December National Alpine Development Update
The 2020-21 season kicked off last month with a flurry of high-level competition at Copper Mountain. Two races were held in each event, one National Championship and one FIS, and many athletes notched personal best results. It was exciting for domestic athletes to be able to race toe-to-toe with U.S. Ski Team members to start the year. Congratulations to the juniors who achieved podium-level results: Isaiah Nelson (USST/BHSC), AJ Hurt (USST/SVST), Allie Resnick (USST/SSCV), and Ava Sunshine Jemison (BMA). There was a tremendous amount of momentum for the whole country coming out of the series, and a special thanks goes to Copper Mountain for hosting such exceptional races!
Copper Speed Projects
Directly after the U.S. Nationals finished, U.S. Ski & Snowboard hosted open, club-facilitated developmental speed training on the Copper Mountain Speed Center. Coaches from around the western U.S. brought U14, U16, and FIS-level athletes to work through a speed progression under the leadership of U.S. Ski & Snowboard staff. Reaching 200 athletes over the course of 10 days, the athletic focus was on basic speed skills: jumping, gliding, aerodynamics, and skiing over terrain. The FIS athletes had the bonus of finishing their five-day training block with two SG races under blue-bird skies.
Both the U.S. Nationals and the Copper SG races featured extensive COVID mitigation measures to ensure that the races were run as safely as possible. For the Nationals, every athlete, coach, and official was tested upon entry, and then again once more during the week. For the FIS SG races, every athlete, coach, and official was required to complete a daily health check before arriving at the venue. In each case, it was successfully shown that ski racing can move forward with thoughtful steps taken to mitigate congestion points at the start, finish, and on course during inspection. Granted, there is risk with almost any activity we undertake in this pandemic, but as an individual, naturally socially-distanced, outdoor sport, alpine ski racing has distinct advantages that should allow us to continue doing what we love this winter!
In spite of the successful precedent established at Copper, we are having difficulties hosting races this December. Some of the challenges have been weather-related, but in other cases, the local restrictions have been too strict for us to operate. Still, it is encouraging to see the Western Region moving forward with FIS races in Jackson, WY this week, and we will look to build on that example after the holidays.
In spite of all the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought, the stark reality has forced us to be thankful for what’s most important: our collective health, the chance to remain engaged at work and school, and the opportunities we have to enjoy the outdoors. This winter, more than ever, skiing will prove to be a vital part of our lives. The slow start to the racing season is only a small hiccup in the larger picture and one that has the side benefit of allowing our athletes to train more and hone their skills for the long-term. Let’s all work together to make the most of the current situation.