Steamboat Springs High School cross-country skiers Peter White, Tanner Visnick and Tristan Fischer head up the lower road at Howelsen Hill while training Monday afternoon. The Sailors Alpine team is scheduled to race in a slalom at Winter Park Thursday, and the Nordic skiers will open their season Friday in Summit County.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs High School cross-country skiers Peter White, Tanner Visnick and Tristan Fischer head up the lower road at Howelsen Hill while training Monday afternoon. The Sailors Alpine team is scheduled to race in a slalom at Winter Park Thursday, and the Nordic skiers will open their season Friday in Summit County.

Sailors ski team hungry to begin competition

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— Almost all Steamboat Springs High School winter sports programs have kicked into full gear, and some are even in mid-season stride. All but one.

Even before snow covered the valley floor, the Sailors ski team was hard at work dryland training for the upcoming season, which is slated to begin this weekend for the Nordic squad.

The Sailors’ Alpine team opened its season with a giant slalom race at Beaver Creek last week, but the Nordic group will take to the course this Friday at Summit County for the Sailors' first test of 2014.

“We’re definitely ready to race, and I think we need a race to progress to the next level,” fifth-year head Nordic coach Emily Lovett said. “You train, train, train, train, and you need to train for something. We’re training for our first race, then we’ll go for the second.”

But first things first for the Sailors Nordic racers, and that’s the Gold Run course at Breckenridge where high-altitude terrain becomes a big factor for a group competing for the first time this season against other high schoolers.

“Other teams seem to be bothered by the altitude, but it’s not too bad since Steamboat is pretty up there,” senior Peter White said. “There’s a flat section of the course, and there’s a hilly section, which I like because Howelsen is like the hilliest course.”

The Nordic group is led by White and fellow senior Meg O’Connell. White is one of Steamboat’s ski meisters, doubling up on the cross-country course as well as Alpine.

Joining White and O’Connell is senior Andreas Foulk, also a ski meister and captain of the Alpine Sailors. Junior Mariah Hoots was tabbed by her coaches as an Alpine captain. Nordic captains were being voted on following Monday’s practice.

In all, the Nordic squad is taking 13 athletes to Breckenridge, and Alpine coach Jim Winn has 14 skiers on his roster. But Steamboat is in a bit of a peculiar situation, one that Winn said most competing schools across Colorado don’t face.

“This year we’re straight high school on both sides, which is interesting,” Winn said, pointing out that no Sailors are doubling up on the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club teams. “A lot of other high school have ringers, people who ski both. A lot of our kids had sports club background early on, though.”

Winn said his somewhat inexperienced group, which boasts just one senior on the girls side, has a new assistant coach in Valerie Powell, a former collegiate skier and current competitions services administrator at Steamboat Ski Area.

“It’s really nice to have a young, up-to-date person who is involved on a daily basis (with competition) working at the mountain,” Winn said.

As a team, the Sailors Alpine group got off to a solid start at Beaver Creak, taking second overall.

The Nordic team spent part of the holiday layoff getting their feet wet in some local competitions, but it’s the real deal on Friday for the Sailors, and their coach believes they are hungry to show what they’ve got.

“There’s a lot of people on our team I’m excited to see race,” Lovett said. “I think we’re ready to race and get one under our belts and see where we stand and what we need to work on.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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