Note: This is the second preview in our series on U.S. elite teams, which we’ve dubbed the “The 12.” We asked coaches to tell us what’s new and whom to look out for in the coming season and will publish additional previews in the coming weeks in no particular order.
Team: Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV)/Team HomeGrown
Coaches: Eric Pepper (head coach), Dan Weiland (nordic program director), Lenka Palanova, Kevin Hoechtl, Allison Ebbets
Senior roster: Noah Hoffman (U.S. Ski Team), Tad Elliott, Sylvan Ellefson, Ryan Scott
Who’s new: none.
Who’s missing: none.
Coach’s comment: “We are excited to be able to support these four athletes,” head coach Eric Pepper said. “With the added excitement of an Olympic year, training has been great and we are looking forward to the race season.”
Four Colorado-born skiers have Olympic aspirations with the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, just over seven months away. Hoffman, Elliott, Ellefson, and Scott will receive full support of the SSCV in Vail, Colo., and wear the colors of HomeGrown, signifying the club’s in-state requirement.
“What it comes down to for us is we want to make sure we can give top-level support to our athletes,” Pepper said about his selective elite team roster. Promising candidates have expressed interest in joining the team, but did not meet the “HomeGrown” standard, he explained.
Top results last season:
All four skiers made World Cup starts in 2012/2013. Hoffman and Elliott gained the most international experience as members of the U.S. Ski Team (USST). Ellefson’s World Cup eligibility, which carried over from being the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) SuperTour points leader in 2011/2012, expired after the December World Cup in Canmore, Alberta.
Scott, 23, filled one of the additional U.S. quota spots at the Canada World Cup after finding success at the SuperTour season opener in West Yellowstone, Mont., where he notched his first domestic win. He placed 51st in the Canmore sprint and 60th in the individual sprint Quebec City. A sprint specialist, Scott is currently training in Norway with a group of friends.
“That’s something he’s done a couple of times and he really feels like he’s derived a lot of benefit from it,” Pepper said.
The top-ranked distance skier in the U.S., Hoffman, 23, is coming off a strong season in which he placed 15th in the 15-kilometer freestyle individual start at World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, and qualified for World Cup Finals. He underwent shoulder surgery this spring and has gradually added intensity and volume to his training program.
“He’s as focused as ever and looking forward to the upcoming year,” Pepper said.
Elliott, who turns 25 today, is no longer on the USST, but the former mountain-bike racer maintains a full commitment to skiing.
“Nothing in his mind has changed one bit,” Pepper said. “Everything he’s got is going into [skiing] this year.”
Elliott anchored the Americans’ 4 x 10 k relay team to 10th place at World Championships and scored World Cup points when he was 28th in the skiathlon in Canmore. He and Ellefson have already put in several offseason hours on snow in Bend, Ore. Ellefson, 26, joined the USST training camp there in May and led a two-week SSCV junior camp with Elliott.
Hindered by an ankle injury at the tail end of 2011/2012, Ellefson battled illness last fall. His season-best World Cup finish was 57th in Quebec City, after cracking the top 50 the year before when he was 43rd in Rybinsk, Russia. In a recent interview with FasterSkier, Ellefson said he’ll attempt to climb to the top of the SuperTour points list again.
While they won’t start the season in the USST uniform, Elliott, Ellefson and Scott are among those with a legitimate shot at grabbing one of the few coveted spots on the U.S. Olympic roster. The qualifying period ends January 12, and at that time, additional team members who did not meet the objective criteria may be named based on International Ski Federation (FIS) rankings.
“It does definitely put a lot of emphasis on those early season races,” Pepper said. “We’re going to be approaching those at a higher level than we probably have previously.”
Steven McCarthy discovered a passion for sportswriting in the classrooms of the University of Maine school of journalism. He earned his Bachelor's degree in 2010, while complementing his studies covering two years of UMaine sports and summer college baseball on Cape Cod. He resides in southern Maine and works in a private school for kids with autism. In his spare time he's training for his next marathon (running or skiing) or coaching at a local high school.