Team Summit expected to shine at NorAm Cup in Copper Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 | SummitDaily.com

Team Summit expected to shine at NorAm Cup in Copper Nov. 30 to Dec. 3

The big, bad FIS NorAm Cup at Copper won't seem quite as intimidating when Rachael DesRochers is racing with her best friend.

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, the 18-year-old and her roommate, fellow Team Summit Colorado athlete Megan McGrew, join roughly 50 technical skiers from across the world for a men's and women's giant slalom. It's only the second NorAm event of the season after the Jackson Hole slalom earlier this week, which makes it a must-run event for young skiers like the Team Summit duo.

"GS is my weakest event, so I've tried changing a few things to see how I can improve — different equipment, working with coaches," McGrew said. "Now I'm just trying to ski as fast as I can. I'm definitely too young to specialize in just slalom, so I really want to keep working on GS. I really do like it."

As a FIS race, the level of competition at Copper's first sanctioned race can be insanely tough. World Cup skiers often swing by a NorAm or two when they need to pad their points, giving up-and-comers a taste of high-level competition.

"I'm used to all the big names at NorAms," DesRochers said. "Copper is one of my favorite mountains. It's our home mountain, so I feel more comfortable on that hill than if we were up in Canada or somewhere."

The home-mountain advantage comes in handy this early in the season, when most ski racers have only been on snow for a week or two. Copperopolis, home to the NorAm GS course, is where the Team Summit skiers have been spending hours and hours over the past three weeks — much longer than their peers from the East Coast and Midwest. McGrew and DesRochers are joined at the NorAms by Jordan Watts and Abigail Murer, two other U-19 racers with Team Summit.

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For DesRochers, the home NorAm is all about earning points in her best discipline. She took second in slalom behind McGrew at Echo Mountain on Nov. 22, but she admits that GS is by far her favorite event. Like her best friend, her sights are set on the University of Colorado-Boulder ski team next season, and she'll need as much technical skiing practice as possible to impress collegiate coaches.

"I think I can definitely break into the top-15," said DesRochers, who currently has about 30 FIS points and will start near the top of the race list. "That will help with my start position and my confidence, really."

It only helps that the Team Summit U-19 skiers have been training with Olympian Sarah Schleper, a former U.S. Ski Team member who came out of retirement last season, joined the Mexican national ski team (her husband is a native), and now splits time between coaching and competing.

"It's a very different experience to have a coach who's actually still racing," McGrew said. "In training, instead of having that outside perspective you have the perspective of someone in the course, someone training on the exact same thing. Sarah lets us know what she skis and how she sees it."

Then comes her best friend. McGrew and DesRochers have been skiing together for about five years, beginning in Vail before moving to the U.S. Ski Team national training group in Park City. This is their first year on Team Summit, and after going one-two at Echo Mountain they're ready to dominate the season.

"Whenever we're down we pick each other up," DesRochers said. "It's great to have your best friend with you every day. Some people would think you'd get annoyed, but we really don't."

FIS NorAm event schedule

Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 — Copper Mountain, men’s and women’s (giant slalom)

Dec. 7-11 — Lake Louise, men’s and women’s (downhill)

Dec. 12-17 — Panorama, men’s and women’s (super-G, GS, slalom)

Feb. 4-5 — Mont Garceau, women’s (GS)

Feb. 4-7 — Mont Saint-Anne, men’s (GS, slalom)

Feb. 6-7 — Val St-Come, women’s (slalom)

Feb. 9-12 — Whiteface Mountain, men’s and women’s (downhill, super-G, GS, slalom)

March 11-18 — Aspen Mountain, men’s and women’s (downhill, super-G, team, GS, slalom)

March 19-21 — Vail Mountain, men’s and women’s (GS, slalom)

For a complete schedule, including start lists, see alpine.usskiteam.com.