Summit’s Grace Staberg wins World Cup ski mountaineering race in Andorra |

Summit’s Grace Staberg wins World Cup ski mountaineering race in Andorra

Summit locals Anderson, Albin also compete

The U.S. contingent at last weekend's International Ski Mountaineering Federation World Cup event in Andorra, including Summit County locals Sierra Anderson (far left), Grace Staberg (second from left) and Connor Albin (second from right) pose for a team photo together during the competition.
Sierra Anderson / Special to The Daily

FRISCO — Thinking back to her solo participation on the International Ski Mountaineering Federation World Cup circuit last year, Summit local Sierra Anderson heard many national anthems when races recognized the top-3 podium placers. But there was one song noticeably missing: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I remember thinking how cool it would be to be over here competing and have that as part of our experience,” Anderson said Wednesday.

With five American ski mountaineers competing — including three from Summit County — Anderson and her fellow Americans got the chance to hear the national anthem on Sunday when Summit High senior Grace Staberg won the women’s junior World Cup race in Arinsal, Andorra.

Staberg skied away from the 18 to 20-year-old competition in Sunday’s 1,300-foot elevation-gain vertical race, finishing almost a full minute ahead of her nearest competitor. That runner-up happened to be Staberg and Anderson’s good friend Samantha Bertolina, one of the world’s best young ski mountaineers who spent part of last summer living in Summit County with Staberg.

The day prior, Bertolina bested Staberg in the World Cup’s individual race, where the Summit County local finished as runner-up to her international skimo pal.

Staberg won Saturday’s race in typical Grace fashion, giving it her all from the get-go. She took the lead after just 30 seconds of racing and held on for the win with no gas left in the tank.

“Going to the podium ceremony and hearing the national anthem was definitely memorable for me,” Staberg said. “That moment in particular stands out. When I look back on this year, there’s great memories of all of the events. I feel I’ve been learning so much. It’s such a great experience for me. I feel all of the races were just as important to me as that win was. I’ve grown so much as a competitor from all of them.”

Anderson also competed in the individual race Saturday and vertical race Sunday. Though the results weren’t her strongest, Anderson said the weekend was special because she and Staberg — who have been living and training at a chalet in France through the winter — were joined for the races by Summit youth Connor Albin, John Gaston from Aspen and Cameron Smith from Crested Butte.

This coming weekend in Berchtesgarden, Germany, the American crew will be joined by Rory Kelly from Boulder and Eric Carter. Having a larger, stronger U.S. contingent over in Europe, even if still smaller than the scale of the European teams, means a lot to Anderson and Staberg.

“It’s exciting to have them here,” Anderson said. “It’s nice to keep showing up together, and to let it be known we are here and staying. It’s fun and rewarding to go to World Cups and have that team atmosphere, to know you have that person to share it with.”

The other thing that made the weekend in Andorra special was that Anderson got the chance to watch Staberg’s start and finish of the vertical race, watching her cross the finish line and collapse afterward.

Though she also excels in individual races, Staberg has an affinity for the vertical, a race that demands ultimate cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance capacity from racers, as they climb, and climb (and climb) uphill.

Multiple sessions with Summit Endurance Academy and Team USA head coach Joe Howdyshell, a Breckenridge local, paid off for Staberg Saturday and Sunday, leading to what seems likely to the first of many skimo triumphs for her.

“The verticals are my favorite race, in most cases,” Staberg said. “I just, I don’t know, I guess I’m a bit of a weirdo. I like going uphill. I was really excited to race. I definitely thought I had a good shot at winning if could pull it together, but it’s never a done deal. You go into it hoping you have a chance.”

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