This summer, you will see them training in Carbondale and Aspen.
They are members of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s (AVSC) Nordic National Comp program and range in age from about 15 to 20 years old. This year-round training and racing program includes on-snow training from November through April and conditioning during the summer and fall months.
Morgan Arritola, a 2010 Olympic cross-country skier, reached out to AVSC Nordic Program Director and National Comp Head Coach August Teague, someone she knew from the skiing community, about a job. AVSC had an opening for a Nordic ski coach, and within two weeks, she was hired. Arritola rented out her house in Oregon and moved to Carbondale in February. She says, “it instantaneously felt like home.”
Arritola said that she and Teague share coaching values — “it’s not all about winning medals.” Rather, it’s important to help students “realize that they can do even more than they think they can.”
Some of the best ambassadors for the AVSC program are the athletes themselves.
Eske Roennau, born in Denmark, moved here with his family when he was in third grade. Currently a sophomore at Aspen High School, he joined AVSC in middle school and is in his second year with the National Comp program. He would like to continue racing through college, preferably at an East Coast school.
There are life lessons learned about adaptability, adversity and dealing with disappointment, as well as success. Roennau said the program taught him, “dealing with your losses is super important, not just in Nordic but also in real life.”
Eva McDonough, a senior at Aspen High School, has been part of the National Comp program for two years. She started with AVSC in fifth grade and has committed to Bates College in Maine and will be skiing there.
She said the program helped her with goal-setting, “Our coach never pressures us to have result-based goals or anything like that. It’s always focused on the process.”
Lola Villafranco, a junior at CRMS, was in the eighth grade when she started with AVSC. She said the program has helped her learn about herself and how to manage her personal life, between school studies and the physical endurance needed to maintain a training and racing schedule. She said learning time management “has taught me to use my time well and be organized and efficient with everything I do.”
While Nordic skiing consists of individual races, Villafranco explained, “The athlete is made by the team. And I think it’s a really positive environment that August has, and team trips are just so much fun. I really think that wouldn’t be sustainable without being supported by the team.”
Last competition season saw many events canceled out of concern for large gatherings of people from different areas of the country.
One of the team’s annual highlights was going to the Junior Nationals competition. Last March, the team went to Truckee, California, only to have it canceled in the middle of a four-race championship event. Teague recalled, “We had had our first two races, and we were preparing for the third race when we were gathered by their race officials and doctors there. [California Governor] Gavin Newson had shut down large gatherings, so in the middle of our event, we had to figure out, how do we get all of our athletes home safely and appropriately?”
Learning how to cope with adversity and disappointment in life is a valuable tool. Arritola said, “It’s also good for them to learn how to roll with the punches. Sometimes things aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. And then, how do we navigate those imperfect days?”
Teague said, with COVID-restrictions, they choose to continue training, independently and online, a new experience for the group. “I’ve never coached virtually. I’ve never run a workout with 15 athletes in their living rooms,” he said.
While focusing on their Nordic skiing skills, the athletes also value the life lessons as they grow into adulthood. “I think it’s really beautiful how this program is not just about creating mega-athletes; it’s just about creating good people,” said McDonough.
Roennau also summed up the benefits of participating in AVSC. “It’s opened so many doors and opportunities. It’s just an awesome program; it gives you great life lessons all around.”
AVSC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Scholarships are available to Roaring Fork Valley and Western Garfield County residents for all AVSC team programs. For more information on AVSC Nordic programs, go to teamavsc.org/Nordic-Programs