Thawing international relations |

Thawing international relations

AVSC staff report
Four AVSC-Alpine athletes and U16 head coach Pat Callahan took part in an Aspen Sister Cities exchange program in Abetone, Italy. Representing the USA. during opening ceremonies for the Pinocchio Cup race are Pascale Augspurger (holding US. sign), Stian Davenport and Myles Pember (in green jackets) and Jack Bowers (with hat, behind Davenport).
Pat Callahan/Special to The Aspen Times |

To say conditions were challenging at the just-completed IFSA North American Championships in Snowbird, Utah, would be a vast understatement.

“It was scary skiing down. You never knew if you were going to double eject,” said Lynn Merriam, AVSC freestyle/freeride head coach.

But AVSC’s big mountain team prevailed throughout the freeze/thaw spring conditions that were as much a part of the four-day event as the cliffs and couloirs that characterize Snowbird’s vast terrain.

Nineteen members of the big mountain team — which is AVSC’s fastest growing program — qualified for the championships. When all was said and done, 13 skiers traveled to Utah for this season-ending event that saw six athletes qualify for the final day of competition. Among the men ages 12-14, Jackson Ferraro emerged in 31st.

“Jackson is extremely pleased with himself,” Merriam said. “He stood up on a bulletproof course.”

Also competing in the finals for this age class were Logan Brown and Nicholas Goralka.

“Extremely consistent skiing” by Brooks Gorsuch landed the athlete in 25th place for men agsd 15-18, the coach said. Davis Henschel also qualified for finals.

In her first year as an AVSC big mountain skier, Rhianna Borderick held her own against what Merriam described as a “tough field, those girls just shred.”

Borderick finished 20th among women ages 15-18 in the finals.

“It’s awesome to see how these kids are starting to use their skills to shine,” Merriam said.

The championships attracted athletes from Canada as well as from clubs throughout the U.S.

Many are athletes “we don’t compete against during the regular season,” Merriam said.

One day after their return to Aspen, the freeride team gathered at the Red Onion where special awards and nearly two dozen varsity letters were handed out. AVSC jibbers of the year are Carson Campisi and Keenan McIntyre while Nick Goralka received the annual sick bird award.

Ambassadors of peace

When one of the alpine skiers representing the United States at the Pinocchio Cup spied a gaggle of Russian athletes, the person’s first thoughts were negative. While that’s not a surprising initial reaction, given the political situation between Russia and the Ukraine, it was an opinion that AVSC coach Pat Callahan quickly set out to change.

During opening ceremonies for the ski race that was part of the Sister Cities International exchange between Aspen and Abetone, Italy, AVSC skiers Pascale Augspurger, Stian Davenport, Myles Pember and Jack Bowers not only mingled with the Russian athletes but in short order were trading pins and stickers with them, too.

“Mending international relations, one skier at a time,” is how Callahan described the experience which initially had Cold War undertones.

During their two weeks in Abetone, the AVSC members enjoyed seven days on the snow as well as side trips to the Ferrari Museum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Mediterranean Sea and the sights of Florence. Located in the Appenine mountains, Abetone in fact touts itself as the “closest ski area to Florence.”

This is the second year that Callahan has taken a small team to Abetone for the Pinocchio Cup.

“It was an amazing introduction to international ski racing and international travel,” he said.

The kindness of the hosts, great spring skiing conditions and of course, the food, obviously stood out on this AVSC exchange. But for the coach, images of an athlete parade winding throughout the small town packed with locals, and a chance encounter with Russian athletes, may be the souvenir with the most staying power.

Weekly with Walt

On the final regularly scheduled “Weekly with Walt” for the season (additional programs may be added on a monthly basis during offseason), skiers Julia Mueller-Ristine and Devon Cardamone are featured guests. Both will be competing next year for NCAA Division 1 NCAA schools.

Also appearing on the program that is hosted by AVSC Excellence Director Walt Evans is ability class coach Lisa Perricone, a five-time All American skier from CU.

The show closes with a look at Aspen Rent-All, a family business that’s owned by AVSC alumni Beth Hoff Blackmer.

“Weekly with Walt” airs at 7 p.m. today on GrassRoots TV, Channel 12 upvalley and Channel 82 below Catherine’s Store, and is repeated throughout the week.