Having won five United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championships, the University of Colorado Boulder’s Freestyle Ski Team is no stranger to success. When asked by BTI Events and the U.S. International University Sports Federation to represent the United States in the Winter World University Games (basically, the Olympics of college skiing) in Trentino, Italy, the team jumped on the chance.
“We are excited not only to represent our school, but to go to a whole new level and represent our country,” says student Ben Hitchcock, last year’s male overall individual national champion.
The freestyle events at the Winter World University Games will consist of slopestyle and skiercross. The top 12 student athletes (six male and six female) along with three coaches and one university representative will travel to Italy.
“Our team is very excited about slopestyle. That is where most of our athletes shine. However, we do have some clutch athletes to watch in the exciting event of skiercross,” says coach Lauren Rainen.
Head coach Palmer Hoyt expects the European teams, like Sweden, Austria, France, Norway, and New Zealand, to pose the biggest threats in the competition.
In preparation, the CU team is engaging in dry-land training like yoga, plyometrics, weight lifting, working on trampolines, and using the diving board. The team has also utilized the water ramps at Steamboat and the indoor foam pit at Woodward at Copper.
“Our training will be similar to past years, just more intense and rapid. Because the Winter World University Games are coming up so quickly, we need to get out on the snow to quickly regain our confidence and start fine tuning our skills,” says student Alexis Keeney, last year’s female overall individual national champion.
Photo: Ian Simpson
But it’s going to take more than just training to get to the Games, and traveling to Italy isn’t your typical ski trip. “I need to get my passport renewed. Beyond that, we need to fundraise and find sponsors to support the trip,” Hitchcock says. The team, a club sport at CU, is responsible for financing the trip, not the University.
Freestyle skiing is not currently an NCAA sanctioned sport. However, with the addition of halfpipe and slopestyle to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and recognition gained through the Winter World University Games, Hoyt is optimistic.
“I hope the world will get excited about freestyle skiing. This Winter World University Games and Winter Olympics will give these events the publicity and visibility needed for freestyle skiing to become an NCAA sport,” Hoyt says.
The Winter World University Games are scheduled for December 11–21. Other events include alpine skiing, cross-country, ice hockey, and curling.