Steamboat Springs' Howelson Hill Nordic ski course doesn't start easy, but that wasn't a problem for the Tiger boys, who swept the podium at Saturday's race.
It was the second race of a season that seems to be boding well for both teams - a surprise for the women, who have historically struggled to be at the top of the rankings but on Saturday topped mountains teams like Vail Mountain School, Aspen, Steamboat, Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain, Middle Park as well as Nederland, Lake County, Evergreen and Clear Creek.
With added depth from strong freshmen Ruthie Boyd and McKenna Ramsay, the girls have been able to tally more points toward the team total.
"Those two women are definitely the depth that the women's team has desperately needed," coach Bevan Frost said. "Hopefully, over the course of the rest of the season and next season, maybe we can get a women's team that is as strong as the men's team in terms of finishes."
Veteran Tiger Taeler McCrerey took first in the race by just .02 of a second with a time of 17:09.7. Katie Scruggs of Vail Mountain School skate-skied to a second-place finish while Sera Smith of Middle Park came in third.
On the boys' side, Summit's Jackson Hill (13:59.2), Henry Trowbridge (14:36.7) and Cameron Bobb (14:56.0) finished first, second and third, respectively.
"The Steamboat course is very hilly, so the start was pretty exciting because all the skiers kind of jumbled up in a big jam as they were going up the first really steep hill, Frost said. "Only the first people out of the starting gate really had a chance to win the race or do really well. As soon as you were fifth or sixth out of the gate, you were stuck in a crowd of people."
With top team finishes in both genders, the Summit High team is hoping for good things come state, which already has at least 10 boys and six girls qualified from the Tiger team.
"As a high school team, it doesn't get any better," Frost said.
From here, the team switches gears into classic skiing, starting with the Jan. 26 duathlon at Breckenridge's Gold Run Nordic Center. Racers ski a 2-3 km classic style course, have a timed transition and then complete a 2-3 km skate ski course.
Frost would like to see his cusp athletes bump into the top third of finishers who comprise state qualifiers. Still, he says he has a roster of elite high school Nordic athletes.
"Our last finishers are still in the top two-thirds of the field, so that's great to know that even the average Summit High skier is very much above the average skier among those we've competed against," the coach said. "The totality of our team is in the upper two-thirds of the competition."