Happy days are here again for AVSC

AVSC staff report
Courtesy photoAVSC adaptive athletes take to the hill during a recent training session at Copper Mountain.

ASPEN – As opening day for the 2012-13 ski season approaches, most of us are a little frantic searching for our boots, ski socks, helmet, goggles – you name it.

For many Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athletes, the first day on snow has come and gone, and so have weeks worth of dryland training and conditioning. The recent Five Trees Run up Thunderbowl at Aspen Highlands pitted skiers and riders from different disciplines against one another in an annual demonstration of athletic showmanship and pride. (Once again, the nordic team reigned supreme.)

Now, it seems like everyone is going in different directions. This week, nordic members are on top of the Grand Mesa enjoying a solid base for skiing after a trip to West Yellowstone was scuttled because of low snow.

A fundraiser in early November featuring AVSC alums Simi Hamilton, Michael Ward and Noah Hoffman served as a great inspiration for up-and-coming nordic skiers who are well aware that this is the first time in Aspen’s history that three homegrown products have made the national team.

AVSC’s adaptive team has just completed a pair of four-day recruitment sessions at Copper Mountain, where 10 athletes worked on their techniques, tweaked their equipment and kept their humor intact – no matter the day’s circumstances.

To wit: In order to make his prosthesis fit more snugly, one team member Scotch-taped some trail maps to his artificial limb, much to the delight of his cohorts. Damaged equipment is more commonplace with this team than with AVSC’s other divisions in part because the monoski binding doesn’t release.

“We’d rather have them break a ski than end up in the woods,” said program director Barrett Stein.

That half of the national team – including Tyler Walker who was named adaptive athlete of the year – is affiliated with AVSC speaks volumes about the two-year-old program that is packed with coaching talent and enthusiasm.

In some ways, the freestylers and snowboarders remain the envy of AVSC’s other competitive teams because they regularly get to use the new SuperTramp in the club’s backyard. The giant trampoline offers the chance to hone those double-corked tricks at home rather than traveling to another resort in Colorado or Utah.

“People won’t have to travel as far, as often,” said Tyler Lindsay, AVSC’s snowboard program director.

The tramp is complemented by an on-slope ramp component near the bottom of Highlands’ Powder Bowl, which should be ready to roll in December.

Meanwhile, after weekends traveling over the hill to camps at Loveland Ski Area, some members of the alpine team were fortunate to ski the World Cup course Saturday alongside the U.S. Ski Team’s Mikaela Shiffrin. Shiffrin, who already has one slalom podium under her belt this season, is only four or five years older than most of the AVSC skiers who were enthralled to share the hill with her, which seems a bit shocking.

But then one remembers that Aspen continues to churn out talented teens like Julia Mueller-Ristine, who competed in January’s inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, and was nominated by her peers to be flag bearer during the closing ceremony.

As the countdown to Aspen Winternational continues, a baker’s dozen of the club’s alpine coaches are performing double duty on the hill in the morning and running dryland training in the afternoon. Today, they’ll continue installing B-netting on the course, having already secured the safety net near the Berlin Wall and Corkscrew. This weekend, the coaches’ course work begins around 6 a.m., when it’s still dark, and continues until after the final competitor clears the finish line.

Next week, they’ll repeat those schedules during the NorAm races, which draw little spectator attention but are actual showcases for the next generation of world-class competitors. If you are in the neighborhood Monday through Nov. 29, head to the bottom of 1A and show these racers some love and cowbells.