Robby Zehner flies down the See Me run at Steamboat Ski Area en route to winning the 2009 NASTAR Race of Champions. Zehner has won the event four consecutive times, the last three of which earned him trips to train with the U.S. Ski Team in a pre-season camp in South America. He went by himself once, and he is using his other trip this summer to take his father, Tom, with him.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Robby Zehner flies down the See Me run at Steamboat Ski Area en route to winning the 2009 NASTAR Race of Champions. Zehner has won the event four consecutive times, the last three of which earned him trips to train with the U.S. Ski Team in a pre-season camp in South America. He went by himself once, and he is using his other trip this summer to take his father, Tom, with him.

Stemaboat racing family heads to Chile

Zehners to train next month with US Ski Team

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— Even in a town with its fair share of medal-winning Olympians, the Zehner family has distinguished itself in ski racing.

Patti Zehner and Tom Zehner have proven to be two of the most prolific racers on Steamboat Springs’ NASTAR course, and their son, Steamboat Springs High School graduate Robby, annually proves himself the fastest competitor in NASTAR.

That prowess and passion now has earned two Zehners a chance to push even further in their sport.

The NASTAR raw-time title, which Robby won for a fourth consecutive time in March, comes with an autumn trip to Chile to train with the U.S. Ski Team. Offered the opportunity to make it a trip for two, Robby Zehner hopped on the chance and invited his father, Tom.

“Robby has a lot of sports-minded friends, and he choose me to go with him, and I think that’s great,” Tom said.

The Chile trip will be Robby’s second. He traveled there in 2009 to train with the U.S. team after winning that year’s NASTAR event. Last year’s trip was canceled because of poor South American snow, so he was given the choice of extending this year’s trip from one week to two weeks or to invite someone else along.

It wasn’t a difficult decision.

“My dad, he’s a ski racing freak,” Robby said. “He loves everything about the sport and everyone who’s involved, all the athletes, so it will be really fun for him to be right up in the mix and to get to live in their shoes for a week.”

That the opportunity has Tom excited may be an understatement.

He’s plenty familiar with ski racing, having taken to the sport in Michigan, where he and Patti still live in the summer.

Their love for racing and skiing in general eventually drew them to Colorado, and they now spend their winters in Steamboat Springs. Their love for racing has only grown since.

Two years ago, Patti proved herself one of the most prolific racers in the country, recording more timed NASTAR runs than anyone else. Last winter, it was Tom who earned that honor, working mostly at the Bashor Bowl course at Steamboat Ski Area. He recorded a startling 748 races last winter.

“I’m really pumped about the whole trip,” he said. “I’ve never skied in South America, and this will really be an opportunity of a lifetime for me. And I still ski race, of course, so to train with the U.S. Ski Team is going to be a super experience.”

Tom, 68, said he’s looking forward simply to meeting the team, especially giant slalom expert and Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety.

He is looking to pick up a few tips, as well.

“I want to work on my race line. I think I go too direct at the gates,” Tom said. “I need to smooth that out a little, and hopefully they can provide me the feedback to help.”

Robby said he hopes to document the Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 trip on a blog at the website for his Front Range CrossFit gym, Alpine CrossFit, www.alpinecrossfit.com.

He’d like to get more involved than he did on his previous trip and hopes to try downhill race training with the U.S. Ski Team. The time with the biggest stars in his favorite sport isn’t the time he’s most looking forward to, however.

“My dad’s always been my biggest fan,” Robby said. “He’s sacrificed a lot for me to get to the point I’m at, and I wanted to bring him with me this year to have some fun and make some memories.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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