The six-day camp was packed tight with the aim of sending
the racers into the summer with new sets of goals and a clear
picture of where they stand on a national level. After the athletes,
many who had never been to the COE before, went on a tour of
the state-of-the-art facility, they met up with the U.S. Ski Team’s
sports scientists for a workout and physical testing.
Over the following two days, the racers went head-to-head
in GS and slalom races at Park City Mountain Resort in the
mornings, and met with U.S. Ski Team coaches and support
staff in the evenings. A mid-week trip to Snowbird for some
freeskiing and skills drills gave the J3s a taste of what the new
SkillsQuest program is all about.
Keller says evaluations outside of the gates solidified the
camp’s organizers’ belief that skiing fundamentals remain key
to development at this crucial level.
“A suspicion was confirmed, unfortunately, that this group as
a whole were better event-skiers than they were skiers,” said
Keller. “So I suspect that already at age 13, clubs are narrowing
their focus to race preparation and not keeping their total
preparation wide enough.” He adds that the racers probably
need to work more on just good ski technique to make them
good skiers, too, which is another tie into SkillsQuest.
“We have been saying for years that the best ski racers are the
best skiers and great skiers make great ski racers,” said Keller.
“But, through some of our reward systems, we may not have
been reinforcing that message. So now we are trying to come
up with reward systems to backup our words with actions.”
In order to give the athletes an idea of where to focus their
summer workouts, each skier was evaluated and accumulated
points based on their race results — including the final parallel
dual race — and their performance in a host of drills on the
Aspen’s Sky Kelsey took the boys’ overall award along with a
U.S. Ski Team jacket thanks to wins in both the GS and dual race
and a second-place finish in the slalom. A pair of Eastern skiers
finished two-three with Gould Academy racer Zach Bouchard
in second and Burke Mountain Academy’s Paul Shiels in third.
Isabella Wright of the Jackson Hole Ski Team led the girls
with a win in the dual race and a third-place finish in the GS.
Mission Ridge Ski Education Foundation skier Delilah Cupp
took second overall with top-five results in all three races. The
Park City Ski Team’s Molly Leavens took third after winning the
GS and finishing second in the slalom.
But, it wasn’t the results, awards or swag the young athletes
were talking about at the end of the camp.
“It’s been so fun; it’s a great experience,” said Wright. “It’s
totally different than anything I’ve been to. It’s cool to meet all
these girls I hope to get to see them again soon.”
“I think that knowing that I can do pretty good against all these
really good girls and that the U.S. Ski Team knows who I am now
is really cool,” said Rachel Desrochers of Ski and Snowboard
Club Vail, who finished fifth in the GS race. “It really made me
feel like I need to work hard to be able to train here one day
with the U.S. Ski Team.”
“I am just going to take what all these coaches gave me
because they know what they are talking about, and I have
plenty of stuff to work on, so I just listened to them and let them
coach me,” said Buck Hill’s Tommy Anderson.
According to Keller, the camp was a huge success and
accomplished one of the main goals of familiarization across
divisions of the nation and levels of the sport in the country.
“They came here and found out there were kids just like them,”
he said. “At home, these kids are at the top of the pile, or one
of two in a program, and if they go to a public school, they
disappear every winter. They get out here and see kids with the
same aspirations and doing the same things. And now our top
level coaches are watching out for them.”
Keller says similar programs will be adopted by the USSA’s
other branches, including the freeskiing and nordic programs.
Parents & athletes can learn more about the skiing skills
assessment component at http://alpine.usskiteam.com/alpine/
Racers at the U16 National Assessment Project camp warm up for a
workout at the Center of Excellence.