Local skiers getting jump-start on winter | AspenTimes.com

Local skiers getting jump-start on winter

Jon Maletz

Toby Lamar of Aspen takes a gate and the win during The Aspen Times Town Race Series at Aspen Highlands last March. Lamar is currently training with the Rocky Central Region Team in Hinterux, Austria to prepare for the upcoming season. (Aspen Times file photo)

Snow began to pile up in the region this past week, and Loveland is even contemplating opening its lifts as early as Friday.While Aspen Mountain and the surrounding ski areas have only been dusted, and opening dates look to be more than a month away, three Aspen Valley Ski Club members have traveled to Europe to prepare for the upcoming season.Toby Lamar, 20, Alice McKennis, 16, and Paul Britvar, 17, have been training since Oct. 1 on the glaciers of Hintertux – Austria’s world-renowned early-season training center. The three were invited to attend the two-week session as members of the Rocky Central Regional Team.The group – a feeder team for U.S. Ski Team hopefuls – comprises the best athletes from an area stretching from Colorado east to Michigan. A regional coach appointed by the U.S. Ski Team is overseeing the training.

“We sent coach Benjamin Black with the kids, and he informs me that all three are skiing quite well,” AVSC coach Casey Puckett said. “Hintertux provides very high-quality training, and the kids get to train next to all the national teams from Switzerland, and the U.S. team is also there.”The three athletes are standing out as some of the strongest in the camp during practice in the super G, giant slalom and slalom, Puckett said. The early-season success is spurring high expectations for the upcoming winter.For McKennis, Lamar and Britvar, lofty expectations are hardly a new development.McKennis ranked second in the country in her age group last year and regularly competed against athletes a year older. At the J2 Junior Nationals last March for 15- and 16-year-olds, McKennis took second in the super G and third in the giant slalom, but lost her ski during the downhill competition. Had she finished the course, the likelihood of McKennis winning the overall title was strong, Puckett said.McKennis, who is home-schooled, recently received her GED but is putting off college. She will be in the running to win the Junior Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho, in March.

Lamar has also put off college to concentrate on making the U.S. ski team, Puckett said.”Toby is a little older, so he is under a little more pressure to make that step to the national team,” Puckett said. “He definitely has the potential, but things need to come together for him.”Britvar, a senior at Aspen High School, is one of AVSC’s strongest skiers. The team is waiting for him to realize his full potential, Puckett said. Britvar, like McKennis and Lamar, has set his sights on competing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.”So much depends on them and what they are willing to put into it,” Puckett said. “They need to figure out what they’re willing to sacrifice and then put it all together on important race days.”

The three skiers, along with their AVSC teammates, have been training since workouts began in May at Arapahoe Basin. In August, 18 kids traveled to Argentina.McKennis, Lamar and Britvar return home from Europe on Saturday; practice is expected to be under way Monday at Copper Mountain. The men’s first NorAm competition is slated for Nov. 28 at Keystone; the women compete Nov. 29 in Winter Park.”With these kids, I can see that they really want this,” Puckett said. “It’s a big commitment, but they’ve been working hard. Who wouldn’t rather be skiing in Switzerland in October?”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com