Clubhouse Chronicles: Thank you to those behind scenes in AVSC Nordic programs
AVSC Bill Koch League director
Over the past few weeks, we have seen many great achievements from Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athletes.
All of the hours, sweat and tears committed to these achievements have paid off and, with the end of our winter season drawing near on the nordic team, in particular, I want to not only congratulate the athletes for their achievements, but also give a shout-out to the coaches behind the scenes who keep the wheels turning, the kids healthy and happy, and the parents continually engaged in our program.
Many of our season highlights happened right here in the Roaring Fork Valley. We trained on incredible trail systems both in Aspen and at Spring Gulch. We hosted three great races: the Owl Creek Chase, the CRMS CHSAA race at Spring Gulch, and the Raoul Wille Memorial RMISA/CHSAA in Aspen. Thank you to race director Casey Ward for keeping all aspects of race day running smoothly, and to all of the volunteers and race administrators who help make these races a reality.
Perhaps the highlight of the season is the fact we have 11 skiers from the Roaring Fork Valley representing the Rocky Mountain Division at Junior Nationals in Truckee, California, this week — topping last year’s club record of eight athletes! These athletes are enrolled in our national comp program, a full-time commitment which requires an impressive level of passion and grit.
After AVSC, many of these skiers will continue on to race in college, on their national team, or both. August Teague, our nordic program director, serves as national comp head coach and designs a world-class training program to help athletes elevate their mental and physical performance. August is assisted by Sari Anderson, who plays a large role in skier development across all age groups.
In addition, our high school nordic teams, alongside their alpine teammates, earned their third (boys) and second (girls) consecutive state championships. Nordic athletes dominated the field; sibling pair Elsie and Anders Weiss both won their races. Our Aspen High School coaches — Travis Moore, Ben Dodge and Justin Silcox — were the backbone of our team’s success throughout the season and at the state championship. These coaches bring years of experience and dedication to the table here at AVSC; Travis and Ben have been a part of the team since 1994 and are a critical component of our culture, sharing classic AVSC values, connections and stories with our athletes. Our high school skiers that ski out of Spring Gulch are coached by Justin Silcox and Wes Engerstrom, invaluable members of our team who have created a strong community of downvalley nordic skiers.
Speaking of impressive tenure, Austin Weiss will celebrate his 20th season as an AVSC coach next season. He, alongside second-year coach Nika Meyers, lead Aspen’s devo program. A bit farther down Highway 82, Emily VanGorp and Rob Russell coach the same program at Spring Gulch. This program encourages a fun, supportive and positive community for middle school-aged skiers. The goal is to foster a lifelong love of skiing and spark an adventurous attitude with travel and racing.
While I’ve focused on our competitive team coaches here, we have another 20 who commit weekday afternoons to sharing their love of nordic skiing — and hot chocolate and Goldfish — with our newest athletes through the Bill Koch Youth Ski League. They provide many skiers’ first experiences on snow, doing all that they can to make every skiers’ start fun and engaging.
This is my sixth year as the Aspen Bill Koch director. I am grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by inspirational coaches and witness first-hand the massive impact they have on the personal and athletic growth of their athletes.
At the end of this season, I will be moving on from AVSC to pursue flight school. The people are what I will miss most. After all, community is what has kept me nordic skiing all these years.
Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Outdoors section.
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Keegan Swirbul was set to carry on with his nomadic career this summer with Ljubljana Gusto Santic, a professional cycling team based out of Slovenia