It’s time to get racing: Area ski teams start slope training |

It’s time to get racing: Area ski teams start slope training

Ski teams from around Tahoe, Canada and Europe took advantage of an early winter snowfall and hit the slopes of Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra last weekend to train for the coming season.

Though the top of Mammoth was not yet open, there were enough steep runs for athletes to work on their freeskiing and racing. Two runs underneath the Broadway high-speed quad chair were set aside for the race teams.

Teams such as Sierra Nevada College, Sugar Bowl Academy, Far West’s Western Elite Ski Team, the Kirkwood Ski Team and others took turns racing through the gates in the fresh snow that carpeted the slopes of Mammoth after a storm last Friday.

“Our purpose down here is to come up closer to full race mode,” said Sugar Bowl’s J1/2 coach Mike Ginsberg.

World Cup winners from Canada, members of the Austrian team and the national snowboard team were also there for early season training.

Alpine races start as early as this weekend and will also be held at Mammoth. A storm last Friday brought temperatures of about 12 degrees fahrenheit and poor visibility to the mountain but it wasn’t enough to keep the Kirkwood Ski Team off the slopes.

Bundled up in blue jackets and brightly colored helmets, members of the Kirkwood team switched back and forth between K2 Ski Blades and regular skis to work on edging and balancing skills smiling the whole time. Despite the fact that the Kirkwood team is more focused on fostering team work through athleticism than propelling athletes toward the Olympics, a few team members such as Katie Sawaya are expected to place into the top fifteen in their age division this season.

The Sugar Bowl team, on the other hand, was a major contender last year, winning the overall Far West program as a team with the highest accumulation of points.

“We brought in some hardcore coaches and really did a great job last year,” said Gary Steffensen, head coach and athletic director for the Sugar Bowl Academy.

Most of the kids on the Sugar Bowl team work hard and some are really pushing toward a career in ski racing.

Cameron Steinback, age 16, in his second season with Sugar Bowl, is racing in the J2 division and attends the Sugar Bowl Academy. He has seen much improvement in his performance since leaving the Tahoe league at Truckee where he raced in the past.

“Last season was a big year of improvement for me. I learned a lot from the coaches,” said Steinback. “This year my main goal is to make the Junior Olympics but that is going to take a lot of effort, concentration and dedication.”

With the same team returning this year, including Olympic hopeful Travis Durfee, Sugar Bowl will definitely be one of the teams to look out for as the alpine race season begins.

A major goal for many of the young athletes who participate in club programs like the ones at Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood is to become a member of the Western Elite Ski Team, a regional team that spans from Utah to the West Coast and sends three or four skiers to the national team every year.

The Western Elite Ski Team was also on the slopes of Mammoth over the weekend in its first training camp since returning from a trip to Chile in August.

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