BOULDER—The 2013 National Champion University of Colorado ski team hit the slopes on the alpine side for the first time as a team in preparation for the 2014 season Friday night at Echo Mountain.
As the calendar turned from October to November, the Buffs focused turned toward Echo Mountain, a privately owned resort closed to the public focused on becoming the top Alpine Training Center in the United States. Echo Mountain will serve as the official preseason training facility for the 19-time National Champion Colorado Buffaloes ski team.
The mountain opened Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and the Buffs were among the first on the slopes.
“We resumed training in gates this weekend starting on Friday night under the lights,” CU coach Richard Rokos said. “Echo Mountain welcomed our alpine team with improved lights and a great training service.”
Since Echo Mountain isn’t open to the public, the snowmaking, grooming and terrain construction are built specifically for alpine ski racers.
On the Nordic side, the team will hit the trails this weekend with a trip to Rabbit Ears followed by an annual trek to Yellowstone later in November. In the meantime, the team is still in the thick of dry land training.
Before the 2014 season gets underway in January, Rokos and several Buffs will first head to Italy for World University Games, set for December 11-21. Rokos will again head up the United States Alpine Team and four Buffs will ski for team USA in senior Fletcher McDonald and sophomore Cameron Smith on the men’s side and junior Shane McLean and sophomore Brooke Wales on the women’s side.
In all, 14 Buffs will be competing at World University Games and aside from the four Buffs skiing for the United States, the CU Ski Team will be represented by Jessica Honkonen and Kasper Hietanen for Finland, Andreas Haug, Thea Grosvold and Rune Oedegaard for Norway, Henrik Gunnarsson for Sweden, Arnaud Du Pasquier for Switzerland, Roger Carry for Canada and Eliska Hajkova and Adam Zika for the Czech Republic.
After returning from WUG, the Buffs will turn their attention to the 2014 collegiate season, which gets underway in Utah the first week of January and the Buffs will host the Spencer James Nelson Memorial Invitational at Winter Park (alpine) and Steamboat Springs (Nordic) Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.
Between Utah and Colorado, Montana State will host a meet the second week of January and teams will travel to New Mexico after the CU meet in February. Denver hosts the RMISA Championships in late February before teams head back to Utah for the NCAA Championships in March to close out the collegiate season.
The Buffs return the core of three of their four teams and will welcome four newcomers on the women’s Nordic team, the strength of last year’s NCAA Championship squad.
The men’s Nordic team could be looked upon to be the strength of the team as the squad returns NCAA individual champion Rune Oedegaard and added Oedegaard’s country mate in Mads Ek Storem.
On the alpine side, the men have unprecedented depth with six returning skiers including 2012 NCAA GS champion Adam Zika, who missed 2013 with a knee injury. A pair of newcomers make that team even deeper.
On the women’s side, captain Brooke Wales leads the squad that includes all three skiers that participated at the NCAA Championships last year plus the return of Shane McLean, who was the No. 3 overall seed after the regular season was over but was held out of NCAAs due to injury.
The Buffs were perhaps especially anxious to return to the mountain for preseason training due to the flood that hit Boulder on Sept. 13 that dramatically affected the team’s dryland training. All things west of Boulder were affected by the flooding and a lot of areas the Buffs normally train were closed, so the team was forced to travel greater distances to do their training.
And speaking of greater distances, Buffs took part in the Buffalo Classic, a 110-mile bike ride from Boulder through Nederland, Lyons, up to Carter Lake and back to Boulder. Other dryland training highlights included a competition with Denver on Lookout Mountain with the Nordic teams roller skiing and the alpine teams biking in a friendly competition.