Steamboat Springs The summer season may have begun, but Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic skier Ben Berend continues to add accolades to what was an already banner 2013-14 ski season.
Thursday night at Copper Mountain, Berend was named the Colorado Ski Country USA Double Diamond All-Star Athlete of the Year. He was nominated by SSWSC Nordic director Todd Wilson, and Berend accepted the award as part of a ceremony that also honored a ski patroller of the year, ski instructor of the year, snowmaker of the year, groomer of the year and terrain masters of the year and handed out chairman's and president's awards.
Berend described the athlete of the year award as an all-around honor geared toward not only successful skiers, but also off-the-snow leaders in the community. He was interviewed for the award two weeks ago and got the phone call that he had won last week.
The 18-year-old racer and jumper led a talented group of Nordic skiers this season. Berend was part of a team of SSWSC athletes, including Erik Lynch, Aleck Gantick, Jasper Good and Nicholas Madden, that qualified for the World Junior Championships in Val de Fiemme, Italy, in late January and early February.
Entering one of the world’s biggest stages for a teenage Nordic skier, Berend was ranked atop all American qualifiers for the competition.
SSWSC head Nordic ability coach Martin Bayer said Berend was able to shrug off an up-and-down start to the year, which was slowed a bit by illness and adverse conditions, to really shake things up late in the season.
“For him, he’s been a young junior stepping up every year,” Bayer said. “The main focus for him was the World Junior Championships. He did OK there, but he’s a competitor, and I know he could do better.”
Berend skied in a total of 11 Continental Cup events, placing 14th in the first competition at Soldier Hollow in Park City. It would be his top finish in a Continental Cup of the 2013-14 season. He also was named to the U.S. Nordic combined "B" Ski Team for 2014-15.
At the Junior World Ski Championships, Berend said illness threw him off a bit and he finished 26th the first day, 23rd the second day and ninth the third day. A lackluster February was followed up by a trio of top-30 finishes in Finland’s Continental Cup.
“It was definitely my most successful season to date,” Berend said. “At the same time, every season has its ups and downs. I finished the year off in Finland with three straight really good performances. I’m excited to build on it for next year.”
Berend was joined by his parents and girlfriend during Thursday night’s ceremony. He said he was able to shake hands with some of the leaders in the Colorado ski industry.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll