Olivero: Rising U.S. Alpine stars, Team Summit come together to share thrills of Alpine skiing with Upper Blue elementary students
BRECKENRIDGE — Katie Hartman thought back to her days as a student at Upper Blue Elementary School as the U.S. Alpine Tech coach and four U.S. Alpine skiers interacted with and handed out U.S. pins and Team Summit ski racing pamphlets to Upper Blue students.
A couple of decades ago, the Breckenridge native attended Upper Blue as a third, fourth and fifth grade student. It was back then that her passion for the speed of Alpine ski racing blossomed. Her mother would call her in sick many a powder day for them to ski out from their Peak 8 home onto the slopes of Breckenridge Ski Resort.
With those memories in mind, Hartman returned to Upper Blue on Friday afternoon to pay it forward, a moment that harkened back to the days when walking hallways that seemed so much bigger.
“It’s so weird,” Hartman, 31, said to U.S. Alpine Ski Team athletes River Radamus, Kyle Negomir, Jacob Dilling and Bridger Gile. “When I walked in here, I was like, ‘Oh my, God! Everything is so little.’”
Coach Hartman and the four U.S. Alpine 2022 Winter Olympic hopefuls stopped by Hartman’s old stomping grounds on Friday as part of a joint community outreach event between the U.S. Ski Team and the Summit County-based Team Summit sports club. Hartman and Negomir are former Team Summit stars. Radamus’ father Aldo, a Colorado Snowsports Museum Hall of Fame member with extensive Alpine coaching experience at the sport’s highest level, is in his second year as Team Summit’s Alpine ability director.
With those connections to both Summit County and the highest levels of U.S. Alpine skiing, Edwards-native Radamus said his father wanted to share the excitement of Alpine skiing with the young children of the county. As the U.S. skiers handed out the U.S. Ski Team pins, Radamus, 21, said his father’s goal is to remind the young children and their families of what makes Alpine skiing special.
The Junior World Champion Radamus — who will ski for the second-straight season on the World Cup circuit — also said one of his father’s current focuses with Team Summit is to do what is necessary to make ski racing more accessible and more affordable. It’s no secret that the cost of pursuing the dream of becoming the next Bode Miller or Lindsey Vonn is expensive. Team Summit’s Alpine Development Program — a step up from the club’s Intro to Team Summit all-sports program — checks in at a cost of $2,295. Whether with Team Summit or another club, a young ski racer with talent looking to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to them can expect to pay thousands of more dollars annually to pursue their dream.
Yet there are an increasing number of winter sporting options talented young athletes can decide between in Summit County. Beyond the traditional Alpine disciplines, Team Summit also coaches several freeski and snowboard disciplines, from park and pipe to moguls and big mountain. Then there’s the talented Summit Nordic Ski Club program as well as newer ski mountaineering programs, such as Breckenridge-based Summit Endurance Academy, who provide attractive youth winter sporting options to locals. Throw in the team winter sport options at Summit High, including talented hockey and wrestling teams, and there’s no shortage of options for Summit locals.
The Radamuses, Team Summit and the U.S. Ski Team are aware of this, hence River Radamus’ emphasis on the fun of speed and air time when speaking with Upper Blue students Friday.
“That’s how it should be,” River Radamus said. “If you live in a mountain town, you should be able to go and ski race and enjoy the mountain lifestyle.”
Whatever one’s opinion on the cost of Alpine ski racing, Friday had to be a cool moment for these young Upper Blue students. Radamus, Negomir, Dilling and Gile have been working diligently in recent weeks at the speed venue and the new state-of-the-art race-prepared U.S. Alpine Technical Center at Copper Mountain Resort. Adjacent to the U.S. Ski Team’s downhill training venue off of the Super Bee lift at Copper Mountain, the skiers said the new tech venue has been prepped with 6 inches of water to saturate the surface to simulate the fastest, iciest and most-challenging GS and slalom venues in the world.
With them training there between now and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in China, Hartman said each of the four up-and-coming U.S. Alpine skiers in attendance at Upper Blue on Friday are athletes to watch heading into the Olympic cycle.
With their own success — the U.S. men are regarded as one of the world’s best junior teams, led by Radamus, who won gold in the Super-G and giant slalom at last season’s World Junior Championships — the athletes may be able to buoy interest in traditional Alpine skiing for mountain-town kids and families. It’s one of the most eternally-true elements of sports: With winning comes interest. The good news is, as Team Summit refocuses on making Alpine more accessible and affordable, skiers like Radamus, Negomir, Dilling and Gile appear poised to introduce ski fans to a new generation of potential stars.
“There are seven or eight guys aged 18 to 21 who are all threats to establish themselves over the next two years,” Radamus said. “So we are moving in a great direction, and our World Juniors success shows that.”
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