Brant’s breakthrough: Steamboat ski cross racer hopes to build on 2015-16 | SteamboatToday.com

Brant’s breakthrough: Steamboat ski cross racer hopes to build on 2015-16

Crossan enjoys best season of career

Steamboat Springs ski cross racer Brant Crossan leads a pack down a course this season. Crossan's season ended earlier than he'd hoped after an injury, but he'd already used the winter to compile some of the best results of his career.

— It was all adding up to be one of the best competitions in Brant Crossan's career.

His times in training rounds ahead of a ski cross World Cup event in South Korea were placing him in the top 20 and even the top 16.

By the numbers

2011-2015

48 — Brant Crossan’s average World Cup finish

2 — Times qualified for finals at a World Cup

2015-2016

33 — Crossan’s average World Cup finish

5 — Times qualified for finals at a World Cup

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Then, he crashed, hitting hard after a feature and bruising his shoulder, spraining his ankle and, most seriously, wrecking his thumb.

It's been that kind of career for Crossan: big moments followed by disappointment. Despite what ended up being a season-ending injury in South Korea, however, Crossan said this winter was different.

After years toiling on the lesser ski cross circuits or at the very bottom of the World Cup world, Crossan, now 24 years old, said the 2015-16 winter was a breakthrough for him.

"I had a really good year, really good," he said Tuesday, back in Steamboat Springs after the season. "I really, so to speak, punched the hole. I'd been struggling for a really long time at a certain level, and this year, I broke through and arrived at the next stage."

His best result came in December at a World Cup in Val Thorens. He placed 22nd, the best he's ever done on the World Cup.

Ski cross races consist first of individual timed runs through a course for the entire field. The top 32 skiers then face off on four-man races, with the top two finishers advancing.

Rarely was Crossan fast enough to make that bracket.

In the first 20 World Cup starts of his career, dating back to 2011, he accomplished it just twice. His average finish through those seasons was 48th.

This season, however, he made the cut in half his races, five of 10.

It started with his first one, a 27th place showing at Montafon, Austria, then continued into January and February as he made the top 32 in five of his first six events. He didn't close the season as strongly, then saw it all end with that injury in South Korea. Still, in his eyes, 2015-16 was a big step forward.

"Everything just kind of came together and seemed to work out," he said.

He credits moving back to Steamboat with some of his progress.

Crossan grew up an Alpine skier with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, but shifted his focus to ski cross shortly before graduating from Steamboat Springs High School.

His initial dip into World Cup waters, in March, 2011, was actually very successful. He made the top-32 benchmark in his third event, in Branas, Sweden. He wouldn't make it back until February, 2015, nearly four years later.

Along the way, he moved to Park City to focus on his sport. Last summer, however, he decided to move back to Steamboat. He trained with other freestyle skiers — ski cross slots in as a freestyle sport — Ryan Dyer and Jeremy Cota, and when he went back overseas to start the winter, he had a newfound confidence.

"It's a lot more relaxing atmosphere in Steamboat than in Park City," he said. "The summer got me back where I needed to be, mentally, and I went into the season with a really positive outlook. Then, right off the bat, in my first race, I qualified, which I hadn't done in a really long time."

Now, he's planning another low-key summer in Steamboat and also looking ahead to next season.

This winter may have been a step, but he's hoping to take many more.

"I decided to stay in Steamboat and really put my head to the grindstone," he said. "The Winter Sports Club is helping me a great deal, giving me access to their facilities and gum and some of their coaching staff, and I'm really thankful for that.

"This summer, I'm looking to get strong."

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

By the numbers

2011-2015

48 — Brant Crossan’s average World Cup finish

2 — Times qualified for finals at a World Cup

2015-2016

33 — Crossan’s average World Cup finish

5 — Times qualified for finals at a World Cup