For the past several months, the members of the Colorado Mountain College ski team have been focused on one thing: improving.
Last year, the team failed to send a skier to the national finals, something that disappointed head coach George Thomas and his skiers.
But that disappointment inspired Thomas and six athletes to head to Mount Hood in July for 16 days of training.
It also has sparked the ski team's new sense of urgency in dryland training this season.
"These guys are really motivated," the third-year coach said. "It's probably the most serious group I've had since I took the program."
While the first official U.S. Collegiate Skiing Association race will not take place until January, the team will have a busy preseason schedule with training and early season races.
"This is a very competitive group," Thomas said. "I'll be surprised if we don't send skiers to the national finals this year."
Led by team captain Erik Jorgensen, who missed last year's USCSA National Finals by 0.01 seconds, the team has opened the season with a new outlook.
'This is a much stronger team," Thomas said. "They are much more focused."
Jorgensen will be joined on the men's Alpine team by several returning skiers, including Chris Grover, Ryan Armento and Adam Knapp.
The men's team also will include three first-year skiers and two others who are expected to join the team in January.
Thomas said he also has four athletes out for the women's Alpine team and two Nordic skiers this season.
The team's main focus will be finding success at USCSA events leading up to the regional finals in Red Lodge, Mont. However, the coach hopes his skiers can use their time at CMC to push their skiing careers to the next level.
The coach will take his team to several USSA events and other races outside of the college ranks in an effort to help his skiers improve their national point standing and make them better candidates to compete at larger schools with skiing programs, such as the University of Colorado, University of Denver or the University of New Mexico.
Thomas would like nothing more than to see his skiers continue to ski race once their experience in Steamboat has ended, he said.
For now, the best way to reach those goals is through the rigors of dryland training, something the coach said his skiers have accepted with open arms.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org