Former AVSC ski racer Tanner Perkins named to U.S. squad for junior worlds
Racing takes place March 1-9 in Panorama, Canada
From moving by himself to Aspen when he was only 16 to train, and then later living out of his van during the heart of the coronavirus pandemic last winter, Crested Butte ski racer Tanner Perkins keeps finding a way to move his dreams forward.
The now 20-year-old was recently given the latest boost to his skiing career by being one of six men named to the U.S. team for the upcoming Junior World Ski Championships in Panorama, Canada.
“I’m super excited. If you look at the history of a lot of successful skiers on the World Cup, a lot of them went to junior worlds and were successful there,” Perkins said Thursday. “I’m excited to compete in a high-stakes, high-pressure scenario when you are representing the U.S. I’ve always wanted to go and this is the last year to make it before I turn 21, so I’m really happy and humbled.”
Despite his relatively young age, Perkins already is a bit of a journeyman in ski racing. After growing up in Crested Butte, he came to Aspen as a teenager to train with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, spending the better part of four years working with the club as a FIS athlete and attending school online.
Now a student at the University of Utah, Perkins doesn’t have much of a support system these days, but his persistence on skis has led to his nomination to the junior worlds team where he’s been greenlit by the U.S. ski team to compete in all five events, including the combined.
“I’m honestly super stoked. I don’t have to worry about my flight or booking my lodging or finding a tuning space or getting drove up there. All year this year it’s been super stressful trying to be a performing student in my academics and also do all my own logistics to travel,” Perkins said of having a team to work with, however briefly. “Once it’s over I’ll be back on my own again, but it’s definitely a break and I’m really excited for the opportunity to go there.”
Last winter, when COVID-19 made a mess of the competitive ski season, Perkins mostly lived out of his van and traveled around competing in various races. Officially an alumnus of AVSC at the time, he was appreciative of the club’s help in keeping his skiing career afloat a season ago.
“I can’t express my gratitude enough,” Perkins said. “Basically saved my ski career. If I didn’t have them to help me through last year with COVID, I would have had to pay a ridiculous amount of money to a resort or ski club so I could get the training I needed.”
Junior worlds for Alpine skiing runs from March 1-9 at Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia. The annual event has long been a stepping stone for skiers and snowboarders toward making the World Cup and Olympic teams. Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul, a cross-country skier who just competed at her first Olympics, made a name for herself at junior worlds — she’s a three-time medalist there, which is tied for the U.S. record in the sport. Carbondale’s Kate Oldham also was named to the junior worlds team just this winter in cross-country skiing.
Perkins’ focus at junior worlds will be on the speed events — he considers super-G his strength — but does want to gain more experience in the technical races, especially since he wants to race for a college team next season, where they don’t race speed.
Joining Perkins on the junior worlds team for the U.S. are Minnesota’s Isaiah Nelson and Camden Palmquist, Vermont’s Jay Poulter, Steamboat’s Cooper Puckett and Idaho’s Ryder Sarchett. The women’s team includes a few Colorado athletes in Vail’s Allie Resnick, Thornton’s Dasha Romanov, as well as Ava Sunshine Jemison and Nicola Rountree-Williams, both of Edwards.
“I know I can contend and be in the top three juniors in the U.S., but I’m curious to see how the United States juniors stack up against all of Europe and Canada,” Perkins said. “I feel good. I really don’t know what to expect as far as results. But I feel that I can definitely put it in there. Skiing is a very circumstantial sport where not a lot of things are always in your control. But I hope that luck is on my side.”
For Perkins, junior worlds is another step toward his long-term goals of making the U.S. national team and competing on the sport’s highest level. But he’s also taking a more patient approach, wanting to complete his college degree toward becoming a paramedic first. When home in Crested Butte, Perkins works as a part-time firefighter and EMT.
Not only will getting his degree now better prepare him for life after ski racing, he sees racing for a college team as being beneficial to his long-term skiing success.
“The college environment is a great way to learn, a good way to progress through your early 20s and become stronger. And when you are out of college you have a degree and you are a better skier and you are ready for the World Cup,” Perkins said. “If I were to try and chase the U.S. ski team goal right now, I don’t think that would totally align with what I want to do in life. I’d rather four years from now have a degree and be ready to ski on the World Cup than be fighting for criteria spots the next four years.”
Perkins hopes to find a home with a college program next winter out here in the western U.S., whether that be with Utah, the University of Denver, Montana State, or elsewhere. Even modest success at junior worlds could get him there.
While that future remains yet unknown, he understands how vital his time living and training in Aspen was to making his dreams achievable.
“It really is my second home,” Perkins said. “I’m always going to say I’m from Crested Butte, because that’s where my family is and that’s where I grew up and that’s where my heart is, but I wouldn’t be here without the help of AVSC. I love Aspen and the people there are great and there are so many resources there. It’s a very awesome place for a ski racer to develop.”
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U.S. Ski and Snowboard announced in a Wednesday news release that the Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund will provide financial awards to 44 athletes across all disciplines.