Steamboat Springs Reaching the top of the Alpine skiing world requires hard work, talent and a little luck.
That's why the Rocky Mountain Division hopes to offer young Alpine ski racers a helping hand through its Gold Medal Initiative. The initiative aims to produce a gold-medal skier from the Rocky Mountain Division in Alpine, freestyle or Nordic.
"Our division has produced tons of Olympians, but we've never had a gold medalist from Colorado," said Anje Worrell, Assistant Alpine Program Director at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. "We are hoping that this program will bring a gold medal to Colorado in the future."
Worrell said a grant from the Rocky Mountain Division helped fund a trip to Vermont for young Alpine skiers who have shown promise through top results.
She was even more thrilled that four skiers from Steamboat Springs were part of the trip.
The Gold Medal Initiative invited eight athletes to the weeklong camp, where they were exposed to different skiing conditions and fine-tuned their skills under the watchful eyes of top coaches. The Steamboat skiers included Shane McLean, 16; Ciar Colgan, 15; Scott Ptach, 16; and Sam Glaisher, 16.
The Rocky Mountain Division picked up the majority of the cost of the trip. Skiers chipped in about $800 for the trip, while Worrell said the division covered most of the food, lodging and race expenses.
"It was a big help," Glaisher said about the financial aid. "I was able to ski in some very different conditions and take part in some races that I normally would not, and it was a pretty cheap trip for me. The best part was I scored out East and was able to drop my points."
Worrell said the whole idea of the project was to take skiers outside of their comfort zone and expose them to the racing conditions they might face in North American Cup Series or other high-level competitions.
The skiers spent time training at Stratton and raced in Okemo before traveling to Northern Vermont, where they trained at Burke Mountain for the remainder of the trip.
They also competed in two Eastern Cup Races, which are similar to the Colorado Cup Series. Worrell said the races were a little more competitive because of the large number of college racers in the Vermont area.
"We skied on three different courses and trained at some great facilities," Worrell said. "It was a wonderful trip, and I think it will pay off when our skiers return to competition here."
Colgan, Glaisher, Ptach and McLean have hopes of jumping to the next level and someday making it on the U.S. Ski Team. But they also know that getting to that level is not easy, and they are looking to older, faster skiers for guidance.
"I'm very confident in my skiing right now," Colgan said. "I started way back in the pack, but I was able to move up. For me, there is a new confidence of knowing that I can race down any hill. It was a really great experience. The races were phenomenal. I had a chance to see a lot of really fast college racers."
Worrell said that's exactly what organizers hoped would happen. In Stratton, McLean started 52nd and finished 14th, first among J2 skiers in a race Jan. 8. The next day, Colgan, who is a first-year J2, started 140th and finished 70th. She was 13th among J2 skiers in that race.
In Okemo, Glaisher started 105th in a giant slalom and raced up to 45th overall. He was the top J2 skier in the race, which was held Jan. 8. Ptach started 110th in a race Jan. 9 and finished 51st overall. He was third in the J2 class.
"We wanted to send a small group of up-and-coming 15- and 16-year-old racers back East," Worrell said. "These are the NorAm racers of the future, so it's important for them to gain some experience now."