With the lack of natural snowfall, Summit High's Nordic team has been relegated to short courses at the Breck and Frisco Nordic centers.
"The skiing at both places is really pretty good for the amount of snow we've had," coach Hannah Taylor said, but the kilometer at Breck and half-kilometer at Frisco are still short and narrow for training purposes.
The tracks do exist and are in good shape, given the conditions, Taylor said, but they're still short for training purposes. A two- to three-kilometer course would be ideal.
Taylor has been a coach in Summit schools for nine years, the majority of those years being at the high school. She and assistant coach Joe Howdyshell also coach with the Summit Nordic Ski Club, whose of-age members typically race on the high school team (this year, the entire club is racing on the high school team). Because of the dual duty, Bevan Frost came on board this year as head coach for the high school team, tasked with devoting his time to the high school athletes who don't compete in the club program. The goal is to have a full-time high school coach to be with the program day-in and day-out.
With the first race just two weeks out, the team is focusing on reviewing technique, feeling the skis under their feet and increasing aerobic fitness "to an acceptable level," Frost said.
Roughly 30 skiers are enrolled in the high school program, which is more than last year and triples Taylor's first year as coach roughly five years ago. About 10 of those racers are not in the club program.
Taylor's looking forward to a strong team this year, as 18 returners qualified for state last year, the boys' team is coming off first-place finishes in both classic and skate techniques and the girls' team is looking to bump up its performance from two fifth-place finishes in the middle of the field.
Taylor would like to see all of the team qualify for state, which could be a long shot given the number of freshmen and team newcomers. Frost's goal is equally daunting, as he wants to draw the potential out of his non-club athletes.
"I feel like I can see a lot of potential, but I think we're in search of the proper attitude as a team," he said. "I want to get them to realize they're capable of more than they think they're capable of. I want them to find their fire."
In the boys' team cross-section, there are enough outstanding athletes to field three teams "that would most days beat all of our high school competition," Taylor said.
Out of those numbers, senior Jackson Hill and sophomore Henry Trowbridge anchor the team.
"It's always fun to have a group of kids who are able to push each other in practice and get the best out of each other," Taylor said, adding that there are a handful of boys who she's less familiar with and she's not sure where they'll come out come race time.
"It's awesome to have so much depth," she said.
The girls' team is slightly younger, "but that's not to say they won't be fast," Taylor said.
Sophomore Taeler McCrerey will be a heavy hitter most days, the coach said, adding that young cross-country runners from the fall are also going to be boons to the team. Names like freshmen Ruthie Boyd and McKenna Ramsay and junior Katherine Pappas should ring a bell from the fall season. Sophomores Claire Anderson and Claire Vandeyacht will also be strong as they move up with last year's large freshman class.
Race time will be when Taylor and Frost really know what they have on the team, but Taylor speculates that the boys will remain strong in the field, with Aspen and Eagle Vail posing the biggest threats. The girls will have to work hard to move up through the ranks, and they face stiff competition from Middle Park, Vail Mountain School and Aspen, in particular.
If the Dec. 15 race happens in Minturn, Taylor will be happy. "It will mean we have snow," she said, adding that she's eager to have a race and see where the athletes are compared to last year and compared to preseason training.