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Countdown to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games

In Comeback Season, Merryweather Sustains Broken Leg

By Megan Harrod
September, 11 2021
Alice Merryweather Suffers Leg Break
Olympian speed skier Alice Merryweather crashed while going 80mph during a downhill training day this past Wednesday at Saas-Fee towards the bottom of the course, resulted in a broken tibia and fibula, and a scraped-up and swollen face. (Ryan Mooney - U.S. Ski Team)

*This story was updated on September 22.*

This season was supposed to be Olympian Alice Merryweather's comeback season, after sitting out the 2020-21 season to take the time needed to focus on health and happiness as she pursued intensive treatment for an eating disorder. All signs were pointing towards brighter days, as Merryweather tackled a successful strength and conditioning period as well as return-to-snow camps in Official Training Site Mammoth Mountain, Calif., and then Saas-Fee, Switzerland with many bright moments both on and off the mountain with her teammates. She was skiing strong, showing her teammates, coaches, competitors—and most importantly, herself—how far she had come the last 12 months...and just how much joy she had found in skiing again. 
 


And then, it happened. A crash while going 80mph during a downhill training day this past Wednesday at Saas-Fee towards the bottom of the course, resulted in a broken tibia and fibula, and a scraped-up and swollen face. However, her big heart and brave soul was intact. As the helicopter was approaching, Merryweather remained calm despite the situation and the immense pain. Her serviceman (Dušan) commented that he had never seen an athlete in that situation with such bravery and courage. Merryweather was airlifted to a nearby hospital and has already had a successful surgery. 


Merryweather has been through so much in the last year...but she remains confident that she can overcome the upcoming obstacles. "The recovery to come looks a lot different than my last," she commented, "...but if I can rewire my brain I think I can heal some bone and ligaments too," while she thanked everyone for their ongoing support. She was visited by teammates (bearing gifts M&M cookies, a Saas-Fee cow mug with her name on it, stuffed animals, rose quartz crystals, and lots of tears and hugs) coaches, and her physio Torey Anderson...and was well-taken care of the last few days. 

Merryweather will return home to the United States for further evaluation on her knee and join her family and teammate/boyfriend Sam DuPratt (who is himself recovering from a double leg break sustained at Val Gardena, Italy last December) in the coming days. All of our love and healing energy is with her as she enters this next period of recovery. 

 

Injury Update: September 22

Aerials to Host Live Virtual Fundraiser September 17

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
September, 9 2021
Kaila Kuhn
Kaila Kuhn trains at Utah Olympic Park (U.S. Ski & Snowboard - Christian Raguse)

Jump on in and support the aerial skiers of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team on Friday, September 17 at 9:30 a.m. MDT for a live, virtual fundraiser on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Facebook page!

 

Aerials Fundraiser Invitation

Hosted by freestyle legends Trace Worthington and Emily Cook, this virtual event will seek to help raise $50,000 to ensure the U.S. Aerials Ski Team is fully funded for the 2021-22 season. Go behind the scenes of training at Official Training Site Utah Olympic Park, meet the athletes and gain insight into how they’re preparing for the upcoming season. 

The 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing are less than six months away and will provide these athletes with two medal opportunities, including individual and the Olympic debut of the team event. Now is the time to get behind our aerial skiers and support them on this journey.  

Knowing that people are willing to support me and my team's training is very inspiring. Not everyone who skis is financially stable and to have the support of donors is indescribable. I didn't come from a wealthy family, so I am extremely grateful for everyone who has supported me financially throughout my career. I would not still be doing freestyle aerial skiing if it wasn't for scholarships and donors." Karenna Elliott

To support the U.S. Aerials Ski Team, click here for more information.

 

2nd Annual USASA Golf Classic

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
September, 9 2021
USASA Golf Classic

The USASA is proud to host the 2nd Annual USASA Golf Classic Sept 17th at McHenry Country Club! The golf fundraiser has two different ways to participate and support the grassroots development of U.S. snowboard and freeski athletes. This fun charity golf event helps support kids in sport, the development of future athletes on the world stage, and the education of coaches, judges, and officials. Participation in sports has been shown to be a critical component in the development of today’s youth. USASA events create a positive environment to help develop self-esteem, encourage problem-solving, teach teamwork and good sportsmanship, and build confidence in young people. 

There are TWO ways to participate! 

