TELLURIDE – Springtime conditions may be sending the snowpack rushing fast off ski area slopes, but not as fast as local alpine racers can ski it. A flurry of local racers have headed headlong into the height of the spring’s competitive season, and are poised to chase down their competition – and the dwindling snowpack – at upcoming season finale events.
The most J4 division racers in the history of the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club (at least, as many as anyone there can remember) have qualified for the J4 Junior Olympics this season, and will be heading to Winter Park March 18-21. Among that team of J4 JO travelers is Griffin Mueller, who also notched another first into the TSSC belt. Last weekend at Ski Cooper, Mueller became the first Telluride skier ever (again, at least that anyone can remember) to win the competitive Council Cup. By winning three of the weekend’s six races, Mueller garnered a spot on the upcoming J4 Junior Olympic’s start list.
“Griffin winning the Council Cup is definitely a highlight of the season,” said TSSC’s head alpine coach Mike Bowman this week. “As far as we can recall, she’s the first person from Telluride to win a Council Cup race to qualify for JO’s.”
Mueller’s recent successes represent just part of TSSC’s alpine team’s overall accomplishments this season. Riding on top notch results posted at earlier season races, other local J4 skiers Mikaela Balkind, Lawson Omer and Tagert Mueller will also be flying the Telluride flag at the upcoming Junior Olympics event.
Other local J4 Katherine Bush would have also represented Telluride at this year’s JO, making the total number of local athletes qualified an impressive five, but a broken leg sustained at the recent Prater Cup race will keep Bush off the slopes this time.
“Having such a big group of skiers qualify is impressive,” Bowman said.
The team’s J4s aren’t the only ones who will be representing Telluride at upcoming Junior Olympics events, either. J3 skiers Hayden Fake and Marina Marlens have qualified for the J3 JO’s, which take place in Vail this weekend.
Finally, J2 racer Victor Major has risen to the top of the Telluride racing crop – in fact, the top of the national racing circuit – with his qualification for the J2 Junior Olympics. Only the top 4 percent of 15 to 16 year old athletes from across the country qualify to attend the J2 JO’s; Major will be in Aspen all next week, racing against the best young skiers in the nation. He stands a good chance at finishing in the top too, says coach Bowman. Major is the #2 ranked downhill skier, and the #6 ranked Super G racer, in the large Rocky-Central region. Additionally, Major was named an “automatic” qualifier, meaning that he need not finish in the top at J2 qualifier events since his earlier season results were so significant.
The team’s youngest racers will also have their last hurrah this month, when the J5 Finale takes to the slopes of Powderhorn Ski Resort. Telluride will be bringing a team of close to 15 to the Finale event March 14-15, where the youngest TSSC racers will once again vie for supremacy amid the hard-charging regional racing field.
Telluride hosts a final ski race of the season, the USSA Smartwool Finale, March 27-29.