STARS development racing team showing steady growth | SteamboatToday.com
Ben Ingersoll

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STARS development racing team showing steady growth

Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports development racing team member Kyle Taulman makes his way down the giant slalom course at Steamboat Ski Area's Bashor Bowl. The STARS development racing team has grown in just its second season, starting with five skiers last year to 10 this winter.

— As individuals they raced, each one of the eight athletes jumping into their skis, clinging to their poles, pushing out of the starting line and jamming down the giant slalom course at Steamboat Ski Area’s Bashor Bowl.

They raced as all slalom ski racers do, individuals bobbing and weaving past the red and blue gates. But for many of the eight adaptive skiers, they weren’t alone — they were there at Bashor with their Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports teammates, individuals joined together on a ski racing team for the first time in most of their lives.

The STARS development racing team is in its second year on the mountain, but this season has yielded nearly double the number of skiers with dreams of a steadily growing future for the program.

"Our main goal with the team, obviously, is to have fun with it," development team coach Tommy Moore said. "We’re really trying to learn some good sportsmanship and socializing among their peers, which is huge for us, especially when they get older."

Sunday was their first test with such matters. The STARS development racing team has formed a bit of a team partnership with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and joined in on the club’s annual Steamboat Cup.

The club opened up space on its Steamboat Cup U10 start sheet for an adaptive section, allowing the STARS athletes to get their feet wet in giant slalom racing despite some first-timer jitters during the frigid day on Bashor.

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"There were a lot of nerves," Moore said. "We had a lot of nervous kids today. There were kids who were worried they weren’t good enough, but we talked about it. They’re racing the clock. They aren’t racing each other."

Moore said it can be a challenge for the STARS coaches to get their adaptive athletes to buy into the relatively new idea of racing. The partnership with the Winter Sports Club helps plenty, he added, because it allows the skiers to race against and alongside some of their club-member classmates and peers.

Above all else, the coaches stress that STARS athletes like Kyle Taulman, Jackson Lewer, Paige VanArsdale and Tyler Paoli grasp the idea that it’s a learning process rather than an Olympic team tryout.

On top of that, Moore was most impressed with his skiers’ camaraderie. Each one who finished the GS course waited at the run base for their teammates with high-fives and words of encouragement.

"That’s really what we’re looking for," Moore explained. "We’re not chasing gold. We’re not here to chase medals or anything. It’s about learning the sport and learning teamwork."

The team gets together every Sunday morning for practice at the ski area, with few competitions throughout the winter like they saw Sunday. They’ve grown from five athletes last year to about 10 this winter with more growth in the future.

Starting in February, the development team will start conditioning practice under the ski area lights. Also in February is their second and last home competition of the year. STARS will host a Disabled Sports USA race — a Diana Golden Race Series event, normally an East Coast-only series that will make its Rocky Mountain debut Feb. 8.

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