Spring is in the air, but the track is still cold at 10,500-plus feet in Colorado.
With roughly five feet of snow in the last month, Front Range Ski Club at Echo Mountain, operating in its inaugural season, has been making good use of the wintery conditions. The CU and DU ski teams were among those who were greeted by a full breakfast, family-like atmosphere and top-to-bottom tech training over the weekend.
The facility’s chief operating officer and spokesman Brandon Dyksterhouse said training into May was always in the cards, but they didn’t want to make any promises until they saw how the season panned out.
“Just in this last month, we’ve really been pushing hard. It also helped with all the snow we’ve had here in the last couple weeks. We were kind of blessed with these late-season storms,” Dyksterhouse said. “But, right now, the training is absolutely phenomenal, and I think the kids are really enjoying it — and we’re having fun hosting all these different teams.”
Athletes who have stopped by to train this spring include collegiate racers, academy kids from the East Coast and even some National Team members, such as Mikaela Shiffrin, who was on hand Sunday to — depending on who you ask — help coach her brother Taylor, who races for DU, or simply “talk skiing” with him. (The humble world champion will tell you the latter.)
Shiffrin freeskied a couple days at Loveland recently and trained speed at her home resort of Vail/Beaver Creek in early April, but other than that, she hasn’t been on snow much since the season ended. This spring, she’s been hitting the books harder than usual in hopes of graduating from Burke in June.
“It was pretty good conditions. I just freeskied a little bit and wanted to ski with my brother before I head off to do my own training in Mammoth,” said Shiffrin. “It was a really cool scene — a bunch of training courses up, little kids, middle-age kids and college kids. Everyone was out there having a blast.
“There’s just a really cool, community, family kind of feel,” added Shiffrin. “It reminded me a little of Whaleback Mountain and Storrs Hill (in New Hampshire). Echo is even smaller than Whaleback and a little bit bigger than Storrs. I would ski there every weekday. … I (also) grew up skiing in Vail until I was eight and acquired a huge part of my fundamental basis from skiing the back bowls and ripping around in the powder, moguls and all-mountain terrain. … But I would be an advocate of people finding these smaller mountains, which are awesome for getting focused training.”
Front Range Ski Club anticipates staying open at least another two weeks. Then, they’ll assess the conditions and demand to determine how late to keep things running.
“With the transition year with the new skis, there’s definitely a lot of guys getting time on the 35-meter skis, and I just think the conditions and the weather are so accommodating to get out there and get some laps on the hill,” said Dyksterhouse. “The lift is 4 minutes, 39 seconds, so the volume of training that you can get is kind of unmatched anywhere on the planet.
“We’re pretty busy this summer. We’re trying to develop an obstacle race series, a Tough Mudder at 10,500 feet under the lights. We’re going to fly in some DJs from Las Vegas, so we’re going to be pretty full this summer — at least one camp up at Mt. Hood, possibly two. Then, we’re just going to outline the summer programs and continue with the traction we have now.”
Story by Geoff Mintz
Photos: Dan Leever