• September 17th event at McHenry Country Club in the Chicagoland area. 
• Virtually at any course of your choosing across the country through Sept. 17th.

REGISTER, DONATE, LEARN MORE!
 

Hustle and Bustle: U.S. Ski Team Makes the Most of Europe Training

By Ski Racing
September, 3 2021
Women's Tech Team Saas-Fee
The women's alpine tech team (including Paula Moltzan, Nina O'Brien, and AJ Hurt) gets ready for a day of training at Saas-Fee, Switzerland at the start. (Ryan Mooney - U.S. Ski Team)

While August and September typically mean travel to the Southern Hemisphere—including locations like New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina—for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, the Team had to relocate and get creative for the second consecutive year due to COVID-19. Ski Racing recently caught up with Alpine Director Jesse Hunt, Head Men's Speed Coach Randy Pelkey, and two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin to see how training is going on the glaciers of Switzerland this summer. 

Ski Racing wrote, 

“This summer’s training plan is very similar to last season’s preparation in terms of volume and training sites,” said Hunt. “We skied a lot in April, May, and June at Squaw Valley, Mammoth and Mount Hood. Now we are training in Europe unless the option to train in Chile becomes available.”

Hunt and the alpine teams are targeting the glaciers that offer the best conditions for this time of year. For World Cup teams, that means Saas Fee and Zermatt, which offer both speed lanes and tech lanes, along with additional venues, such as Stelvio, Hintertux, Soelden, and the indoor facility at Snow Valley. With updated Covid protocols, including vaccinations, regular testing, masking, and social distancing when required, all national teams have traveled to the European glaciers for training alongside the Norwegian, Swedish, and Swiss national teams, to name a few. 

There is a big plus with European training in that most of the athletes across the U.S. Alpine Ski Team are in the same location, which rarely happens for the men and women. Team dinners, hikes, excursions to the Kneipp ice baths, picnics, and more have provided for some solid cross-team bonding experiences. 

Shiffrin shared her camp focus with Ski Racing as well, saying, 

As for her own preparation heading into the all-important Olympic season, Shiffrin said, “I feel like I have some really great skiing and some not-so-consistent skiing, and one of my goals for this camp is to reel in that consistency and mindset that I need not only for training but more importantly for races as well. So aside from simply skiing, that’s a big part of this camp as well for me.”

Read the full article at SkiRacing.com.

Aerials Midsummer Check In

By Lara Carlton
September, 3 2021
Dani Loeb
Dani Loeb trains at Utah Olympic Park (U.S. Ski & Snowboard - Christian Raguse)

For the aerial skiers of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team summer means wetsuits, drysuits, thousands of stairs and lots of chlorine as they train at the Spence Eccles Olympic Freestyle Pool at Official Training Site Utah Olympic Park. Athletes have been on the ramps and in the air since May, and just wrapped their August training block with a FIS-judged competition simulation.

At the start of every summer athletes have to reacquaint themselves with their craft. “Our first camp of the season everyone starts at the beginning,” explained U.S. Freestyle Team Head Aerials Coach Vladimir (Vlad) Lebedev. “We have to remember how to jump in water, how the skis feel on the ramp surface, things like that. Everyone starts with singles, with our easy tricks, and progresses based on performance and quality. May and June are for building a solid foundation so we can get to the real work in July.” 

The July and August camps’ main focus is repetition of high degree of difficulty jumps. “You have to execute the jumps well, but you have to do it a lot,” said Lebedev. Building mental fortitude and muscle memory is key in making an athlete competition-ready. “Not only knowing you can execute the trick, but knowing you have executed it many times before is what we want.”

Lebedev reports that many athletes have added new tricks to their arsenals and the whole team is looking really good. 

 

 

Three-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell is working on the trick that earned her a World Record, a full double-full full, also known as The Daddy - the highest degree of difficulty trick in women’s aerials. “For Ashley, we are focusing on getting those numbers in,” said Vlad. “She knows what she has to do and she is putting in the work to make this part of her competition program coming into the 2021-22 season.”

Several women brought new tricks to water as part of their 2021-22 competition plan. Winter Vinecki, who had a breakout season in 2019-20 with three podiums and finished second in the overall standings, is working on a full double-full. Both Megan Smallhouse and Kaila Kuhn brought double-full fulls to water. 

