a tibula-fibula spiral fracture suffered in May.

On Friday, though, she was bested by Park City native and Great Britain skier Zoe Atkin. In just her fourth World Cup competition, the 16-year-old Atkin won with a leftside 720 with a mute grab, a switch rightside 540 with a safety grab, a switch leftside 540 with a mute grab, a switch rightside 360, a straight air with a double seatbelt grab, a rightside 720 with a safety grab and a switch leftside 360 with an octo grab.

Afterward, Atkin took a page out of fellow champion Blunck’s book and executed the plan she set with her mother over coffee at Copper’s Camp Hale on Wednesday, when they looked ahead at the forecast.

“I want to ski pow,” she said with a laugh. “I’m really excited to get out there after the win.”

aolivero@summitdaily.com

Aspen High hockey team hopes a deep senior class will lead to rebound season

Led by a deep senior class two seasons ago, the Aspen High School hockey team finished 14-5-3 in arguably its best season since winning the 2007 state championship. While last year’s senior class had some great individual talent, it didn’t have the numbers and AHS slipped back to an unsatisfying 6-8-4 mark.

With a senior class back in the double digits, coach Dru Lucchesi is hoping for a bounce back season this winter.

“That was an interesting year in terms of we just couldn’t get over the hump and win against the teams we needed to kind of win against,” Lucchesi said of the 2018-19 season. “It definitely helps (having a lot of seniors): size factor, speed factor, knowledge factor. And just being able to throw the stuff at them we need to. They are going to be able to take it a lot quicker and easier fresh out of the gate, because it’s not going to be so unfamiliar to them.”

The Skiers opened their season Wednesday night, losing 6-1 to Battle Mountain at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail. It was a tough situation for Aspen considering it only had about four practices under its belt. On the flip side, the Huskies (2-1) were playing for the third time and coming off an extensive fall season. Battle Mountain was an 11-win team last winter.

“They got a good amount of ice under their feet. It showed yesterday. They were moving pretty well yesterday and their system is pretty set in stone,” Lucchesi said Thursday of the Huskies, who are one spot outside of being ranked in the top 10 through CHSAANow.com this week. “There is a lot of stuff we still need to get through. But the potential is there. It’s just getting rid of a lot of weird habits these kids kind of have. It’s step one. We saw what they can do and now it’s just fixing stuff.”

The biggest loss from last year’s team was Dominic Lanese, who led the team in goals (14) and points (23) during the regular season. He was tied alongside Matthew Rigney and Max Ufkes for the team lead with nine assists.

Also gone is Henry Morrison, who joined Lanese as the two players to score in Aspen’s 5-2 opening-round playoff loss to Kent Denver. AHS also said goodbye to key defenders in Jackson Holmbeck and Ryan Sovich.

“We have a lot of people who are going to step up and fill that role. We are going to have to get points through the whole team, versus just one kid. Which is good, because that’s how it should be,” Lucchesi said of replacing Lanese. “We have a lot of depth this year, which is really exciting.”

Aspen’s list of key returners is a long one with no real standouts. Players like Jack Pevny, Connor Chesner and Rigney were among the first for Lucchesi to point out. But it continued with the likes of Robbie Fitzgerald, Ethan Hunt, Brady Hornburg and Ufkes, among even more. Then there is Logan Soderberg back in net, as well.

This was the sort of depth and seniority the team lacked a season ago.

“We have a lot of good players and a lot of good pieces,” Lucchesi said. “So there is not really one kid that is above all the rest. We just have a solid two, three, three and a half, four lines of good forwards and we have good defense.”

Aspen’s next chance to play will be this weekend when it hosts Crested Butte twice at Lewis Ice Arena. Assuming the Titans can make the trek through the winter storm set to hit the state, varsity games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11:15 a.m. Saturday. There will be junior varsity games prior to both contests.

Crested Butte went 14-6-1 last season and won a playoff game, but did split two late-season contests against Aspen. The Titans are 1-1 this season after splitting two games with Steamboat Springs last week.

“It’s just bringing everybody up to speed and seeing what they kind of do in games,” Lucchesi said. “We really can’t start doing that process until we have a game or a couple of games under our belt and seeing what their tendencies are. And this is a great week for that, playing Battle, which is obviously a good team, and Crested Butte is going to be no pushover either. They played us really tough last year and they are a physical team, so it should be pretty interesting games this weekend.”

