A ski racer’s norm consists of duffel bags, hotel rooms, rushed days and take-out food amid the pressure of meeting criteria and goals. Therefore, any sense of general comfort is sacred. The demands of competition practically force racers to forgo the cushion of home in the pursuit of athletic success. However, former U.S. Ski Team and Rowmark Academy coach Jim Tschabrun doesn’t view that paradigm as a given.
After years of envisioning a year-round program for high school post-graduate athletes, Tschabrun is finally putting his thoughts into a concrete plan. The newly created “Team X Alpine” (X for females two X chromosomes) is a small, elite, female post-graduate team, committed to taking a “best practice approach.”
Tschabrun says that he has strived to create a “strong family atmosphere and environment without the pressure of meeting certain seasonal criteria.” The team draws on goal-oriented and talented female skiers, who are in need of a “home-base,” whether they are college bound or college graduates. “We are focused on the process,” he says.
By taking the time to invest in skiers physically, mentally and emotionally, Tschabrun has taken a holistic approach to athlete development, cultivating an environment that works to take the pressure off athletes, rather than to pile it on. By weaving team-building exercises into day-to-day regimens (such as a book club, regular group dinners, and team sports psychologist sessions), Tschabrun’s plan ensures that athletes are taken care of and that they reap the benefits of a full support system. The hope is that they are then able to effectively pursue ski racing and personal growth in tandem, while avoiding the pressure of results-based goals.
In recent years, programs solely for post-graduate women have been few and far between, with none rooted in the United States. Compared to our European counterparts, the United States is behind the curve in providing resourceful and dynamic post-graduate options for women, with the exception of the 2012 era Independent Ski Racing or niche groups. This absence is all the more visible when comparing the plethora of options for elite male post-graduates. “Seeing a niche there is what catalyzed the idea for Team X,” says Tschabrun.
However, the unrivaled nature of this team concept doesn’t stop there. Unlike a vast majority of ski racing programs today, the coach to athlete ratio for Team X swings to benefit the athlete, at an astounding 1:1. There are currently three athletes and three coaches, plus a sports psychologist.
Based out of Park City, Utah, the team will have access to training at Park City, Snowbasin, and potentially Deer Valley for the coming season. Additionally, the team is able to tap into local resources, such as pilates classes, physical therapy, and meal plans all catered to the team’s needs.
“There is truly an incredible amount of resources at our disposal,” says Foreste Peterson, a Team X member.
At the end of the 2017-18 season, Peterson was unsure if she would continue ski racing. She was graduating from Dartmouth College and wanting to continue ski racing yet unwilling to take on another year of expenses, and frankly feeling as though there were few options for someone in her position: a talented, post-graduate female not on the national team. However, when approached by Tschabrun around the time of NorAm finals in March, Peterson was ready to reconsider.
“Right away, I thought this sounded like a dream,” Peterson says. “It is an opportunity that doesn’t come your way everyday. After my sophomore year at Dartmouth, I began to really surprise myself and I achieved goals I never thought I would accomplish.”
After nearly earning a permanent World Cup spot after the 2016-17 season, coming second in the U.S. Alpine Championships giant slalom two years in a row, winning numerous Eastern college races, and racing in two World Cup races last season, Peterson is excited at the prospect of pursuing elite level skiing without the constraints of academics and with all-expenses paid through a scholarship with Team X.
“I have a lot more experience in my back pocket now, and I’m ready to give skiing my all, especially with the resources I’ll have access to with Team X,” she says.
As a team, all three athletes will target the NorAm circuit, however each skier has individual goals and races they will attend on their own. The team’s roster of three athletes includes Peterson of Berkeley, California, Benedicte Lyche of Oslo, Norway, herself a former Montana State Ski Team Member, and Madison Hoffman of Sydney, Australia and a former Park City Ski Team and Rowmark Ski Academy member and current athlete of the Australian National Team.
The coaches include Tschabrun as head coach with Coley Oliver, a Utah native who skied for the University of New Hampshire, earned All-American honors and competed at the Winter World University Games in 2013 taking on assistant coaching duties. Oliver also is a certified athletic trainer and has constructed the team’s strength and conditioning program. Last but not least, there is Neil Lande, the team’s serviceman. Lamde has most recently worked with former U.S. Ski Team athlete Kipling Weisel, and has spent the past several seasons traveling and tuning skis for the U.S. Ski Team.
Hoffman and Lyche found themselves in a situation similar to Peterson when Tschabrun pitched the idea of Team X. Lyche, having just graduated from Montana State, grappled with similar desires and worries as Peterson: wanting to continue ski racing at a high-level after college, yet having no real place to land. Hoffman, although affiliated with the Australian National Team, is a prospective U.S. college racer and has wanted to pursue NorAm races while living in the United States. She was yet another post-graduate female in need of a home-base. It was a good fit and easy decision for these two, just as it was for Peterson.
The funding for Team X gives it the capability to provide scholarships covering all expenses for athletes who qualify, as well as athletes in need. Team X’s current funding comes from both a multi-year agreement with Seed Capital and from generous private donors as well.
The team has already had their first camp together at Mammoth Mountain in California.
“Mammoth was a very productive camp,” says Hoffman. “With three girls, the course doesn’t deteriorate so I was really able to work on my skiing. It was also my first time working with a technician like Neil, and all my skis felt the same for the first time, it was amazing.”
The athletes are now in their strength and conditioning block in Park City, which consists of Crossfit workouts as well as getting outside and mountain biking regularly. They will also head to New Zealand at the beginning of August, Europe in October, and Colorado for valuable on-snow time before the start of the ski racing season.
In looking forward to the 2018-19 season, the girls share a similar elation about the ability to truly root for each other as teammates.
“Because we are an international team, we aren’t competing directly against each other for spots at races,” says Hoffman. “We really want each other to be there. It’s going to be really exciting to see how far a group of hard working, competitive, supportive girls can push each other.”
“I think this is really positive for our team dynamic,” adds Peterson. “Although we will go to similar races, we can all pursue our own goals at the same time and support each other along the way.”
To follow this team on a regular basis, follow @teamxalpine on Instagram or like Team X Alpine on Facebook.