This is one of several previews in a quick-and-dirty series on U.S. elite teams. We asked coaches to send their 2012/2013 rosters and tell us what’s new for the coming season. We will be publishing additional reports over the next few weeks. Teams are presented in no particular order.
Team: Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) Team HomeGrown (Vail, Colo.)
Coaches: Dan Weiland (nordic program director), Eric Pepper (head coach)
Roster: Sylvan Ellefson, Tad Elliott (U.S. Ski Team), Noah Hoffman (U.S. Ski Team), Ryan Scott, Christian Shanley, Max Scrimgeour
Who’s new: Ryan Scott (Montana State University grad), Christian Shanley (post-graduate, Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy grad), Max Scrimgeour (post-graduate, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club alum)
Who’s missing: Mike Vigers (was a PG last year, now an incoming freshman at CU Boulder)
Top results last season: There are many ways to measure progress on a team: on the domestic and international stage, based on individual and team-wide performance, and from the number of athletes who notice these results and want to be part of what you’re doing. The fact that SSCV’s elite squad made gains in practically every category at some point in the 2011-2012 season speaks to the size of the leap it made. Between personal bests on the World Cup for all three returning skiers and dominant U.S. results it’s safe to say that in the three years since its founding, SSCV Team HomeGrown has unmistakably arrived.
Elliott and Hoffman were new additions to the team last year and spent most of the winter in Europe as part of the USST B-team. As a national team rookie Elliott scored his first career World Cup points with a 27th in the Davos 30 k freestyle. Hoffman broke into the top 30 with a 26th in the Otepää 15 k classic and produced the best American result at World U23 Championships with a silver medal in the 15 k.
Ellefson’s mere presence on the World Cup was a personal best for the Vail native; he earned his first career start rights late in the season by leading the SuperTour at the end of January. Apart from an unlucky crash in the Falun prologue at World Cup Finals, Ellefson made steady progress throughout his European tour, which head coach Eric Pepper says has been a big motivator throughout this summer. On the heels of his World Cup debut, Ellefson also managed to reclaim the yellow leader’s bib to secure a ticket back in November.
“For a lot of people going to Europe, it’s tough: they go over and get their ass kicked and it’s really hard. And he went over there and he got better,” Pepper said. “He’s just more focused, more determined. He’s learned so much being over there about that next level, he’s just ready to go again. It’s crazy; you watch people who go over there and maybe struggle, but not him though. That’s what its about: going over there and getting better, and I think for him that’s exactly what he did.”
The trio made similar strides domestically. With a full international schedule, Nationals and Spring Series were the only two events SSCV Team HomeGrown raced as a complete squad in the U.S., but this didn’t seem to matter when it came time to suit up. Elliott, Ellefson and Hoffman looked as though they’d spent all season racing together and went 1-3-4 in the 15 k freestyle in Rumford, Maine. A few months later in Craftsbury, Vermont, Elliott took second and Ellefson fourth in the 50 k at Distance Nationals. Somewhere in between, Elliott also won a little thing called the American Birkebeiner.
The team has added three new names to its roster this year, Scott, Shanley and Scrimgeour. Pepper and nordic director Dan Weiland are keeping the squad relatively small for the moment in order to maintain a high level of financial support to its athletes, particularly its USST B-team members.
The newcombers all join the squad as native Coloradoans. Scott is from Boulder and graduated from MSU this spring. Shanley moves up from the SSCV junior competition team to take a PG year with the senior squad (he deferred enrollment at Denver University). Scrimgeour was a Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete as a junior, and will also be a PG-er next year.
All three skiers posted competitive results last winter. Scott has already begun to seriously establish himself as a senior-level sprinter; he was fourth at U.S. Nationals in the classic sprint and posted the top American freestyle sprint result at U23s with a 25th. Shanley was a J1 last season and finished seventh in the classic sprint qualifier at the Aspen SuperTour and eleventh in the 10 k a few hours later. He and Scrimgeour teamed up in March (along with SSCV junior Cal Deline) for a gold medal-winning Rocky Mountain relay at Junior Nationals.
The team may also soon be adding a girl to its roster this season; Weiland said he is currently in the negotiation phase with a recent college graduate.
Coach’s comment: In 2009 SSCV Team HomeGrown was founded, as the name suggests, to develop Colorado skiers. Next season could be its biggest yet, and with an all-Colorado 2012-2013 roster the team hasn’t wavered from that original intention.
“The whole idea behind our team is Colorado-based athletes growing up and coming back after college to race for a Colorado team,” Weiland said. “That’s our selling point, and that’s what we’ll stick with.”
Training-wise, new and returning members of the squad are all working this summer in order to do one thing: get faster. There’s a lot on the line for everyone this season, with World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy as the big target. From the work his athletes have put in so far, Pepper sees plenty of reason to look forward to the winter:
“[Ellefson] had the opportunity to spend a week with the USST guys in Bend, and went back with our junior kids for another ten days, and he looks great. He’s in good shape; doing everything he needs to do… He’s just a totally different animal now. He’s gotten a lot faster, stronger, fitter; that was a huge jump for him last year. He was fourth in the 50 k and we considered that a disappointment. The year before he was ecstatic to be top 10, top 20 at U.S. Nationals.”
Elliott and Hoffman will be in Vail a few times throughout the fall, but primarily they’ll be based out of Park City, Utah.
“Tad’s doing some mountain biking too, and Noah’s trying really hard to basically get on snow every month this summer,” Pepper said. “May he was in Bend, Sognefjell in June, then Austria, and then he’s looking at a trip to New Zealand. Lots of on-snow time for him, that’s definitely one of his targets. Tad’s been hittin’ the weight room a lot harder too, taking bicep measurements.
“[For Scott], I think it’s great to have an opportunity to make the transition to being a full-time athlete with full-time training, and not having to worry about the rigors of college. It’s an opportunity to really focus on racing, with a little more emphasis on sprinting in particular, and see how far he can take it.”
Update July 13, 2012: This article originally stated Max Scrimgeour had yet to confirm his status with the team. Since publication Scrimgeour has officially joined SSCV Team HomeGrown.
* * *
Other previews: Bend Endurance Academy | Bridger Ski Foundation | Craftsbury GRP | CXC | Far West | Maine Winter Sports Center | Methow OD | Stratton Mountain School T2 Team | Sun Valley SEF | XC Oregon
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.