Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat skier Michael Degrandis flips through a trick Sunday during a dual moguls competition at Steamboat Ski Area. Degrandis won the event, leading the way for a number of his teammates who managed to place high.
Steamboat Springs Athletes that are friends or from the same team facing off is an inevitable part of a dual moguls competition, where skiers are placed into a bracket, then compete in single-elimination duals to determine a champion.
Sunday could have seemed a little bittersweet for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as its top moguls skiers continually matched up in a competition at Steamboat Ski Area. That was hardly the case, however. The Steamboat skiers capped a weekend of freestyle skiing with excellent performances in dual moguls, and when they did meet on the slopes, it was for the very top positions, ensuring the team finished with plenty of high spots.
Steamboat swept both the men's and women's titles at the duals event and had plenty of skiers to fill in behind those champs.
Michael Degrandis, for instance, won on the men’s side, besting Sam Hall in a finals dual. To get to that matchup, he had to beat two teammates in the final three rounds, including younger brother George Degrandis in the quarterfinals.
The pair have been competing at the same events for years and came within one race of a head-to-head matchup a year ago. Sunday was a first, however.
“It was beyond what I thought it would be. It was one of the best duals of the day. He skied amazing,” Michael Degrandis said. “He’s skiing so well right now. I was nervous. On duals day, he always finds his fire.”
That feeling of nervousness was mutual.
“He’s a great skier. He’s really quick, and he’s always on his airs,” George, 17, said about his brother, 19.
In the next round, Michael Degrandis ran into teammate Bradley Hoefer and he won again, picking up his first win of the season and setting the stage for a month of training before he heads for the NorAm circuit in February.
George Degrandis ended up fifth, and Hoefer finished fourth.
The final standings on the women’s side were similar for Steamboat. Sophia Schwartz made it a weekend of wins, adding Sunday’s title to the victory she picked up in an individual moguls competition Saturday.
She beat teammate Lane Stoltzner in that final round, a matchup of not just two of Steamboat’s best skiers, but the country’s.
“We have a really strong club, and we have quite a few good girls,” Stoltzner said.
No kidding. Those two were joined in high finishes by Jaelin Kauf, who was third, and Avital Shimko, who was fifth.
“It’s fun to see,” Stoltzner said. “Sophia and I are the only seniors on the team right now so its fun to see more girls get up there on that level.”
On Sunday, having so many athletes on that level led to a self-inflicted toll on Steamboat, but it also packed the podium with local athletes, and that was difficult for skiers or coaches to complain about.
“It’s painful and great at the same time,” Winter Sports Club coach Rob Day said. “Today it was great that they were meeting up for the top spots, instead of earlier in the bracket. The team really did well today.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com