AVSC big mountain athletes flying high into North American championships
The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s big mountain team has wrapped up a successful Rocky Mountain Regional competition year. With 50 competitive athletes ages 12-19 in the big mountain program, the team had its most rewarding season to date.
AVSC big mountain athletes competed in 14 IFSA regional and national competitions across the United States and Canada. AVSC athletes ended up on the podium 32 times.
Every athletes’ ultimate competitive goal for the season is to qualify for the IFSA North American Championships, an invite-only event for the top-ranked IFSA junior athletes aged 12-18. IFSA invited the top 175 competitors out of more than 3,000 IFSA junior athletes in the 12-14 and 15-18 age categories. Competition kicked off Wednesday and goes through Sunday at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
Four AVSC big mountain athletes were invited to this prestigious event. Alexa Yang, Wyatt Eaton, Kelly Hilleke, and Bodhi Yang all have their eyes on the overall championship.
“These four athletes have something special and are locked in on a goal they set back in September,” head coach Johnny Rossman said in a news release from AVSC. “Our athletes and organization have all worked tremendously hard towards facilitating a culture of a championship pedigree, while maintaining the focus on fun.”
These top-ranked athletes not only focus on this year’s title, but also have hopes of the honor to represent the United States at the 2024 Freeride World Championships in Kappl, Austria. Last January, AVSC athlete Bodhi Yang finished in the top of the field at the world championships and is currently ranked second in the Rockies behind his good friend, Finn Griffith of Vail.
Throughout this season, Alexa Yang, Wyatt Eaton, Kelly Hilleke, and Bodhi Yang were regulars on the podium. Eaton, known as “Grizzly” by his peers, showcased powerful skiing in Telluride and Copper. Alexa Yang took wins in Telluride and at the Snowmass Junior Freeride event last month. Hilleke, a recent NEPSA award winner, is eager to return to Kicking Horse, where he competed earlier this year.
“I plan on going there to win,” Hilleke said. “Last year at NorAm champs in Big Sky, I saw what it takes to win, and I know I can do that.”
The AVSC big mountain team’s growth has been on a steady uptick in the last years and is one of the largest big mountain competitive freeride programs in the IFSA and the Junior Freeride World Tour.
“Our programs growth is attributed to the community,” Rossman said. “We live in these amazing mountains, and yes, these kids are a product of their environment. They would probably be good skiers regardless, but the culture of Aspen is something our program takes seriously. Results don’t mean anything without character development. We want these kids to win and expect them to stewards of our community.”
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