Future of U.S. skiing comes to Copper | SummitDaily.com

Future of U.S. skiing comes to Copper

Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

COPPER MOUNTAIN ” Katie Hartman and Kirsten Cooper have been keeping some pretty elite company lately.

The Team Summit tandem has spent the last 10 days training at Copper Mountain as part of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s National Development System (NDS).

The NDS, which is a spring racing camp established in 2002 for junior skiers with national team potential, culminates today.

The first Copper-hosted NDS included 47 top racers who hailed from each of the nation’s three regions ” Eastern, Rocky Central and Western.

According to Team Summit alpine director Sean Ramsden, the local tandem’s presence at the NDS June project is a true testament to their legitimacy as racers.

“It’s not easy to qualify for this camp,” Ramsden said. “If we send a couple of kids in a year, it’s pretty cool. It means they’re really being noticed by the U.S. Ski Team.”

Top Junior Olympic and World Junior results were required to qualify for NDS. In the case of about six older racers, top NCAA performances were grounds for qualification.

“We track the best athletes in each age group across the country,” NDS director Walt Evans said. “And we’ve set up more competition systems with clear rewards.”

Team Summit’s Taggart Spenst and Joelle Chevalier also qualified for the prestigious training camp, but were unable to attend.

Ramsden, who knows that making the U.S ski team takes a little bit of luck and a lot of persistence, said he felt good about Hartman and Cooper’s chances.

“Both girls are knocking on the door of the U.S. team,” Ramsden said. “They could do it. … Hopefully the worse case scenario for (Team Summit’s elites) is that they get some college scholarships out of this.”

The Team Summit veterans have decided to put college on hold for now.

“For the public it’s kind of like, ‘What, you’re taking a year off?,’ said Hartman, who recently graduated from Summit High School. “Whereas in ski racing, it’s not something new. Most people do take a year off from school so they can concentrate on the sport.”

Both aspiring pros are determined to continue enjoying the sport they’ve dedicated their lives to.

“I put too much pressure on myself last year to make the (U.S.) team,” Hartman said. “By the end of the year I was asking myself, ‘What am I doing?’ Now I’m taking it one run at a time and making sure everything I do works for me and how I’m training. Every day has to be fun.”

Cooper can relate to Hartman’s trials.

“Last year I wanted to work on skiing every single minute I had in order to make the team,” Cooper said. “It was too much pressure. I’m trying to be more laid back this year because life is not always all about ski racing.”

Maintaining a balance between intensive training and personal freedom is crucial, according to Vail’s Erika Ghent, who is representing Ski Club Vail at the NDS June project.

“It’s very important for any athlete whose at a high level of their sport to be a normal kid,” Ghent said. “You need to go out and have fun with your other friends sometimes. It comes with knowing yourself and knowing when you need to back off and take a break.”

While at Copper, NDS campers skied from 6-9 a.m. in order to take advantage of favorable snow conditions. The rest of their time was devoted to receiving video feedback and engaging in various forms of dryland training.

Although the NDS is arguably the premier training experience for U.S. Ski Team hopefuls, it’s less physically demanding than other race camps, according to Hartman.

“They really want to see quality on the hill,” the Breckenridge native said. “If they run us down in dryland, there’s not going to be very much quality up there.”

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