Podium finishes, maybe even Olympic gold: Winter Park’s Competition Center home to burgeoning athletic talent
This winter, as with every winter since 1962, a vast collection of budding young athletes is taking to the snow covered slopes of Winter Park Resort to hone their skills with the army of coaches that make up the resort’s renowned Competition Center.
Over the past several decades, the Competition Center has grown to encompass a staff of roughly 200 coaches instructing over 900 athletes in half-a-dozen sporting divisions, ranging from freestyle skiing to the Competition Center’s Nordic program.
The Winter Park Resort Competition Center was originally founded in 1962 as the Winter Park Ski Club, then, in 1982, became an official part of the resort and was renamed the Competition Center.
During that time, the Comp Center, as its locally known, has churned out world-class athletes and multiple Olympians. As the snow begins piling up in the High County, the center’s roster fills with hopeful young skiers and snowboarders who dream of podium finishes and, just maybe, Olympic gold.
This season, the Comp Center boats 945 athletes, ranging in age from five to 76. A little less than half that number, 430, are members of the Comp Center’s All-Terrain Program, a non-competitive skills advancement program that helps prospective young shredders hone their abilities while dipping their toe in multiple disciplines, to determine which competitive division they wish to pursue.
The remaining 515 athletes are broken down into six separate training divisions: alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, ski cross, snowboard cross and Nordic skiing. Each division often includes multiple distinct disciplines such as the center’s freestyle skiing program, which includes the disciplines of moguls, aerials, big mountain and more.
While most of the center’s athletes hail from the Front Range or places outside of Grand County, 163 athletes this year are Grand County residents.
The Comp Center’s ski cross and snowboard cross programs were introduced for the first time in 2017. According to Tonia Shaw, the center’s races and events manager, the two programs have generated a large amount of interest from athletes over the past year.
Shaw explained that, of the 515 athletes who compete under the banner of the Competition Center, around 10 percent represent elite, top-level athletes. Those athletes often find themselves competing in world cup-level competitions under the auspices of the Federation of International Skiing, or FIS.
One such event will take place next week in Grand County as Winter Park Resort plays host to U.S. Skiing’s Freestyle Selections. Shaw explained the significance of the Freestyle Selections noting that the competition is the final determining factor regarding which athletes become new members of the U.S. Ski Team for freestyle skiing.
The event features the top freestyle skiers from across the nation and often includes elite-level skiers from around the world who look to secure early season points for the FIS scoring system.
A group of 10 Competition Center athletes will vie for a spot on the U.S. Ski Team over the course of the weeklong event. Those 10 skiers include Chase Allen, Karsten Barndt, Elissa Cole, Peter Goldy, Jackson Harvey, Lizzy McPherson, Carter McQuinn, George McQuinn, Tanner Murphy and Zack Simpson.
Skiing action for the Freestyle Selections will be held on Ambush, Winter Park Resort’s centerpiece freestyle terrain trail that descends from the Arrow Lift to the base between Larry Sale and the Gemini Express Lift. Training sessions will be held Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with competitions held Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
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