The 2015/2016 awards continue, chosen by the FasterSkier staff based on performances from last season. While not scientific, these points of recognition are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review.
The Patterson siblings, Caitlin, 26, and Scott, 24, have a lot more in common than just their natural knack for nordic skiing. Both grew up Anchorage, Alaska, after moving there from McCall, Idaho. They both attended and graduated from the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., prior to pursuing professional skiing. They both have engineering degrees — Caitlin in civil engineering and Scott in mechanical engineering.
They were both national champions after the first race of this year’s U.S. nationals in their respective races — Caitlin in the women’s 10-kilometer classic race and Scott in the men’s 15 k classic. Due to the duo’s domination over the continental circuit this year, they were also both the SuperTour leaders through Period 1, which qualified both of them for this year’s Period 3 of World Cup racing. With their 2016 continental accomplishments in mind, both are also recipients of FasterSkier’s 2016 Continental Skiers of the Year Award.
Caitlin Patterson, Craftsbury Green Racing Project
Almost exactly two years older than Scott, Caitlin started her season for the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP) with a sixth in the 10 k freestyle at the West Yellowstone SuperTour in Montana. She then went on to place third in the classic sprint at the following SuperTour in Sun Valley, Idaho, behind her CGRP teammate Kaitlynn Miller (2016 Breakthrough Skier of the Year) in second, and Alaska Pacific University’s Becca Rorabaugh in first.
“Watch out for us,” Patterson said of her team at the time. “All four, in green, watch out.”
After her second place, Caitlin took third in the 10 k classic mass start in Sun Valley. At the next SuperTour stop at nationals in Houghton, Mich., and she opened the week of races with a win in the 10 k classic.
“I was personally really excited to see that my brother won this morning,” Caitlin said after both she and Scott won the first race of nationals. “That was encouraging, but also a little bit of competition. He was going to give me a pretty hard time if I didn’t match him in that one.”
Caitlin’s podium streak continued, and she went on to finish third in the freestyle sprint and snagged her second championship title of the week by taking first in the 20 k freestyle mass start. In her final race of the week, the classic sprint, she placed fourth and maintained the overall SuperTour lead for Period 1, which qualified her for Period 3 of the World Cup.
She then went on to score World Cup points by placing 25th in the women’s 10 k freestyle mass start in Falun, Sweden and 29th in the women’s 15 k skiathlon in Lahti, Finland.
Caitlin also won the Lake Placid SuperTour 10 k classic mass start in New York and took second in the sprint there. She finished her season at Spring Series at home in Craftsbury, Vt., placing seventh in the 10 k freestyle, 10th in the classic sprint, and third in the women’s 30 k classic mass start. As the overall SuperTour leader, she’ll start next season in Europe on the World Cup as the Continental Cup leader.
Scott Patterson, Alaska Pacific University
Scott’s list of season achievements is also almost as long as his sister’s. He, too, opened nationals with a victory, cruising to his first national title and first national podium, after winning the men’s 15 k classic.
“I won the 15k classic race on Sunday to take my first US national title (and first podium ever).” Patterson wrote in a blog post after the second day of racing at nationals. “Topping off the day, my sister, Caitlin Patterson, won the women’s 10k classic race as well. Not a bad day for the Patterson family.”
Scott then placed fifth in the 30 k freestyle mass start for his second-best U.S. nationals finish.
Earlier in the season, Scott also raced to third place in the 15 k freestyle in the West Yellowstone. He went on to win the 15 k classic mass start at the Sun Valley SuperTour, ahead of the University of Colorado’s Mads Strøm (2016 Collegiate Skier of the Year) in second and his APU teammate, Eric Packer in third.
In his third individual World Cup race and first Holmenkollen 50 k, Scott finished in 32nd, his best World Cup result of the season and just outside of his first World Cup points. He raced the Ski Tour Canada (STC) and ended his season at SuperTour Finals/U.S. Distance Nationals in Craftsbury. During his final races of the year, he finished second in the 15 k freestyle and sixth in the 50 k classic mass start, closing out the season in fourth overall in the SuperTour standings.
Eric Packer, Alaska Pacific University
Sometimes adversity secures a route to success. Following a scary training accident last year, Packer raced to his first national title in the men’s classic sprint in Houghton.
“In a split second, I went from being a top-level athlete to barely being able to get out of bed,” Packer recalled. “Training became a privilege not a chore and I ended up having the best late summer/fall training of my career. In the end, that crazy accident helped me develop that little bit of extra motivation that I needed to take me to the next level.”
Also at nationals, he placed fourth in the 15 k classic and 11th in the freestyle sprint. Previously in Sun Valley, he raced to a fourth in the classic sprint. Packer also finished second in the freestyle sprint at the Lake Placid SuperTour and fifth in the 10 k classic. He raced to a seventh in the 10 k classic at the Craftsbury SuperTour and qualified for Period 4 racing of the World Cup, the STC. He finished his season at Spring Series in Craftsbury, where he took fifth in the 15 k freestyle, sixth in the classic sprint and fifth in the 50 k classic mass start.
At the end of the season, he ended up leading the SuperTour standings, earning Period 1 World Cup starts next season.
Chelsea Holmes, APU
Another Alaska native and APU skier, Chelsea Holmes finished the season third in the SuperTour behind Caitlin Patterson and Annie Hart (Breakthrough Skier of 2016 Honorable Mention).
In the season-opening races, she placed second in the 10 k freestyle in West Yellowstone and fourth in the freestyle sprint. She went on to win the 10 k classic mass start in Sun Valley, ahead of Patterson, and also placed fifth in the classic sprint there.
At 2016 nationals, Holmes finished second in the 20 k freestyle mass start and third in the 10 k classic. Her performances qualified her for Period 3 and her first European World Cups, and in her second international World Cup race — the 10 k freestyle in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, Holmes placed 37th.
Back in the U.S., she raced to fifth place in the Lake Placid freestyle sprint and third in the 10 k classic. At the Craftsbury SuperTour, she finished second in the 5 k freestyle and fourth in the women’s 10 k classic. She also qualified for the STC and earned her first World Cup points by finishing 22nd in the women’s 10 k freestyle in Canmore.