Earning a chance: Years of work pay off in World Cup starts for Stoltzner | SteamboatToday.com

Earning a chance: Years of work pay off in World Cup starts for Stoltzner

— The key is speed, and for Lane Stoltzner, that means riding as close to the edge of control as she can tolerate.

The Steamboat Springs freestyle moguls skier has never been wild about the aerial aspects of her sport. She grew up on the moguls in Telluride and still loves the battle with a big field of bumps. But the best thing she can say about the two tricks on a moguls course is that they're not the reason why she's still chasing her dreams after six years of training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

"For training we went freeskiing, and our coach would tell us what to work on," Stoltzner said about her early days at Telluride. "We had an amazing mountain for bump skiing, and I grew up as a skier skiing all sorts of terrain, steeps and bumps and everything. We rarely had a course, so I just loved skiing and skiing bumps."

The turns are her specialty, what keep her coming back after frustrating seasons and plenty of "almost" performances.

It's been taxing. Four years ago, she just missed out on making the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, and that miss left her bruised. She's been close numerous other times, as well.

It all paid off Sunday for Stoltzner, however, as she laid down a strong week of skiing at the U.S. Freestyle Team Selections in Winter Park.

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She was fourth in each of the week's three events, two individual moguls competitions and duals Sunday, and that was enough to earn her a spot at a pair of upcoming World Cup events.

"It's absolutely amazing," she said. "For years this has been my dream, to get World Cup starts from Selections, and I've been super close multiple years in a row."

Going big

The speed is key because it can help set Stoltzner apart.

Speed is one of three components that goes into scoring a moguls run, along with a score for tricks and one for turns.

Not only is there a points reward for a speedy run, it lends itself to bigger tricks, more amplitude, and that can be a big help for Stoltzner, as well.

She's often been fast on her skis, though not fastest. Last weekend she consistently was among the top three or four women, and that helped make up for her air scores, which were consistently on the bottom end of the elite competitors.

But if she can cut down her time a little more, it will both boost her score and help her tricks go a little bigger, and it could all add up to a major improvement.

"Her vertical and lateral timing are largely impeccable, some of the best in the country and maybe the world," Winter Sports Club Freestyle Skiing Director Bobby Aldighieri said about Stoltzner in the moguls. "But she doesn't run the skis straight enough and tends not to be super fast. We need to work on getting her down the hill fast and on her trusting herself at the bottom jump, where she does a back flip."

Stoltzner does a 360 off the top jump and a back lay — a back flip with her arms extended straight out — off the bottom, a routine she's kept and fine-tuned for several years.

She's working on a back full — a back flip with a full twist — but it's still a summer project with just a few on-snow attempts. She's happy with her run and hoping a bit of speed can make it pop even more than it already does.

"With speed comes amplitude and size," Stoltzner said. "I'm working on pushing out of the gate stronger and being on the edge of discomfort more often than not."

Making the most of it

One thing Stoltzner has had going for her is consistency.

In fact, she's been as consistent as they come, almost bizarrely so. She finished in seventh place in the 2011 Nor-Am Cup circuit, was sixth in 2012 and seventh in 2013 and 2014.

At this year's selections event, she was fourth in all three races.

That was enough to give her the World Cup opportunity, but it's still not the consistency she's looking for in the long run.

"I need to take my consistency to the next level," she said, "so I'm consistency on the podium instead of just below it."

She's been on the U.S. Ski Team's development squad for four years, but she's hoping this World Cup opportunity is a window into the full squad.

She'll start in at least two World Cup stops, first Jan. 9 in a moguls event at Deer Valley, Utah, and a day later in a dual moguls competition. Then, two more moguls events await at the end of the month, Jan. 29 and Feb. 1 at Lake Placid, New York.

She doesn't anticipate the situation overwhelming her. She's skied with most of the women she'll line up against and beaten plenty of them.

There will be friends and longtime training partners in the field, too.

She said she's benefited this season by focusing on the day-to-day training and the process, rather than the end result or the outcome.

She's hoping to keep that in mind when she starts her first World Cup next month.

"I hope going through the process gives me the outcome I'm looking for," she said. "Ideally, I would love to qualify for finals, and then a top 10 could help me get future World Cup starts."

A happy birthday

Stoltzner didn't find out right away that she was going to get those starts.

At first, it wasn't clear exactly how many spots would be available for U.S. skiers, and she went home Saturday from the deciding individual moguls competition afraid she was the first skier on the waiting list rather than the last one in the field.

She's been aiming for the World Cup for a decade, through good runs and bad, close calls and frustrating seasons. She just missed earning World Cup starts four years ago, and the pain of that setback left her considering her future in the sport.

Now she's thrilled with where she is. She points eagerly to the support she's received from friends and family and the guidance she's gotten from the Winter Sports Club coaching staff.

Even when she thought she was just outside the World Cup bubble, she was optimistic about her career and what was ahead.

Then, she woke up Sunday, her 24th birthday, and went to the hill for the dual moguls competition.

That's when she found out that she wasn't just close to a World Cup again, but that finally, she was in.

"To get my World Cup starts on my birthday, it was a dream come true," she said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9