Under the radar, on top of the world
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
KEYSTONE ” Standing at the bottom of the Summit Express Lift at Keystone’s River Run base last Friday, 19-year-old Silverthorne-native Drew Hauser went virtually unnoticed by the hoards of skiers scurrying to the front of the line.
It’s not that Hauser is hard to pick out in a crowd. With his bright-red Team USA jacket and his matching red helmet ” which has grey flames painted on it ” he’s actually pretty hard to miss.
But Hauser is used to the type of attention ” or lack thereof ” that both he and his sport garner, even in a ski-crazed area such as Summit County.
Because when people see his telemark skis, they see him as another eccentric, backcountry powder junky.
Few would recognize him for what he really is: a world champion.
When Hauser arrived in Kreischberg, Austria, for the Telemark Junior World Championships nearly three weeks ago, his goal was simple: win.
“It was my last time ever competing as a junior,” Hauser said. “It was the last time I’d ever have a chance to be the junior world champion.”
The championship was determined by an overall timed score from three combined races, taking place over four days.
The first race, Jan. 21, was the giant slalom, which is similar to an alpine GS course except for the large jump in the middle.
Hauser dominated the junior field, taking home the gold medal in the event by a whopping 8 seconds.
“The GS gave me such a big lead,” Hauser said. “With it being combined time in the three races, it’s all about consistency. I knew I just had to be consistent.”
After earning a bronze medal in the classic ” a race he called the “biggest and baddest event” for telemark racers that combines a GS course with a long stretch of skating ” Hauser closed out the overall win with a fifth-place finish in the sprint race on the final day.
“I skied really bad in the sprint,” Hauser said with a laugh, “but it was just unbelievable. You go over there and ski and win. It was my goal, and I did it.”
Though Hauser is more than proud of his win, it’s possible that he wasn’t the most excited man in Kreischberg the day he held the American flag at the top of the podium.
Hauser’s father, Tory, was not only at the competition cheering his son on, but was there working ” as a Team USA coach.
“I’m just absolutely thrilled,” Tory Hauser said of his son’s win. “It’s just one of the greatest accomplishments for him to win something like that.”
Hauser gives his father the credit for getting him started in telemarking.
“He definitely was the reason that I started doing it, but he didn’t push me to get into this or do that,” he said. “… He just kind of plowed the road for me, and I followed.”
Tory Hauser recalls his son being much more interested in snowboarding at an early age. The winter after Drew turned 11, though, he decided he wanted to strap on a pair of tele skis.
“We skied together for a full year, and he got really good,” Tory Hauser said of his son. “He skied for his middle school and then later with Team Summit.”
Drew started improving leaps and bounds in the early years, his father said, but Tory never pushed his son. That was partly because, as Tory pointed out, Drew didn’t need much pushing.
The Hausers would travel together to races ” as Tory was a member of the USA Telemark Team in the 1980s and 90s ” and would even study race film together.
“I’d taken video from World Cup races from the time I was competing,” the elder Hauser said, “and Drew had the mental fortitude to want to watch those films. He’d watch and see what he needs to do to get better from watching some of the best ski.”
Though Tory Hauser always new his son had the potential to be a great tele skier, he still marvels at what his son has already accomplished.
“Being a world champion is a very special thing,” he said. “It’s something I’d love to have had the talent to do.”
As the World Championships are held every other year for telemark skiing, Hauser had a long wait after making the podium as a 17-year-old in 2007.
But the time gap motivated his training, because with a third-place finish already under his belt, and many top juniors moving up in ranks, he knew that he had a chance for the top spot.
He trained hard, year round, and this past fall, he actually started to fill out his 6-foot-1 frame.
“I hadn’t seen him all summer and came out here in the fall, and he looked much bigger,” Team USA teammate and training buddy Eric Lamb said of Hauser.
Lamb and Hauser have spent the past few months skiing at The Raven Golf Course in Silverthorne and taking downhill runs at Keystone. In their time together, Lamb, 27, saw firsthand what makes Hauser the skier that he is.
“It’s his drive and dedication,” Lamb said. “He’s always willing to go outin the snow, which is key. This year’s been huge for him. … He’s been going out and skating on his own.
“It’s a lot easier to grow two or three people at a time, than by yourself.”
As Hauser carved through the runs at Keystone, Friday morning, he stood outmuch more than when he was simply standing in line.
Though, he’s already one of the top-three American telemarkers ” and hisfather says he has the ability to be one of the best in the world ” Hauser is quick to admit that, as of now, there’s not much future in telemark racing, at least in terms of making a living.
The sport, despite frequent attempts, hasn’t been able to get into the Olympic Winter Games, thus it hasn’t gotten the sponsorship attention of other sports. This could be Hauser’s final year of full-time competition, as he plans to go off to college next fall.
He’s going to compete at the U.S. Telemark National Championship in Steamboat from Feb. 25 through March and is still hoping to have the chance to represent his country in the 2014 Winter Games.
But as for Friday, he was content to slice through some of Keystone’s fresh snow and even take a trip down the halfpipe. Carving with ease on each wall, Hauser looked like some of the extreme winter athletes that had their sport added to the 2010 Vancouver Games while telemark got passed over.
Is telemark halfpipe the way to get casual fans behind Hauser’s sport?
He just laughed at the question. “Yeah, maybe that’d work.”
Bryce Evans can be reached at (970) 668-4634 or at email@example.com.
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