The next generation of Bode Millers and Lindsey Vonns concluded a week of ski racing at Copper Mountain Resort Thursday with the final events in the 2014 U18 Alpine National Championships.
The results have U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and U.S. Ski Team officials confident that the future of American Alpine racing is in good hands. Ski team spokesman Doug Haney said that the credit is in part due to athlete access to the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain and to the development of USSA National Training Groups (NTG) and Regional Development Programs (RAD) affiliated with local ski clubs across the country.
“What we saw is that the level of competition in Alpine skiing is higher than it ever has been,” he said. “We just haven’t seen this competition at this level. It has everything to do with Copper Mountain.”
In recent years Copper has become the home of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team for early-season training, and junior-level competitors have had the opportunity to use the same courses that the U.S. team trains on.
This is the first full season that NTG and RAD programs have been in effect. The programs — run by USSA regional development coordinator Lester Kellar and NTG coach Thomas Erhard — are designed to coordinate training and competition among regional clubs and to help develop junior-level USSA members at the recently formed USSA TEAM Academy in Park City, Utah. The Total Educational and Athletic Model Academy, which opened in 2012, gives junior athletes a chance to complete their high school education while using the U.S. Ski Team Center for Excellence training facilities in Park City and competing at the USSA elite team level.
Haney said that a number of this week’s top finishers were USSA TEAM Academy members.
Many of the athletes who competed this week will proceed to the NorAm Finals, March 11-16, in Canada, followed by the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships, March 19-23, in Squaw Valley, Calif.