Jitloff is a rising star in the West
At only 18, Truckee skier Erik Jitloff has come a long way since he first strapped on a pair of skis when he was 3 years old.
Having won the downhill and combined championships at the Rolex Junior Olympics last spring and working out all summer with U.S. Olympian and Truckee resident Daron Rahlves, the only thing Jitloff needed was to make the Western Elite Ski Team.
Two weeks ago, notice came that he had been accepted.
“I was happy because of all the training I did this summer,” Jitloff said. “It finally paid off. At the camps, I felt stronger than most guys.”
The stated purpose of the W.E.S.T. is pretty much in line with how things happen.
“The Western Elite Ski Team is designed to provide athletes that are on track for the National Team selection the appropriate training and preparation. Its primary focus will be on athletes who are 19 years and younger.”
In other words, Jitloff and the six other men selected for the team are being groomed for the U.S. Ski Team, of which Rahlves and greats like Tommy Moe and A.J. Kitt have been members.
Included in the selection was Squaw Valley’s Michael Prado.
Awaiting Jitloff is a tough schedule which will take him to places like Jackson, Wyo., and Aspen, Colo., to ski against racers from the U.S. Ski Team’s “C” squad and from other regional teams similar to W.E.S.T.
A typical race will pit Jitloff against 130 other skiers.
For Jitloff, who has deferred college for now -though he plans to get involved with sports medicine eventually -the tour is a chance to get away from Truckee and experience the world on his own.
“We pretty much train wherever the races are,” Jitloff said. “I’ve been to Jackson so many times, I know that hill by heart. But I went to NorAms in Aspen and I was really scared. I’d never been on the hill and it was icy.”
So how far off is the U.S. Ski Team for Jitloff?
Well, you do that math. He will be eligible to remain on the W.E.S.T. for just one more year and, should he live up to expectations, the National Team could call as early as next winter.
“It’s maybe two years off. It depends on my racing and how my season goes,” Jitloff said.
But he knows improvement is needed.
“I got back from a G.S. in Park City and it was definitely a wake-up call to go out there and race. It was definitely a higher level of racing.”
This year, Jitloff will compete in the super G, the giant slalom and the slalom, something Rahlves knows a little bit about.
“I lifted with Daron this summer and he’s a really good guy to know.”
He said he can, at times, be intimidated by the older skier’s presence, but a little humility in a sport where your career is nearly over before you’re 30 is, perhaps, needed.
As a racer on the alpine ski team at Tahoe-Truckee High School, Jitloff did a lot of maturing.
He said working with Pat Mooney, Geoff Froelich and his current coach, Greg Jones, has all been to his benefit.
When at the gate, Jitloff said nerves are not a factor, and that he prepares by listening to music like Pantera.
“I just want to attack.”
Assuming Jitloff follows the play book and makes it to the National Team, he is looking forward to the day he will stand on the hill and look down at Olympic and World Cup crowds.
“Yes, those are definitely goals,” Jitloff said. “It didn’t even occur to me that I could be in the Olympics until about five years ago.”
Until he joined the Truckee team, Jitloff’s motivation in skiing left a little to be desired.
“My dad got me started on skis at Alpine Meadows when I was three and they would leave me at the ski school while they went off and had fun,” said Jitloff, who grew up first in San Jose and, later, England.
His parents moved back to the States in the mid-’80s, settling in Truckee where Erik could ski full-time.
“I’ve been racing ever since,” he said.
Currently, he is sponsored by Dynastar, Lange, Kerma, Smith, Marker, Boeri, Spyder, Alpine Meadows and the Far West Masters.
Though he makes it to dozens of ski resorts across the country on the tour, Jitloff still considers Alpine Meadows his home hill.
When he’s not on the hill, he relaxes by participating in water sports. In the summer, he works with Lee Schmidt at High Sierra Water Ski School, which gives him the opportunity to wakeboard and tool around on the water.
His immediate goals are to simply perform well on the NorAm Series to increase his chances of joining the National Team soon.
“I just want to stay focused.”
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