Whiteman students return from trip with new perspectives
November 10, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Getting a head start on their Alpine ski racing seasons last month in Patsch, Austria, wasn't the only thing The Lowell Whiteman School students did on their trip.
They had to figure out the conversion rate of foreign currency and interact with people who speak different languages. The students had to keep up on their schoolwork, which included taking tests. Oh, and they also skied the Stubai Glacier, with elevations as high as 11,500 feet.
Some of the students said they now have a better idea of what it will take to succeed if they want to continue to the next levels of competitive skiing.
"I think most of us learned what kind of focus it takes to be a good student-athlete," said Annie Ochs, a freshman from Crested Butte who took part in the Oct. 2 to 29 trip.
In addition to getting a jump on the competition by starting their training a month early, placing the students in an "world-class training environment" was one of the main goals of the trip, Winter Sports Club Alpine coach Rob Worrell said.
That training environment included staying in housing they shared with U.S. Ski Team members and having a "brutal" daily schedule that included four hours of skiing, three to four hours of studying and about an hour of dry-land training, Worrell said.
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The glacier presented students with a skiing surface of ice and rock for the first four days before the powder fell the following week.
"Ice is the true judge of technique and tactics in ski racing," Worrell said. "Any deficiencies they have are really apparent on ice."
Worrell added that he was impressed with the students' motivation and dedication.
Former Winter Sports Club Coach and U.S. Ski Team member Scott Wither, who was one of the coaches on the trip, agreed.
"It's a really unique opportunity for the kids to have a singular focus for a month," he said. "I was really impressed with the kids' dedication. On ice, in windstorms and when it was 20 below, there was no complaining during their training. I think it was a great venue for training. And the way the kids were able to train and study was impressive."
Ochs said the most difficult thing about the trip was balancing homework and training. Hunter McLean, a freshman from Steamboat, said they watched lessons recorded by teachers at Whiteman and did homework during trips in the van. Vreni Lupear, a freshman from Nederland, said school was easier back at Whiteman with teachers.
Gina Wither, who teaches science at Whiteman and is the school's ski coordinator, was the trip's designated teacher. She said the students trained and studied all but four days of the trip.
"I think they did an amazing job," she said. "Of course, we came across challenges that I didn't anticipate, and we did our best to address those."
Those challenges included some difficulty with self-learning foreign languages, Internet issues and the students studying in tight quarters. Wither said she's hopeful the students learned how to combine studying with their training for future school trips and as they continue with their academic and athletic careers.
The students also got to spend some time as tourists. They visited Innsbruck, Austria; Vipiteno, Italy; went to the Atomic Ski factory in Altenmarkt, Austria; and the Alpine Skiing World Cup in Sölden, Austria.
That cultural experience is important at Whiteman. Students not involved in competitive skiing participate in a spring travel program while skiers catch up on schoolwork they missed during training and competition.
Also on the trip were Winter Sports Club Alpine coach Eric Cates and Whiteman students Alex Barounos, Brant Crossan, Maria Hillenbrand and Shane McLean. Four Steamboat Springs High School students and two skiers — girls from Chicago and Minnesota with whom Worrell has worked in the past — also joined the group.
Hillenbrand, a junior from Steamboat, said the entire experience — skiing rugged terrain, skiing with other teams and watching a World Cup — was a good lesson in what it takes to be a competitive skier.
"I feel like if you want to be on the U.S. Ski Team, we have a better understanding of what it takes to get there," she said.