After Saturday, Aspen has only one more game before the winter break, a Dec. 20 home matchup with Steamboat Springs at Lewis Ice Arena.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Snowmass to host first Snow BikeCross event this weekend during Passapalooza

Snowmobiling is fun and all, but snow bikes are the new rage in the on-snow motorsports world. Essentially a dirt bike with snowmobile-like tracks instead of wheels, snow bikes made their X Games Aspen debut in 2017 with Brock Hoyer taking the inaugural Snow BikeCross gold at Buttermilk Ski Area.

The rising sport will now make its Snowmass debut this weekend with the Snowmassive Snow BikeCross event on Assay Hill, part of Aspen Skiing Co.’s Passapalooza festivities. Just shy of 40 professionals are expected to compete in the free-to-watch races.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to come hang out and check out some great racing,” said event organizer Joe Duncan, who has helped produce the motorsport races at X Games for more than 20 years. “We have a full sound system, so everyone can hear the announcers and racing. We have a really cool course that the Aspen Skico guys made us with snow and were able to get us built.”

Assay Hill is located near Base Village, next to Viceroy Snowmass. The top of the chairlift is near the Elk Camp Gondola’s midway station. The Viceroy will be open for food and drink with racing going on only 150 feet away. Skiers and snowboarders will be able to access viewing areas along the course (a ticket will be required to access the lifts) while there also will be access for foot traffic.

The Snowmass races will feature some of the best up-and-coming talent in the sport, although a win this weekend doesn’t guarantee the athletes anything in regards to taking that next step to X Games. However, a good run could lead to an invite.

“We don’t call it a qualifier,” Duncan said. “We kind of call it an invitational. It’s where we look at the next top racers that we would want to come to X Games.”

On top of the pro men, there are divisions for women, youth and adaptive athletes, as well as a mountain/amateur division for some of Aspen’s locals. With a strong winter storm expected to hit the area this weekend, possibly bringing a few feet of snow, there is the chance some races could be canceled. Duncan said inches wouldn’t matter as much as the racers’ ability to see the course.

“A lot of snow doesn’t affect us,” Duncan said. “It’s if it’s windy and the visibility of the snow, that’s going to be the problem.”

Pending any weather issues, there is a practice session Friday from noon to 4 p.m. that is open for viewing. Racing begins Saturday at 11 a.m. and goes until about 4 p.m. Sunday’s races begin at 10 a.m. and wrap up around 2 p.m.

X Games is scheduled to return to Buttermilk Jan. 23 to 26, with the snow bike events set for the weekend.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Finals for snowboard halfpipe set at Copper Mountain Grand Prix

COPPER MOUNTAIN — As Scotty James returns to international halfpipe competition this winter, it feels as though every top American and foreign snowboarder is chasing the Australian star’s ongoing mastery of each superpipe he drops into. Thursday at the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort was no different.

A year after James won every halfpipe event he entered — 6 for 6 — the reigning Copper Grand Prix, Dew Tour and Burton U.S. Open men’s snowboard halfpipe champion posted the top score during Thursday’s qualifying round. James earned a 93.25 on the strength of a five-hit run through the pipe that featured massive amplitude and landing high up on the superpipe wall to keep necessary speed despite the slow nature of the powdery conditions.

The run included a frontside double cork 1080 (two inversions and three rotations while rotating to the board’s front side), a cab 900, a switch backside double cork 1080, a backside 900 and a frontside double cork 1260.

“That’s going to be the best run of today,” U.S. pro big air and slpestyle snowboarder Jake Canter of Silverthorne said in the finish corral after James’ run. “That was psycho.”

James will be joined in Saturday’s final round, scheduled for noon to 1:45 p.m., by second-place qualifier Yuto Totsuka of Japan (87.50) and third-place rider Andre Hoeflich of Germany (83.75). The fourth-place qualifier was the top American on the day: rising star Toby Miller out of California. A year after he finished runner-up to James at this competition, Miller landed a first run score of 81.75 to get through to the finals.

Miller said though Thursday’s powdery conditions were a challenge, especially in terms of keeping speed, the competitors benefited from similar conditions during Monday’s first practice day. Miller’s run, during which he opted for six hits instead of five due to the slow pipe, consisted of a frontside double cork 1080, a cab double cork 1080, a frontside 900, a backside 540, a flat-spin frontside 1080 and a switch 720.

Looking ahead to Saturday, Miller said that depending on weather conditions and if the speed is there, he expects podium placers to land one, if not two, 1260s. At last year’s Copper Grand Prix, Miller made a statement with back-to-back 1260s. He’s been working on landing those and a 1440 in one run, something he’s never done in competition. That said, Saturday’s powder-filled forecast could prevent him from attempting it.

