The first-ever Under 16 National Championships for young alpine athletes wrapped Friday with a parallel slalom race at Park City Mountain Resort. Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, Sky Kelsey earned the boys’ title and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Academy, Storm Klomhaus captured the girls’ title.
Last Spring Dr. Lester Keller, Regional Alpine Development Director, Patrick Riml and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association introduced the project as a camp last spring.
“We started this last year as an assessment project,” Riml said. “We bring the best 60, 30 boys and 30 girls. We want to see what’s out there and how these kids are performing. This year is the first U16 National Championship.”
The camp evolved into a five-day national collaboration of the USSA club program coaches, athletes and program directors, which aimed at assessing strengths and weaknesses of the USA’s best Under 16 alpine racers.
“We have some really good skiers here, but we see some things that we’re deficient as a nation in,” expressed Dr. Lester. “These kids are in pretty good physical condition, but not good enough. So we have definitely our message to the nation is that we do a lot more fitness.”
As the week wrapped, coaches and directors initiated a national plan for athlete improvement. Club coaches and USSA TEAM Academy staff evaluated sixty of the best boys and girls, awarding them athletes’ points in freeskiing, SkillsQuest education, giant slalom, slalom and parallel.
“So what I saw here is we’re a little deeper than we were last year. So pretty encouraging progress,” said Dr. Lester, “We can certainly get better at this. We will get better at this. But the second year in, Patrick and I are pretty pleased with what we’ve got going here.”
The athletes with the highest point totals at the end of the week were crowned the Under 16 National Champions. Kelsey garnered the most points for the boys and Klomhaus won for the girls.
The PSIA Demo Team Head Coach, Michael Rogan evaluated the athletes’ all-around technique and basic all-mountain skiing skills in the freeskiing portion of the assessment. The new SkillsQuest program by the USSA evaluates and educates young ski racers, their coaches and their families so they can develop basic skiing skills and support to become world-class athletes.
“Two years ago we had no idea what this age group was like nationally because we didn’t get together nationally with a volume of kids,” expressed Dr. Lester, “The primary reason to come here was to judge where we are as a nation by getting a good look at this age group. It’s evolved now. This is the first time we’ve ever had a National Championships for this age group. So it’s pretty exciting in that way.”