Copper ski camps kick off new season for racers |

Copper ski camps kick off new season for racers

COPPER MOUNTAIN – Turning is on the back burner for most skiers across the United States, but for those at Copper Mountain this week, the ski season is just beginning.

An elite group of East Coast college skiers, members of the United States Alpine Snowboard Team, Team Summit and the Steamboat Springs ski club all are putting in laps on the Excelerator lift this week and getting more June turns than they have in years in North America.

“I was a little skeptical when we first drove up to Copper,” said Cecily Lowenthal of Williams College in Massachusetts. “We had heard it was pretty warm here. But it’s going well. The snow has been hard every morning. It feels like we’re at Mount Hood (Ore.).”

Besides Mount Hood and Arapahoe Basin, Copper is virtually the only ski area in the country where lift-served June race camps are possible this year. Copper snowmaking officials have employed special grooming techniques on Copperopolis, Mine Dump and Ptarmigan to make for hard, fast race conditions to allow teams to practice slalom, dual slalom, giant slalom and freeskiing from top to bottom off of Excelerator.

“From 7 to 11:30 a.m., they can get in 22 runs, and that’s with a lot of stopping and talking,” said Copper snowmaking manager Hardy Merrill. “It’s about twice what they’d get at Mount Hood.”

With the four teams, there are about 150 skiers at Copper this week, including 60 skiers and eight coaches from Team Summit. Racers say conditions are far better than at last year’s June camp, when there was just a single, narrow ribbon of snow down the length of Copperopolis.

“We can ski anything we want at the top of the mountain,” said Team Summit alpine director Rob Worrell. “The snow’s been great. It’s been rock-hard in the morning. The first day of the camp Saturday, we powder-skied six inches of snow. The slopes are still really well-covered, so there’s a great surface for training.”

Most Team Summit skiers will travel to Mount Hood later this summer, then to Saas Fee, Switzerland, at the end of August for more on-snow training. Coaches refer to the 40 days on snow between May 1 and Nov. 1 as “prep period.”

“We look at May as the beginning of the season,” Worrell said. “That’s when it starts, and we do some very basic, slow, slow turns and balance stuff. Now we’re doing a little bit with gate drills. We’re hitting all the fundamentals at this camp – gateless training drills, skill work, stance and balance, skills of edging and pressure control. We did a timed obstacle course, and a timed jumping course.”

The U.S. Snowboard Team athletes are working on similar drills as a part of a national junior development camp. World Cup snowboarder Lisa Kosglow is also among the crew, as are the men’s and women’s World Cup coaches, who say the amount of on-snow training they’re able to put in at Copper this June is remarkable.

“The turnaround is awesome. We’re getting a lot of runs in,” said U.S. alpine snowboarding women’s World Cup coach Frank Kelble. “It’s the same amount of vertical we’d get at Mount Hood, and the snow has been awesome.”

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