A great weekend for AVSC nordic skiing
Last weekend, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club Nordic athletes proved they were forces to be reckoned with in events across the globe. Alumnus Noah Hoffman, 24, a member of the U.S. cross-country team, had a World Cup stage win in Kuusamo, Finland, the first victory ever at the international level for an AVSC Nordic athlete.
Hoffman won the men’s 15-kilometer pursuit at the Ruka Triple, a three-day event that opened the World Cup and Olympic season. He started 62 seconds back and finished 12.2 seconds behind the winner, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, of Norway. That was good for ninth overall, 50 World Cup points and 5,000 Swiss francs.
Back in North America, Hailey Swirbul, 15, gave a gutsy performance against veterans and many of the country’s top college athletes at the West Yellowstone SuperTour Sprint Qualifier. She qualified 13th, properly “executing our plan,” said AVSC nordic director Maria Stuber. “Hailey just killed it.”
Just 8 seconds out of first place, Swirbul was the only U16 in the top 25, a field composed of the best women in the country, minus the top seven currently competing at the World Cup. At Saturday’s 10-kilometer freestyle, Swirbul was 17th.
“She’s been training really well, making awesome technique improvements,” Stuber said.
The SuperTour isn’t a juniors series but is rather the most competitive domestic series just below the most elite level. Swirbul was put to the test last year at the Skando Cup in Norway. Clearly she’s comfortable against tough fields.
So is Noah Hoffman. On his blog, he called Sunday’s stage the race of his life. Hoffman continued, “I was inspired before my start by watching my teammate Kikkan Randall ski to a fifth place finish in the ladies’ tour.”
Inundated by well-wishers, Hoffman wrote, “I am honored to represent the U.S. and international ski community.”
The early strong finishes may bode well for the season.
“Right now we have a lot of momentum going into the winter. This was the first weekend of racing, and already AVSC is popping great results, nationally and internationally,” Stuber said.
After the final women’s alpine events at Beaver Creek, some of the World Cup racers landed at Loveland for NorAm competitions.
Katie Hartman, AVSC post-graduate, was 25th in Monday’s giant slalom, though her second run was smoking hot; she was 14th-fastest.
The FIS men also impressed. Starting with bib 54, AVSC’s Nick Mitchell finished 10th and Devon Cardamone moved up from 37th to 21st. Luke Prosence and Sky Kelsey, who are both new to this more competitive age group, finished 57th and 59th, making huge leaps from their triple-digit bib numbers.
“Those are excellent development results,” said Greg Needell, AVSC alpine director.
“Weekly With Walt”
Former U.S. Ski Team member Mark Tache joins Walt Evans on this week’s GrassRoots TV program “Weekly With Walt.” Tache is among three inductees into this year’s AVSC Hall of Fame. Also joining Evans on the program, which airs today at 7 p.m. on Channel 12, is Scott Gordon, president of Alpine Bank-Aspen, and Madeleine Hawken, AVSC special events director.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Tuesday announced the final U.S. World Cup schedule, a lineup that includes the Aspen World Cup from March 3 to 5 on Aspen Mountain. Those races will include a men’s super-G and two men’s downhills.