After missing out on last year’s final, Dillon resident Chase Blackwell qualified on the strength of three 1080s in one five-hit run. Miller commended Blackwell for soaring high above the pipe, a skill Blackwell is able to maintain in powdery conditions thanks to his prowess riding powder off piste. Blackwell’s full 73.00 run consisted of a massive frontside double cork 1080, a cab 1080, a frontside air, a backside 900 and one last frontside 1080.

“Chase Blackwell is one of my best friends,” Miller said. “He’s the man. Seeing him put down that first run and make it into finals made me just as happy as I was when I saw I made finals. He was riding absolutely phenomenal going just as big as everybody else if not setting the standard for amplitude. Everyone in here has unique style, but Chase definitely takes that as a big factor in his riding.”

American veteran Chase Josey was the third and final U.S. rider to qualify. He placed seventh on the day with a score of 74.25.

In the women’s competition, Maddie Mastro picked up where she left off last year, when she became the first female to land a double crippler in a halfpipe competition at the Burton U.S. Open in Vail. That earned her a win over previously dominant U.S. teammate Chloe Kim.

With Kim in attendance — the 2018 Olympic gold medalist is taking a break from competition this season to focus on college — the Californian Mastro posted the highest qualifying score Thursday, a 92.00. She’s the only American who made it through to Saturday’s final, as Spaniard Queralt Castellet (85.75) and Jiayu Liu of China (85.25) rounded out the top three.

“I’m pretty happy, and it feels good to lay two runs down at the first contest of the year,” Mastro said. “There is a lot of anticipation and nerves that build up throughout the offseason, but finally things are moving, and it feels great. We had a great set of training camps leading into the Grand Prix, and I feel that work paid off today with some fresh snow causing some challenging conditions. I’m looking forward to finals.”

aolivero@summitdaily.com

World Cup ski racers find creative ways to decompress during their downtime

BEAVER CREEK — To unwind, Italian downhill racer Dominik Paris sometimes screams into a microphone.

Not so much screams as hauntingly growls out lyrics he wrote himself.

Being the lead singer of a heavy metal band called Rise of Voltage is just a way for Paris to give his mind a break from thinking about racing.

Look around the World Cup tour and athletes rely on all sorts of tactics to unplug: American Travis Ganong opened a coffee business; teammate Tommy Ford is into art; Alice Merryweather gives tarot card readings when she’s not strumming her ukulele; Canada’s Laurence St-Germain immerses herself in college courses (she’s working on her second degree) and three-time overall World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin does a little bit of everything (sings, plays instruments, learns new dances, even tries to juggle).

All these endeavors provide a measure of stress relief as they wait days, sometimes even weeks, before going fast again in a race. That’s a long time to dwell only on results.

“The key thing is they’re able to diversify their self-identity, so they’re not just ski racers,” said Jim Taylor, a former ski racer who’s now a sports psychologist. “The bigger piece of the pie that’s devoted to the sport, the more dangerous that can be in terms of over-investment. If their athletic identity represents, say, 80% of their self-identity and they have a bad day? That’s an existential threat to who they are.

“But if there are some other things in their life that they can fall back on, it will enable them to get over the result and move on.”

Music strikes just the right note with Paris, who jots down song lyrics whenever inspiration hits. He and his band practice and perform whenever they can. They have an album out titled “Time.”

Fitting, since Paris’ career is based on it.

“Music is good for my concentration to keep calm,” said Paris, who’s among the favorites for the overall World Cup title this season following the retirement of Austrian great Marcel Hirscher. “It gives me a lot of inspiration and power to ski fast.”

Once a race is over — whether it’s a podium finish or not — and it’s analyzed, the goal is to not think about those hundredths of a second another instant.

“If you’re always thinking about ski racing it drains you mentally,” Ganong said. “It’s nice to have something else you can work on.”

Ganong co-founded Pacific Crest Coffee in Truckee, California, with professional snowboarder Ralph Backstrom. When he’s on the road, Ganong promotes their products (like their honey-processed coffee). And when he’s home, he works behind the register to greet customers.

“It’s super fun doing something completely different than what I do as a professional ski racer,” Ganong said. “It’s really cool seeing the company grow and morph into something pretty special.”

Merryweather travels with a deck of tarot cards and frequently gives readings. Always lighthearted and nothing too deep or serious.

And no, she won’t do a reading on herself before an event.

“I think that if I were to read the night before a race, whatever card I pulled would be in my head,” Merryweather said.

She also plays the ukulele, but not as much these days with teammate Laurenne Ross — a guitar player/singer — sidelined with an injury.

