New season, new direction for AVSC Nordic | AspenTimes.com

New season, new direction for AVSC Nordic

AVSC staff report

AVSC's Nordic Bonfire Dinner, traditionally held as part of Winterskol, has been moved to February to avoid competing with myriad other events during that busy week.

While it's possible that the rescheduled event — now set for Feb.15 — will benefit from more moderate temperatures (last year the mercury dipped well below zero when the skiing bonfire dinner was held), there are other advantages to this new spot on the calendar.

"It's a good time to highlight the team's accomplishments at the state meet," said Maria Stuber, the new AVSC Nordic program director. The bonfire takes place the day after the team returns from the competition.

She said, "Also, the Olympics are going on," suggesting that interest in the sport could be at an all-time high, given that three AVSC Nordic alums may be competing in Sochi.

Stuber, 29, and a graduate of Northern Michigan University (with a masters degree in exercise science, focusing on endurance sports), comes to AVSC after two years coaching at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vt.

There, she took a program that was dead last in the conference to a second place (men's team) and fourth place (women's squad).

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Prior to that, Stuber was a member of the Central Cross Country Elite Program, where she won a silver medal at nationals.

She's joined this season by newbies including Ben Koons, Nils Koons, Bryan Cook and Tami Kochen.

Last weekend, coaches and some AVSC athletes trained on the Grand Mesa, where technique was the emphasis.

Early season is "the easiest time to make changes, when things aren't ingrained," Stuber said. Strapping on skis must have seemed like a welcome change for the athletes who lately have been "ski walking" — dynamic hikes up Tiehack — for training.

"It's the same thing as skiing, but you don't have glide. It can be really tough," she said with a gentle laugh.

On Grand Mesa, there were only 3 miles of groomed tracks, but one team parent set up a cook stove so the group could enjoy some hot cocoa and soup during ski breaks.

Stuber, a native of frigid Wisconsin, said, "It doesn't get any better than that."

Veteran coaches also are helping the program retain its continuity. Stuber replaces Toby Morse, who last season retired from coaching. Many familiar faces remain on staff, however.

"After I was hired, I was reading their bios on the website. I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me.' "

Collegiate racers, World Cup veterans and two Olympians led Stuber to the opinion that, "All of our head coaches are extremely qualified."

Another scheduling change for the program this season is the date of the annual Nordic Festival. This year the fest, which includes the renowned Owl Creek Chase, is set for Jan. 18-19, about three weeks earlier than usual.

AVSC is also hosting free ski days during December, where skiers in Aspen and Carbondale can test equipment, meet the coaches and sample what it's like to be part of AVSC's Nordic program.

"Weekly with Walt" on GrassRoots

This week's Nov. 20 show "Weekly with Walt," which airs at 7 p.m. on GrassRoots TV, focuses entirely on the AVSC Adaptive Program.

A significant funding challenge this season could threaten the program's viability, so the club is looking to the greater community for help.

For more, be sure to tune into the program, which is repeated several times throughout the week.

A short video explaining the adaptive funding crisis is also available on Vimeo: https:// vimeo.com/79531010.