As skiers or snowboarders, “sorry you have to wait for me at the lift all the time” is not the phrase we want to hear. Some of us like steep runs, some of us like groomers, some of us like giant slalom gates, and some of us like Nordic tracks. Whatever your fix, a good ski partner is crucial. Instead of having one perfect ski partner, how about having 5. Local athletes skiing for SSCV’s Nordic team on the World Cup have an interesting back-story behind all of their success.
Sylvan Ellefson, Tad Elliot, Noah Hoffman, Ryan Scott, Christian Shanley, and Max Scrimgeour make up Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic self proclaimed “Team Homegrown”. This past weekend Ellefson, Elliot, Hoffman, and Scott were in Alberta competing in the Canmore World Cup. “In general, winning the Olympics is harder for Nordic but placing top 30 in the Olympics is actually easier than in a World Cup event. World Cup events have a deeper field of athletes that are all really fast,” remarks Hoffman during a skype call last Friday. Hoffman placed 22nd in the 15km mass start the day before, and had an outstanding 8th place finish in the 15km free Skiathalon on Sunday. He had the fastest time out of anyone else from the U.S. and is clearly on a mission to success.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s (SSCV) Nordic Program Director Dan Weiland, as well as Kevin Hochtl, and Karl Hochtl, created the “Team Homegrown” program within the Nordic program at SSCV before the season of 2009/2010. The purpose of creating this group was to give older Nordic athletes the chance to continue to pursue a career in Nordic skiing. “If athletes come back from college looking to ski Nordic, they still have a place with us here in Vail,” says Weiland.
Unlike other, more injury prone, snowsports Nordic skiing has the unique advantage of having a longer “prime” period. Many athletes competing on a World Cup level are older than 25. According to statisticalskier.com, many Nordic athletes hit their prime in their late 20’s. This provides Nordic athletes with a lasting chance to reach a higher level of competition.
Competing in any sport can be expensive. Unlike baseball, football, or any other big name sport, professional skiers often shell out money for competitions and travel expenses. One of the biggest tools that Weiland has provided his “Homegrown” athletes is an outlet to make all these competitions financially possible. Weiland helped create the Rocky Mountain Nordic Angel Fund. The money raised helps the dreams of local Nordic skiers who have a chance to go to the Olympics. Even though Tad Elliot and Noah Hoffman are currently on the U.S. Ski Team they still have to pay their way to compete in World Cup events. By fundraising for travel and lodging expenses these athletes are able to make it to World Cup events and finish in first among the U.S. competitors.
For the past few years these athletes have turned dreams into reality. “It really all started last year after skiing nationals, Sylvan was the super tour leader and we all got to go ski in Russia as a group,” says Elliot. The Super Tour is the Nordic equivalent of a NorAm and allows for athletes to qualify for World Cup events. “We all grew up competing against each other in Rocky Mountain events and it is pretty cool to continue to ski with each other,” says Ellefson.
After winning the Super Tour Ellefson was eligible to compete in every World Cup race before December 25th, of 2012. The race in Canmore this past weekend was Sylvan’s last eligible World Cup race. After last weekends’ race he will be coming back to the U.S. to compete in more Super Tour events.
Ryan Scott was eligible to compete in the Quebec World Cup and the Canmore World Cup last weekend due to an impressive third place finish at the Super Tour in Bozeman earlier in the season. “I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked to in Quebec. I’m looking forward to U.S. Nationals in January out in Utah,” says Scott. Scott is predominantly a sprinter, Ellefson is an all around skier, Elliot is a distance skier, and Hoffman is also a distance skier. “It is great being able to train with these guys and to be able to be up in Canada competing with them. It really helps to see how efficient these guys are. Everything they do just seems so effortless,” says Scott.
These guys have found the perfect skiing partners and have found a way to make it possible to pursue their dreams. Their names are sure to come up again as they continue to succeed.