Summit County ski clubs hopeful for season as they prep alternative plans due to COVID-19
DILLON — Local Summit County youth ski and snowboard clubs on Tuesday shared the latest developments for the 2020-21 season.
Team Summit Executive Director CB Bechtel said he feels there’s a “great opportunity” for youth winter sports clubs to have athletes take part in competitions this season. Bechtel said he and other team directors have been working with a regional group of youth winter sports clubs to find ways to have competitions safely this season with novel coronavirus protocols.
Bechtel said the executive directors from some of the largest winter sports clubs in the region — such as Park City, Steamboat Springs, Aspen and Vail — have been meeting intermittently in recent months to share ideas.
“Pretty much everything is on the table,” Bechtel said.
Bechtel said the regional group will move forward with its plans for a winter season while another group is discussing plans at the national level with U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
Bechtel said the regional and national discussions — from the Continental Cup Nor Am Circuit on down to youth development programs — include various changes to competition formats to limit exposure for athletes, teams and other skiers and snowboarders on the hill. The recommendations include hosting all races and events across disciplines on a single day for each gender to reduce the number of athletes on the hill. At events, Bechtel said one idea is to have athletes from individual teams compete together in one group at the same time, rather than having athletes from different teams take to a course mixed together.
“It’d be by team rather than by a random bib order,” Bechtel said. “That way, say, the Team Summit kids that train together every day, when they go to the competition, Team Summit goes into the start, all the kids go, and then the next team comes in, and all their kids go. It’s to keep those bubbles, or pods, in tact.”
Bechtel added that the ski club representatives have discussed limiting the number of athletes in a start area to 10 at a time. Another idea, he said, is reducing the number of officials at an event to allow for more athletes to attend.
In terms of a timeline, he said nothing is set in stone, though there has been some conversation about delaying until Jan. 1. There’s also discussion about different start dates for different age groups as well as the logistics of American and Canadian athletes being able to compete in the opposite country due to quarantine recommendations and rules for travelers.
As for access to ski resort terrain, Bechtel said the clubs are having conversations almost weekly with resort partners to try to come up with solutions for how the clubs can operate their programming on the hill. Bechtel said weekday competitions are being considered to avoid weekend ski crowds and align with school schedules that will be remote at least a few days a week.
“I think that we are going to plan to operate as normal,” Bechtel said. “But at the same time, we are making multiple levels of contingency plans. We are working with our resort partners to create the best opportunity for the kids.”
Team Breckenridge Executive Officer Katie Merrion said Tuesday that “there’s a lot in flux” for the club currently as they wait to hear back from resort partners. She described last season as “jarring” for the club as COVID-19 canceled Team Breckenridge’s two biggest fundraisers. The club was able to receive Paycheck Protection Program funding that helped it host summer strength and conditioning programming for athletes.
She said the club is planning to continue to host training “as normal as possible” with some scheduling changes.
That includes athletes working around atypical school schedules locally and in the Denver area. In an attempt to help the athletes scholastically and socially, Team Breck is working with the Summit County Program Providers Collaborative to provide study hall time for Team Breckenridge athletes.
“It’s about providing a safe space for kids to come and do their schoolwork when they can’t be actually in school,” Merrion said. “It’ll be part of the regular conditioning and training we offer. … We want to help with the social connection aspect, because an equally big part of it is to help families and parents who may be working and don’t have time to be at home with kids.”
Bechtel said Team Summit is also working closely with local schools to coordinate and schedule training around the “blended-learning” approach schools are taking.
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