“If I’m focused on racing and training 100% of the time, I tire out and lose my passion pretty quickly,” Merryweather said. “I think that putting energy into something else, like an instrument, tarot reading, or other hobby, can help maintain and reset the competition/performance part of my brain, and actually make me more focused and productive on the hill.”

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety has found another way to take to his mind off racing — chasing after his young son.

“I don’t know if that adds pressure or takes pressure away,” cracked Ligety, who also runs a company called Shred that makes goggles, sunglasses and gloves. “But that’s a good piece for me.”

For St-Germain, it’s hitting the books. She has a computer science degree from Vermont and is now working toward a biomedical engineering degree through the University of Montreal. She’s currently taking a chemistry class with her final set for next week while she’s in Switzerland. Her ski coach will monitor her exam.

“I thought when I was done (at Vermont), I’d be free of school,” she said in a phone interview. “But it just kind of seemed weird for me not to continue with school. Even if it’s busy on the road and there’s a lot to do, I just like how I can get my mind off skiing and zone out.”

A look at how some others decompress: American Bryce Bennett recently took up bow hunting (he’s reading books on the subject); Ford draws, cooks and rock climbs; Ross takes photos; Steven Nyman runs Fantasy Ski Racer (think fantasy football for, well, ski racing); and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway has been known to pick up the guitar.

“Having other activities and interests and passions takes their mind off of the 24/7 mindset of their sport,” Taylor said. “It basically relieves them of a lot of pressure.”

Clubhouse Chronicles: If boot fits, must be ski season for Aspen Supports Kids

The glass slipper was fitted to more than 400 kids on Dec. 3, a magical winter night in Aspen. It took a team of Prince Charmings on Durant Street between Gorsuch and Four Mountain Sports to make the dreams come true for the future skiers and snowboarders in Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club’s 2020 Aspen Supports Kids program.

Parents took off early from work and families traveled from as far as Rifle to get outfitted with snowboards, skis, boots and poles that athletes get to keep for the entire winter season. The line at the Gorsuch Ski Cafe started to form by 2 p.m. for doors opening at 4. Hot chocolate from The Little Nell and cookies from Paradise Bakery were offered to keep the kids warm and happy. Even Santa stopped by to share in the spirit of giving!

For some, this was their first experience putting on boots, holding skis and dreaming of the thrill of heading down the mountain. For other familiar faces, this night feels like a homecoming of sorts. Whether it’s the kid’s first year or fifth, they were decked out in new beanie hats with arms full of equipment fit specially for them, ready to hit the mountain by the time they walked out of the cafe.

As AVSC’s Aspen Supports Kids director, I was honored to be a small part in coordinating this evening for these families. Sometimes I can take for granted the steps that are involved in preparing for the upcoming season. The equipment, the gear, the apparel, etc. Not to mention if you have more than one child.

The checklist is long, but important. We are incredibly lucky to have community partners like Gorsuch and Four Mountain Sports to provide the main components and take the pressure off of families in need, and in the process, make skiing and snowboarding accessible to so many local kids. Thanks to Jeff Gorsuch and his team and to Aspen Skiing Co. and their teams both at Four Mountain Sports and the ticket office for making it such a special night for all!

In less than a month, Aspen Supports Kids full season programs will kick off on Highlands and Snowmass, quickly followed by Buttermilk’s start in February. We have more than 1,500 kids registered for one of our 10 recreational skiing/snowboarding programs, offering six-, eight- and 12-day lesson options. We are ready to give these kids the skill set and confidence to LOVE the mountains in the winter.

Visit https://teamavsc.org/ASK-Programs for more details on Aspen Supports Kids, AVSC’s recreational division.

Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Outdoors section.

Aspen’s Alex Ferreira qualifies for Copper Grand Prix final as halfpipe season arrives

Defending X Games Aspen gold medalist Alex Ferreira made his season debut in the halfpipe Wednesday and looked to be in good early-season form. The Aspen skier finished second in his qualifying heat at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain and will move on to compete in Friday’s 10-man final.

Ferreira, who won Olympic silver in 2018, scored 83.5 on the first of two qualifying runs. He opted out of the second run. Avon’s Taylor Seaton scored 86 on his second run to win their heat. Winter Park’s Birk Irving was the top overall qualifier, scoring 90.75 in the second heat.

Other notable qualifiers to finals include two-time Olympic gold medalist David Wise, who will be the sixth to drop in Friday, just ahead of Ferreira. Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck also snuck into finals and will drop in third. Brendan MacKay, Noah Bowman, Jaxin Hoerter, Dylan Marineau and Evan Marineau round out the finalists.

