The Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) Nordic Program is off to a great start with multiple podiums at its first Junior National Qualifier in Crested Butte, a National Champion, personal bests and first time experiences for junior athletes at US Cross Country Championships, a successful High School Race at Maloit Park and two well attended Vail Summit Orthopaedics Nordic Town Races for community members of all ages.

Personal growth of our athletes

Nothing is more rewarding than seeing athletes develop in all areas of their lives during their journey at SSCV. Recognition goes out today to Eric Zdechlick, Elsa Perkins and Vlad Shambarger for their personal growth as members of the SSCV Nordic community.

Eric Zdechlick is a seventeen-year-old full-time SSCV Nordic athlete in 11th grade at SSCV Academic Partner Vail Mountain School. He has grown up in the SSCV Nordic Program, where his coaches have watched him develop not only as a Nordic athlete, but also on the pitch as member of the VMS varsity soccer team, a student and, most importantly, a person.

Eric lost his father in a slow, brave battle to cancer this fall. John Zdechlick, affectionately known as “Zeke” to the SSCV Nordic community, was a long-time SSCV Nordic coach, great teacher and mentor. Through these unimaginably difficult times, Eric remained committed and on task with his summer dryland Nordic training, his fall soccer season and his Nordic skiing. He drives himself back and forth over Vail Pass almost every day for academics and athletics, impressing us with his mental fortitude, quiet, unassuming leadership role on the team and maturity beyond his years. Eric continues to steadily improve in his sport and is a source of inspiration, setting an example that all of us admire and learn from.

Elsa Perkins is in her second year as an SSCV full-time Nordic athlete and Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy (VSSA) student. Elsa came to VSSA as a 5th grader. At the time she applied to become a full-time athlete she did not have any formal cross-country skiing experience. As part of the admissions process, Elsa did an on-snow evaluation with SSCV Nordic Program Director, Dan Weiland, looked him in the eye and said she wanted to be a Nordic skier. Although a bit of a risk, Dan went with his gut feeling, having confidence that Elsa would follow up on her words with actions. Elsa did just that.

Elsa worked relentlessly throughout her 5th grade year both on and off snow to achieve her athletic and academic goals. Academically, Elsa is a strong student. Athletically that first season, she finished 7th in her last race, moving up from her middle of the pack results in her first race. Elsa committed last summer to dryland training with the SSCV Nordic team, oftentimes training with athletes almost twice her age. She is two for two this season, winning the first two races of the Junior Nordic Qualifier series for the U12’s (ages 10-11) in Crested Butte last month, finishing a whopping 23 seconds ahead of second place in the classic portion of those races.

Vlad Schambarger is a fifth grader at VSSA and in his first year as an SSCV full-time Nordic athlete. Fluent in Russian he is both a strong student and experienced Nordic skier. Vlad has been quick to seize the athletic and academic opportunities of attending VSSA.

Vlad is listening to his coaches and progressing very well on snow. There are certain indicators that any coach watches for as to the long term commitment and future outcomes of an athlete. It is Vlad’s meticulous attention to detail and focus on learning the process of ski racing that goes a long way in turning an enthusiastic eleven-year-old into a top level athlete down the line. Vlad is becoming an unassuming leader among his peers, modeling behavior and processes for them to follow. If Vlad does it, others do it too. He and his five teammates are displaying a healthy level of competition among each other, while supporting each other to improve each day. It will be exciting to watch them progress up the pipeline together both on and off snow into their U16 years and the next stage of their sport.

Lifetime wins

In sport, competition is the focus but not as important as the relationships formed and skills developed along the way, skills which will allow our youngsters to become winners in life.