Olympian Morgan Arritola joins AVSC staff as Nordic national comp team coach
After a successful career in cross-country skiing, Morgan Arritola took a sensible route and went to college and earned a degree in respiratory therapy.
Turns out, life as a professional athlete was a lot more fun.
“I did the job and I hated every minute of it,” she said. “So just recently I’ve decided that I’m at a good spot in my life where I feel I’m ready to coach and I realize the impact my coaches had on me when I was younger. Not just with sport, but life in general.”
Arritola, 34, is a 2010 Olympian and former member of the U.S. cross-country ski team. As of this past week, she’s now part of the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club’s Nordic staff, where she will primarily work with the national competition team athletes as a coach.
She was thrown into the fire this weekend with AVSC hosting the annual Raoul Wille Memorial Ski Race, named after the late Raoul Wille, an accomplished cross-country skier and coach from Aspen who died suddenly at age 45 while in Nepal.
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The course just outside the AVSC clubhouse hosted numerous races Friday and Saturday, which were held in conjunction with the University of Colorado ski team.
“No warm-up runs for her,” said August Teague, AVSC’s Nordic program director, about Arritola’s first week on the job. “We were really trying to find someone else who could come in and help make Nordic their profession and in doing so continue to build our community here. She checked every single box along the way, and more. So we just feel incredibly fortunate.”
Arritola is a native of Bend, Oregon, but moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, as she entered high school. Her plan had originally been to play soccer in college, but was turned onto cross-country skiing in Sun Valley and the sport took her from there.
She stepped away from professional skiing around 2012, which overlapped with the beginning of her running career, where she also became one of the world’s best trail runners and still competes today.
But with her other career in healthcare not working out, she’s found a second, or third, wind with coaching.
“I’m kind of going into it just eyes wide open and ready to do whatever,” Arritola said. “A coach needs to know more than just the sport itself, and you really have to know the athlete and develop a relationship. And I think that’s the most important thing about coaching in general, is it’s not me telling you to do something. It’s a partnership and it’s a back-and-forth.”
While this is Arritola’s first real coaching job, she does have roughly 15 years of coaching experience, in some form. Even when she was still ski racing, she would help coach junior programs and teach private lessons, and even helped coach soccer.
She moved to Aspen from La Grande, Oregon, and said Colorado is a place she sees herself long term, and hopes to be in the coaching business for the long haul.
“It’s a good opportunity in time to give it a shot and see if it will stick,” she said.
For AVSC, it’s another impressive addition to an already strong coaching staff. Arritola will work most closely with the competitive high school-aged skiers who might be trying to continue their careers after graduation.
“Our kids are so lucky. They got Simi Hamilton and Hailey Swirbul on the World Cup, showing them that their dreams are not just possible, but that an athlete from this valley has executed on those,” Teague said. “And then to bring in someone of Morgan’s caliber to be able to share those experiences and that knowledge and help build and bridge the gap between where our athletes are and where Simi and Hailey are, it speaks for itself. It’s amazing.”
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There was some fun post-game banter about maybe making a run at the Europa League crown, or at the very least a championship here in Colorado, but coaches and veteran players alike made sure the Aspen soccer team had its eyes aimed at a more reasonable goal, like making the playoffs.