Megan Nick, who earned two World Cup wins last season, is not bringing anything new to her repertoire but is focused on her quality for her full double-full and double-full full, also known as Millers. Dani Loeb and Karenna Elliott are working through their program as well. 

On the men’s side both Chris Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld are training quints - quintuple twisting triple backflips. Lillis became the first American since Jeret “Speedy” Peterson to compete a quint, and the feat earned him two World Championships medals in 2021. Eric Loughran is working through his entire jump package.

Last season marked Quinn Dehlinger’s first competing off of the triple kicker. He is putting in the work this summer to increase his numbers. “It usually takes about three seasons to see a male athlete compete off of the triple and achieve podiums, it’s all about numbers and time,” explained Lebedev. “Quinn is looking really good right now, he is super motivated.”

 

 

“This summer’s training has been going as well as I could have hoped for,” Dehlinger said. “During this summer I have been working on new triples like full double-full full and full full double-full. This will hopefully make me competitive for this upcoming winter on the World Cup tour. Looking forward to the rest of the summer I am just trying to be more consistent with all of my training.”

The team has been training alongside the Canadian Aerials Team all summer and on August 28 and 29 the two nations held a water ramp competition simulation with FIS judges. The simulation followed Olympic format and athletes performed their Olympic jump plan.

“Competition simulations are extremely important and valuable training tools,” said Lebedev. “During regular training you have unlimited jumps and time. But that’s not what it’s like when you’re on the World Cup circuit and training. You have limited time and limited jumps. It’s important to mock out the strategies we will use in season.”

 

 

Lebedev is proud of the work his athletes have put in this summer so far. Looking ahead to September, athletes will all still be working on their hardest tricks, but will hone in on quality more than repetition. “In general all of the athletes have shown good improvements,” he said. “The team is looking strong and everyone is extremely motivated for this upcoming Olympic season.”

To support the U.S. Freestyle Aerials Ski Team, please click here for more information.

 

Speed Events Take Center Stage at Xfinity Birds of Prey World Cup

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
August, 26 2021
Birds of Prey Returns
Speed events will take center stage in Beaver Creek Resort as the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup returns Dec. 3-5 2021.

BEAVER CREEK, COLO. (Aug. 27, 2021) — If ski racing fans are feeling the need for speed, they will get a triple-dose of it when the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup returns to Beaver Creek Resort Dec. 3-5, 2021.

The nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation, which hosts the Xfinity Birds of Prey races each year, confirmed the men’s Beaver Creek World Cup schedule as follows:

Friday, Dec. 3: Super-G
Saturday, Dec. 4: Downhill
Sunday, Dec. 5: Super-G

*The men’s World Cup calendar has not yet been fully confirmed. FIS will confirm in September. Beaver Creek race times TBD.

All events will be streamed and broadcast live on the networks of NBC Sports.

The races are part of a return of the North American leg of the FIS Ski World Cup tour, including:

Nov. 27-28: HomeLight Killington Cup, USA, Women’s Slalom and Giant Slalom
Nov. 27-28: Lake Louise, Canada, Men’s Downhill and Super-G
Dec. 3-5: Lake Louise, Canada, Women’s Downhill and Super-G

‘Back at one of the best courses in the world’
Ryan Cochran-Siegle is one of many racers excited to return to the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek Resort, which is known worldwide for its steep pitch, high speeds, and demanding turns.

“We can’t wait to be back at one of the best courses in the world, here on home soil,” said Cochran-Siegle, who was ranked third overall in the world in downhill before he was sidelined by an injury sustained at the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in January for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. “I have this date circled on my calendar. We all love Birds of Prey. It’s everything from the track to the people to the volunteers to the general environment and history of U.S. Ski Team success at Beaver Creek that make this return to home soil something all of us are highly anticipating.”

The weekend of racing marks a major milestone on the way to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games Feb. 4-20, 2022 in Beijing, and serves as a qualifying event for athletes to earn points and placements toward their nomination to the 2022 U.S. Olympic Ski Team.

“We could not be more thrilled to once again welcome the world back to the iconic Birds of Prey course here in Beaver Creek,” said Mike Imhof, President of the Vail Valley Foundation.

Athletes to watch
Among the racers to beat on Saturday’s Downhill will likely be Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR), who was the 2020 World Cup overall downhill champ and was leading in the downhill standings and second in the overall standings this past season before he was injured. He will have to fend off Beat Feuz (SUI), who edged out Matthias Mayer (AUT) and Dominik Paris (ITA) to take the overall World Cup Downhill title in the amended 2020 season.

Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT) won the overall Super-G crystal globe and placed fourth overall in Downhill Cup standings and is anticipated to lead the charge on Friday and Sunday’s Super-G. He will likely have to fend off top American racers Cochran-Siegle and Travis Ganong, as well as a host of challengers including Kilde,

“Beaver Creek Resort is proud to host Birds of Prey, and we’re excited to showcase our world-class steep terrain and unrivaled hospitality,” Beaver Creek Resort COO Nadia Guerriero said. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for our resort and community to welcome some of the world’s best athletes on their journey to the 2022 Winter Olympics.”

The Xfinity Birds of Prey – and the entire North American leg of the FIS Ski World Cup tour – was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In years past, the weekend in Beaver Creek has typically featured a giant slalom race on Sunday, but this year’s World Cup calendar is designed to minimize potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus by reducing the participants on site. Therefore, speed and tech event groups are being mixed as little as possible.

“In the nearly two years since the first appearance of the virus, we’ve had time to develop sound procedures and protocols,” Imhof said. “We are working closely with the FIS, U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Vail Resorts, Beaver Creek Resort, Eagle County Public Health, and all our other wonderful partners to ensure that we can host these beloved races and that athletics, fans, partners, media, and volunteers can all enjoy and attend the event in as safe and comfortable a manner as possible.”

‘Beers of Prey’ on tap
The Vail Valley Foundation said it is planning music, giveaways, sponsor activations, “Birds of Prey Way” in Beaver Creek Village, and a wide array of celebratory ancillary events, including the highly-popular “Beers of Prey” tasting event, throughout race weekend. Details will be announced this autumn.

Health and safety policies will be in place
With some international travel restrictions still in effect, Beaver Creek and The Vail Valley Foundation continue to work with all appropriate parties ahead of the FIS Ski World Cup. The health and safety of guests, staff, and athletes is a top priority, organizers said, and as the ski racing community returns to hosting international events, heightened health and safety protocols will be in place, as needed, during the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup. Event protocols will comply with local health and safety measures, as well as those mandated by FIS, and may be modified based on evolving standards, public health, and governmental directives.

Learn more at bcworldcup.com.

###

About the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup
Ranked as the number one overall stop by the athletes and coaches who participate, the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup at Beaver Creek Resort has become legendary in the ski world.

Beaver Creek Mountain is home to the formidable Birds of Prey racecourse, challenging an international roster of top athletes for one weekend of racing that typically features Men’s Alpine super-G, downhill, and giant slalom competitions. The event is organized by the nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation, in close partnership with the FIS, U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Vail Resorts, the Beaver Creek Resort Company, Beaver Creek Resort, Xfinity, and TIAA Bank.

Learn more at www.bcworldcup.com.

About the Vail Valley Foundation
The Vail Valley Foundation is a 501c3 Colorado nonprofit corporation with a mission to enhance the quality of life in the Vail Valley and showcase our community to a global audience through arts, athletics, and education.

The organization’s work in education is through YouthPower365, a 501c3 Colorado nonprofit corporation with a mission to provide year-round extended learning opportunities that empower and educate the youth and families of Eagle County from cradle-to-career readiness. The Vail Valley Foundation also provides the Vail Valley with several of its most treasured annual events, such as the GoPro Mountain Games, the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup races, the Vail Dance Festival, and the Hot Summer Nights and ShowDown Town free concert series’. The Vail Valley Foundation also manages and operates two performing arts centers, the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek Village and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, providing more than 100 Broadway, dance, comedy, classical, rock, pop, jazz, community and family events per year.

Vail Valley Foundation activities and events are in part made possible by cornerstone partners: the Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, Beaver Creek Resort Company, GMC, and TIAA Bank.

To learn more about the Vail Valley Foundation visit www.vvf.org.

About U.S. Ski & Snowboard
U.S. Ski & Snowboard is the Olympic National Governing Body (NGB) of ski and snowboard sports in the USA, based in Park City, Utah. Tracing its roots directly back to 1905, the organization represents nearly 200 elite skiers and snowboarders in 2021, competing in seven teams; alpine, cross country, freeski, freestyle, snowboard, nordic combined, and ski jumping. In addition to the elite teams, U.S. Ski & Snowboard also provides leadership and direction for tens of thousands of young skiers and snowboarders across the USA, encouraging and supporting them in achieving excellence. By empowering national teams, clubs, coaches, parents, officials, volunteers, and fans, U.S. Ski & Snowboard is committed to the progression of its sports, athlete success, and the value of team.

