Nordic skiers from across US, Sweden descend on Breck for roller ski festival
It was a slice of winter sports in summertime for area and visiting Nordic skiers this past weekend in Breckenridge, as more than 100 skiers came out for the first two-day Summit Roller Ski Festival.
Dozens of skiers from High Country clubs — such as the Summit Nordic Ski Club, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club — descended on Breckenridge for Saturday’s skate sprint and Sunday’s classic races. Guest skiers from Loppet Nordic Racing in Minneapolis and the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club in Wyoming also turned out.
The Casper Mountain club brought with them a pair of visiting elite Nordic skiers from Sweden, including Jenny Solin, the winner of the junior World Cup roller ski race in Solleftea, Sweden, and Simon Hallstrom, the 2018 Swedish national biathlon champion. Solin won Saturday’s 200-meter skate sprint competition on the women’s side.
For the men, Hallstrom finished as runner-up to champion Noel Keefe, a U.S. Nordic Ski Team member and University of Utah student from Steamboat Springs who finished 12th in the sprint at this year’s Nordic Junior World Championships.
Summit Nordic Ski Club head coach Olof Hedberg said Saturday’s sprint competition was something new for the dozens of young High Country Nordic skiers who participated, as the competition took place with a one-on-one format after skiers earned seeds based on qualifying times.
“Having a U.S. Ski Team member go up and win that, that was as high a level of racing as you can get,” Hedberg said about Keefe’s win. “You really have a World Cup level of skiing coming down the streets of Breckenridge, and that was really cool.”
Summit Nordic Ski Club athlete and local Peter Haynes joined Keefe and Hallstrom on the podium after a race day his coach described as the best of his life in any Nordic skiing style or discipline. Hedberg also highlighted Summit Nordic athlete Sam Thebeau’s third-place podium finish during Sunday’s 5K classic, which took roller skiers through Breckenridge’s Highlands neighborhood, beginning near the Breckenridge Golf Club and finishing at the top of Discovery Hill, a point-to-point race that included a final 2.5 kilometers of steep, uphill climbing.
“Really a breakthrough performance,” Hedberg said about Thebeau.
Summit Nordic’s Annabelle Pattenden also was a standout over the weekend, as she ended up on the podium both days, finishing in second place in the girls U-16 5K classic race Sunday after she took third place at Saturday’s U-16 skate sprint.
“That was a big step for her, as well,” Hedberg said.
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This past season brought with it Hailey Swirbul’s greatest individual result as a professional cross-country ski racer. But any real satisfaction she received always came when racing alongside her teammates, notably during world champs.