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Winter Park athletes enjoy snow, sun in Australia

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com
Courtesy photo
Staff Photo |

For powder addicts and serious winter athletes, a drove of destinations around the world promise a snowy escape from hot American summers.

But surfing, too?

Well, maybe in Australia.

In a rare melding of the seasons, a group of young skiers were treated to both turns and tubes as part of an athlete training camp Down Under, hosted by the Winter Park Resort Competition Center.

On July 29, nine skiers traveled to Mount Buller in the Victorian Alps for a two-week technical and tactical skills camp for alpine skiers, said Mike Bowman, director of Alpine Programs at Winter Park Resort. Bowman and Jeff Burrows, director of the Winter Park Competition Center, accompanied the athletes.

“We really encourage kids, based on fact and experience and all the studies that come out, to do different sports and to be well rounded,” Bowman said. “So at the end of that we went surfing on the Gold Coast for four days.”

It was a welcome respite from the cold, and some of the skiers were actually pretty good surfers, Burrows said.

“Watching the guys figure it out and keep working at it and being persistent, it was pretty fun,” Burrows said. “Plus it was great after 15 days in the blizzard to walk around barefoot for four days.”

Offseason trips

Though certainly a once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation, the camp was just one of a few trips that the resort’s competition center organizes in the offseason.

The center tries to have three separate training projects each summer to accommodate athletes of different disciplines and abilities, Burrows said.

Mount Hood in Oregon is a popular destination for the competition center’s summer camps, but international trips are a little less frequent.

In the past, the competition center has organized trips to Europe and South America, but this was its first trip to Australia, Burrows said.

Richard Haslau, Alpine Head Coach at Mount Buller, helped arrange the camp.

Haslau’s athletes come to Winter Park every winter to train with the competition center.

“We were trying to reciprocate that and go to their area and train with them during their winter,” Bowman said.

The center also wanted to provide “a different experience” for its athletes, Bowman said.

For 15-year-old Hannah Wengert, an alpine ski racer from Winter Park, the trip was her first time leaving the country.

“It’s going to be one of those trips that I never forget,” Wengert said. “It was so cool to be able to go somewhere else in the world with a team that shares that passion for getting better at skiing.”

The snow was a little wet, Wengert said, but the skiing was good.

And the surfing?

“Super amazing,” Wengert said. “We would get a wave and then we would fall right off, but everyone started to get the hang of it the last few days.”

Wengert would take the trip again “in a heartbeat,” she said. “I think it really brought the team closer together.”

The coaches found it rewarding, too.

“It was rewarding for us because we had the opportunity to put something together that we feel is important for the program and the kids,” Burrows.

And the team accomplished its main objective, which was to improve at skiing.

“These kids are better,” Burrows said. “They achieved a lot of stuff down there for a couple of weeks.”

That’s the success that Burrows and Bowman say can fuel interest in programs like this and, ultimately, support future international trips for young Winter Park athletes.

“Ultimately we will probably keep exploring these things,” Burrows said, adding that the competition center hopes to establish more relationships abroad, giving the center more flexibility to accommodate different athletes.

“We’ll probably go somewhere next year anyway, whether we’ve established a true partnership or not, but that would be one of the things we’re working towards,” Burrows said.

In the meantime, both athletes and parents can expect summer programming to continue to be a fixture in the myriad opportunities the competition center offers young athletes every year, Bowman said.

“It just fits into our mission,” he said. “We want lifelong enjoyment of sport.”

For more information about the competition center, visit winterparkresort.com.


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