With the 2017/2018 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is excited to unveil its annual award winners for this past winter. Votes stem from the FS staff, scattered across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and while not scientific, they are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review. This set of honors goes to the U.S. Continental Cup Skiers of the Year.
Previous categories: Junior Skiers of the Year | Collegiate Skiers of the Year | Biathletes of the Year | Para-Nordic Skiers of the Year | NoCo Skier of the Year | Canadian Breakthrough Athletes of the Year | American Breakthrough Athletes of the Year | Coach of the Year
Caitlin Patterson, Craftsbury Green Racing Project
Had Caitlin Patterson glanced to either side while she double poled down the finishing stretch of this year’s U.S. nationals classic sprint, she wouldn’t have seen any other skiers. As it were, the 27 year old had her sights set on the finish line, where they stayed until she secured first place.
As the first across the line, Patterson snagged her fourth win of the week, and with it, a spot in history. She became the first woman in six years to win four consecutive titles at a single U.S. nationals (after U.S. Ski Team member Jessie Diggins did in 2012).
“It felt surreal coming down the finishing stretch … realizing that I couldn’t hear people behind me and realizing that it was going to be number four,” Patterson told Fasterskier after the race.
The banner week for the Idaho native, who grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where nationals took place, started with an outright victory in a snowy 10 k freestyle. The race after that, Patterson claimed a definitive win in the women’s freestyle sprint, crossing 3.56 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. To close out the week, Patterson was the first American in the women’s 20 k classic mass start, before winning the classic sprint with no other skiers in sight.
“I could not have imagined this if I tried,” Patterson said, reflecting on the week.
Prior to her winning streak at nationals, Patterson also raced the opening SuperTour races in West Yellowstone, Montana, where placed third in the 10 k classic. At the following NorAm/SuperTour races in Sovereign Lake, British Columbia, she won 10 k freestyle and placed second in the classic sprint.
Following her racing at U.S. nationals, Patterson flew to Europe to race Period 2 of the World Cup. She notched some of her best World Cup performances of her career while there, with a 20th in the 10 k classic in Planica, Slovenia, and a 23rd in the 10 k freestyle mass start in Seefeld, Austria. The Olympics were the next stop for Patterson, where she skied to 34th in the skiathlon and 26th in the 30 k classic mass start. She also raced World Cup Period 4,
On the domestic circuit back home, Patterson finished the season in second in the overall SuperTour standings, behind her Craftsbury teammate Kaitlynn Miller (who also made the U.S. Olympic team) in first.
David Norris, Alaska Pacific University
Our U.S. Breakthrough Skier of the Year in 2016, David Norris is our pick for American male Continental Skier for 2018. The Fairbanks, Alaska, native is the overall SuperTour winner for 2017/2018, and he opened his season with a second-place finish in the 15 k classic mass start at the West Yellowstone SuperTour.
At U.S. nationals, Norris came down sick and raced two of the four races, placing sixth in the 30 k classic mass start and ninth in the classic sprint. After nationals, Norris raced at the Craftsbury SuperTour, where he finished seventh in the classic sprint and won the 10 k freestyle.
“I came to Craftsbury itching to race,” Norris wrote in an email to FasterSkier in January. “I was sick during nationals and competed in the 30km because I had to if I wanted a chance to earn an Olympic spot. I came up shy, but I know I that I am in good shape. After nationals I took another ten days easy to fully recover from illness so that I could come into Craftbury and Canada healthy.”
At the NorAm/SuperTour in Gatineau, Quebec, Norris placed ninth in the classic sprint before finishing second in the 15 k freestyle and winning the 15 k classic pursuit. Norris continued on the SuperTour circuit to Ishpeming, Michigan, where he finished third in the skate sprint and won both the 20 k skate and 10 k classic races. At the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wisconsin, he was the second American and fifth overall.
Norris qualified for Period 4 of World Cup racing and competed in Finland, Norway and Sweden before returning to the U.S. for SuperTour Finals in Craftsbury. There, he finished the season in fourth in the 50 k classic mass start and seventh in the 15 k freestyle mass start. As the overall SuperTour leader at the end of the season, he’ll earn Period 1 World Cup starts next winter.
Honorable Mention: Kaitlynn Miller, Craftsbury Green Racing Project
With three podiums as a top American finisher at U.S. nationals, Kaitlynn Miller qualified for her first Olympics and finished the season in first in the overall SuperTour standings. The 26 year old, who was born in New Jersey and grew up in Vermont, started the season out with a second-place finish in the 10 k classic mass start. The next weekend, Miller won the Sovereign Lake NorAm classic sprint.
At nationals, Miller was the second American and fourth overall in the skate sprint sprint. She was the third American and fifth overall in the 20 k classic mass start, and third outright in the classic sprint. She went on to win the Craftsbury SuperTour classic sprint, then placed second in the classic sprint and third in the 10 k classic pursuit with the fastest time of the day at the Gatineau SuperTour/NorAm.
Before jetting to the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Miller raced to a win in the Ishpeming SuperTour 5 k classic and placed third in the skate sprint. She finished her season on Period 4 of the World Cup and SuperTour Finals back on her home course in Craftsbury.
“It’s been a really unexpected good season and I am really happy with it,” Miller told FasterSkier at World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden. “To be honest, 10 k skates are generally speaking not my favorite and that’s probably the best-feeling race I’ve had since being over here, which was a really really pleasant surprise and definitly a good high note to end on.”
Honorable Mention: Kevin Bolger, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation
Our 2018 Breakthrough Skier of the Year, we felt Kevin Bolger should be recognized as an exceptional continental skier as well. Bolger, 25, finished the SuperTour season in second overall, just 15 points behind Norris in first.
Bolger tallied five SuperTour podiums this past season, including second place in the U.S. nationals skate sprint and a win in the skate sprint at the Ishpeming SuperTour. He made his World Cup debut in early March in Lahti, Finland, where he was the top Continental Cup skier in the skate sprint in 11th overall. He went on to score another World Cup top 30 at World Cup Finals in Falun, where he placed 30th in the skate sprint.
“As I reflect back on my season I don’t think it could have gone better,” Bolger wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to be skiing on the World Cup and skiing against the best in the World. That has shown me that I still have a lot of work to do ‘a lot of work’, of course I’ve had some good results but I want more.
“I want to be able to not only ski with those guys on the World Cup, but I want to be compete against them,” he continued. “I haven’t been more motivated and excited for another year to start.”