Wilder Dwight super-G races next weekend
More than a quarter-century old, the Wilder Dwight Memorial Race returns to Aspen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday after a year hiatus related to last season’s snowfall.
This year, the two super-G races, which are qualifiers for the U16 Junior Championships, will be run at Aspen Highlands on the Golden Horn/Thunderbowl venue.
And that couldn’t be more fitting considering that Wilder’s early lessons were with the Highlands Snow Puppies program, said his mother, Sharon Dwight.
“Skiing made Wilder happy,” said Dwight, recalling her late son’s passion for the sport in general and skiing fast in particular.
The Aspen native, who earned three medals in the prior season’s Junior Olympics, died Dec. 7, 1986, after skiing into an open mine shaft on Peanut Butter Ridge. Wilder was just 11½ years old at the time.
His talent had already been widely recognized.
“When he was just a little guy, around 7 or 8, he was asked to forerun a downhill,” Sharon said. “Wilder was already on his way to a career in skiing. That’s all he talked about.”
Wilder was a careful study of the sport and enjoyed the mentorship of Dwight’s first husband, 1964 Olympic bronze medalist Jimmie Heuga. “Wilder had known Jimmie since birth. They were very close friends. He would sit with Jimmie and listen to him for hours” as he spoke of his own ski racing experiences.
Dwight added that Heuga later named his own son Wilder in honor of the young man.
Wilder would be 39 years old today, and his spirit lives on not only in the dozens of medals that Dwight still has in her collection, but in this annual early season speed event that may attract upwards of 200 competitors.
“I had hoped this race would go on forever,” said Sharon Dwight. Now, thanks to new enthusiasm breathed into the event from Wilder’s siblings, there’s no reason to think it can’t continue in perpetuity. To learn more about the Wilder Dwight Memorial Race, and a little more about Wilder himself, be sure to check out the Jan. 8 edition of “Weekly with Walt” on GrassRoots TV. The program airs at 7 p.m. on Channel 12 upvalley and Channel 82 below Catherine’s Store.
The Highlands venue was utilized last weekend for a pair of FIS-level giant slalom races and two super-Gs.
AVSC athletes dominated the podium in both the Aspen events as well as four age-class races in Winter Park.
All told, AVSC racers accounted for 13 wins over the weekend and many podiums.
Race winners were: Julia Mueller-Ristine, Devon Cardamone, Dean Travers, Devan McSwain, Myles Pember, Jack Bowers, Ally Cornelius, Summer McSwain, Sean Patterson, Jake Morgan and Samantha Edelman. (For complete results, please see Page A15.)
“We have started well at all levels of competition, but the key is to use that success as a confidence builder for the rest of the season. And to plan accordingly so our kids are still fresh in March,” alpine director Greg Needell said.
Nordic skiers also have enjoyed plenty of success at this point in the season.
On Jan. 4-5, AVSC fielded a team of three men and one woman at the U.S. National Cross Country Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah.
The team included U16s Hailey Swirbul and Jack Sweeney, Nick Sweeney (U18) and Hudson McNamee, who is a U20.
AVSC Nordic Program Director Maria Stuber, along with team coach Ben Dodge, led the team to nationals.
Stuber said that this opportunity to compete here was something the team took seriously.
“This will help them establish training and competition goals for the rest of the season,” she said.
Nick Sweeney and McNamee competed in both the 15K on Jan. 4 and the Sprint National Championships on Jan. 5.
Jack Sweeney skied in the Jan. 4 event only.
In a field of 143 nationally ranked women, Swirbul was first among U16s and third among U18s. Swirbul qualified for the top 30 in the sprint race, which could put her in good position to make a return to the Scando Cup in Europe.
When asked if he is receiving any insider information on the terrain, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — the boyfriend of Edwards’ own Mikaela Shiffrin — chuckled and replied, “You probably think so, but I actually I don’t.”