Learn more at usskiandsnowboard.org.

About Beaver Creek Resort
Renowned for legendary attention to detail, World-Cup mountain pedigree, intimate alpine village, and reputation as one the world’s best luxury family resorts, Beaver Creek Resort represents incomparable elegance and Rocky Mountain leisure which spoils guests for anywhere else with an unparalleled level of world-class service. Just 30 minutes east of Eagle Airport (EGE) and 2.5 hours west of Denver International Airport (DIA), Beaver Creek offers luxury accommodations throughout three villages and ski-in, ski-out luxury lodges and hotels. More than 40 in-resort and slope-side restaurants, elegant village boutiques, cherished daily traditions and activities such as world-class downhill skiing and snowboarding spanning 2082 acres with 3340 vertical feet of descent, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, and ice skating in the Beaver Creek village.

Visit BeaverCreek.com for additional information and vacation planning. 

 

Release courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation.

SkillsQuest Fitness Testing: October 3 at Dartmouth College

By Sam Damon
August, 26 2021
SkillsQuest Fitness Testing

We are excited to announce the planned return of validated SkillsQuest Fitness Testing this fall! This event will be somewhat Covid-dependent and we’ll be actively monitoring that situation, but our current plan is to do one day of validated testing on October 3 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. Registration and logistical details will be coming very soon!

This event is targeted toward aspiring FIS and U16 athletes, but we will bring in as many people as we can accommodate, and with the size of the facility in Hanover we should be able to see a lot of athletes in one day! Remember that a validated SkillsQuest Fitness score is required for selection to any US Ski Team or National Development Group programming. And while we don’t strictly require it for regional programming yet, that is on the horizon and we do take fitness testing scores into account when making discretionary selections. Most importantly, this is a great chance to put your fitness to the test alongside other athletes from the East! 

For those that can’t make it on October 3, we are also planning to offer backup dates of October 29 at Stratton Mountain School and October 30 at Green Mountain Valley School. 

We look forward to seeing you this fall. Save the date!

 

Bennett Featured in FIS Behind the Scenes

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
August, 25 2021
Bryce Bennett FIS Behind the Scenes

In the International Ski Federation's (FIS) recent Behind the Scenes feature with Bryce Bennett, the downhiller shares his relationship with ski racing. Bennett grew up in a ski racing family in Squaw Valley, Calif., spending a lot of time on the mountain and "slowly fell in love" with ski racing. 

Bennett acknowledges that ski racing is a tough sport, it can feel like a constant struggle. In the video, he shares some tactics he has used to keep improving, like working with veteran teammate Steven Nyman, with whom he shares a serviceman, the legendary Leo Mussi. Bennett added that the need for consistency across multiple tracks throughout the season is a challenge that draws him to the sport further, and says he'll “Just keep chipping away and chipping away and hopefully the day lines up and everything works out.” 

 

Eastern Alpine Covid Update - Summer 2021

By Sam Damon
August, 23 2021
Eastern Region Summer Covid Update

We’ve been fielding many inquiries about Covid policies for the 2021-2022 season. As everyone doubtless knows, the Covid landscape is continuing to evolve every day, so concrete information and policies for the winter season are still under discussion. The US Ski & Snowboard Covid Commision has re-convened and will be evaluating the options for the coming season, and while we don’t have definitive information for you now, we should be able to provide more detail in the relatively near future. We learned a lot through last season and luckily one of the big takeaways is that ski racing seems very doable even in this pandemic. The Eastern Region staff remains optimistic for the coming year and will be in touch with more details as soon as possible.

Eastern Region Calendar Update

By Sam Damon
August, 23 2021
Eastern Region Calendar Update

Folks from around the region have been working on nailing down race calendars for the 2022 season. The regional FIS calendar is pretty well solidified, and the Divisional FIS calendars are coming together. We have a number of U16 and U14 events scheduled as well, with just a few outliers left to pin down. You can always refer to the calendar page of the Eastern website for the most up-to-date drafts. We’re looking forward to getting out there again!