Steamboat Springs As a member of the Steamboat Springs High School ski team, Stewart Beall has taken a much more relaxed approach to the sport of skiing this year.
But that doesn't mean the skier, or the team he represents, is not competitive.
"It's been a big change," Beall said of making the switch from national level ski racing (FIS and USSA events) to the admittedly more laid-back world of high school racing.
"Last year I missed more than 30 days of school to ski race and the year before that I missed 40 days," Beall said. "My senior year has been great. It's nice getting a taste of high school life."
High school ski coach Chris Arnis said he thinks it has been nice having the former national-level skier in the high school team's ranks.
Beall has teamed up with a few other ability-level skiers such as Joe Liefer, Andrew Porter-Merrill and Ron Assad to boost the Sailors near the top of the high school standings in just about every race this season. In fact, the team is one of the largest in the history of the program and already has four girls and 11 boys qualified to race in the state championships in February.
However, there are still two regular-season races remaining. The next one will take place this Saturday on Vail's Gold Peak.
The high school racers will be challenging themselves on a giant slalom course.
"I like to race giant slalom because I think it's the toughest race. It's even more difficult than downhill because the giant slalom is so much more technical."
While Beall has already secured his invitation to the state races, this week's competition in Vail will be more important to some of the other Sailors racers on the team.
"Most of my athletes are already qualified for state," Arnis said. "But I've got three or four who are still trying to make the cut."
Arnis said the team has had a little bit of a layoff since its last race Jan. 3 in Breckenridge.
Beall was third in that giant slalom race, which was won by Andrew McConathy of Vail. Middle Park's Dan Flygere was second. Steamboat packed several other skiers, including Porter-Merrill in fourth and Liefer in fifth, into the top 5 at the event.
"This is a real solid team," Beall said. "We've got a lot of talent. The key for us is keeping things fun."
Beall said the recent break helped the team keep things in perspective and he expects that when the team returns to training Jan. 31 everyone on the squad will have a refreshed attitude that should carry through the state meet, which is scheduled for Feb. 23-24.
Steamboat has not only been strong on the boys side this season but is also making some noise on the girls side.
The team, which is led by Cassidy Kurtz, has also posted strong results in the early part of the season and should contend down the line, Arnis said.
"As a team I think we are a lot better than we were last year," Beall said. "I think everybody is feeling pretty good with where we are at right now."
The Sailors will compete in Vail this Saturday starting at 9:30 a.m. The final race of the season will be a slalom in Beaver Creek on Feb 9.