Full results can be found here.

Not making the cut was Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell. The U.S. rookie team member was eighth in the second heat with a 73.75 scored on his second run. Boulder’s Lyman Currier, a 2014 Olympian, finished a spot ahead of Jarrell but also missed the cut. Also competing was Aspen’s Tristan Feinberg, who failed to put down a complete run in the first heat.

The Copper Grand Prix is the second World Cup event of the season. The first was September’s competition in Cardrona, New Zealand, won by Irving. Ferreira did not compete in New Zealand. Jarrell did, taking 18th.

Competing in the women’s competition at Copper Mountain was Basalt teenager Hanna Faulhaber. The 15-year-old missed the finals cut, taking 15th on Wednesday. This was only her second World Cup start following her 14th-place finish in Cardrona earlier in the fall. She had a breakthrough debut season a year ago.

Canada’s Rachael Karker qualified first in the single women’s heat, followed by Britain’s Zoe Atkin and California’s Brita Sigourney.

The Copper Grand Prix also includes a men’s and women’s snowboarding halfpipe contest, with qualifiers scheduled for Thursday and finals for Saturday.

Note: This article has been corrected to show that Birk Irving, not Simon D’Artois, won the September World Cup in New Zealand. D’Artois led qualifying, but took sixth in finals.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen High girls swimming season gets going with new coach Katherine Keel

As a relatively late hire, Katherine Keel was somewhat thrown into the fire. The new Aspen High School girls swim coach didn’t have much time to prepare nor does she have much of a roster to work with, but she’s ready to lay the foundation for the future.

Not that the program hasn’t been anything but elite in recent years.

“When you get to high school age a lot of these girls have already committed. Even if it’s just to be a high school swimmer, they want to do this and they are all in,” Keel said. “I feel really capable and competent as far as writing workouts and leading the girls and creating a positive culture of acceptance and hard work. It’s just been a lot of figuring out logistics and connecting all the dots behind the scenes. But it’s starting to make sense.”

The Skiers opened their season Wednesday in a tri-meet hosted by Glenwood Springs, taking third despite having only four swimmers compete. Glenwood, which won, had 26 swimmers and Summit had 34. AHS finished only three points back of the Tigers and won five individual events and two relays.

The numbers are lacking in terms of physical swimmers for Aspen, meaning winning meets or competing for a state championship might be too tall of a task. But the individual talent is not of question for the first-year coach, despite the youth.

“Just from a numbers game, this is definitely a rebuilding year,” Keel said. “We can definitely put up some impressive times and score some points, but I think my biggest focus is at the micro level and kind of building those foundational blocks for the future.”

Keel took over for Kathleen Callahan, who stepped aside for family reasons but has helped Keel transition into her role as coach. Callahan guided Aspen to the inaugural Class 3A state championship in 2017, a first for the program. The team followed by finishing eighth in 2018 and fourth last winter.

The Skiers said goodbye to a deep senior class that included Davy Brown, who won a pair of individual state titles in 2019. They had no juniors a season ago; therefore, the Skiers have no seniors on this year’s roster.

However, returning are some key contributors from a year ago such as Ava Cherry, Emily Kinney, Kayla Tehrani and Laila Khan-Farooqi. The latter three, along with Brown, won the 200-yard freestyle relay at state last season.

“We have a really young team,” Keel said. “Although I wish we had bigger numbers, I think having a younger team is great because you can kind of set the tone and the intention and the expectation and these girls are going to continue to swim for years to come.”

Keel, 29, is a native of Tennessee who swam for the University of North Carolina, where she specialized in the breaststroke. She’s lived in Colorado for about seven years, the past two and a half here in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has some coaching background, including as an assistant high school coach on the Front Range.

“I was looking for a way to get back to being on deck and back to swimming,” Keel said. “I liked working with the high school girls because I feel like it’s a really impressionable age and there is a lot they can learn. … They all care about it. They are passionate about it. The desire is there. I don’t have to create the excitement.”

PREP RESULTS

The Basalt High School wrestling team competed Wednesday at Moffat County, losing 54-18 but going 2-2 in contested matches. Ruben Samuelson (170 pounds) and Jose Castorena (182 pounds) earned the wins for the Longhorns. Basalt’s losses came at 152 pounds and 160 pounds. BHS next is scheduled to compete Thursday at Grand Valley.

The Aspen High School hockey team started its season Wednesday, losing 6-1 at Battle Mountain. The Skiers will try and rebound on Friday night and Saturday morning when Crested Butte visits Lewis Ice Arena for the team’s home openers.

acolbert@aspentimes.com