Denver skiing is set to begin the 2021 season this weekend when they host the Denver Invitational in Aspen. Men’s and women’s giant slalom and slalom will be contested this weekend. The following weekend, the men and women will compete in freestyle and classic at Minturn. Due to COVID-19 protocols, alpine and Nordic skiers will not compete in similar locations until the NCAA Ski Championships in New Hampshire.
The regular ski racing season will proceed as scheduled. However, the RMISA (Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association) championships have been moved from Alaska to Utah due to COVID travel complications. The NCAA Championships will be held as planned in New Hampshire (Francona, N.H. – Alpine, Jackson, N.H. – Nordic), March 10-13th.
This season Denver has an experienced squad with 2 freshmen, 8 sophomores, 7 juniors and 4 seniors. DU graduated all-American Andrea Komsic and Storm Klomhaus in alpine last spring. Men’s solid nordic performer Simon Zink graduated as well. However, all-American Amelia Smart returns to lead the women’s alpine side and Eveliina Pippa returns on the nordic side for the women. The men will be particularly strong in alpine events with returning all-American skiers Tobias Kogler, Bernhard Flashberger and Simon Fournier.
Led by head coach Andy Leroy and nordic head coach Toni Roponen, DU’s chances to land another national championship (#25) will depend highly on the back half of the roster and their ability to finish up in the points, particularly nordic events which can be unpredictable.
In the background, an NCAA financial review working group is looking at ways to reduce the costs of hosting NCAA skiing National Championships. Proposals include reducing the number of participants, shortening the number of days from 4 to 3 and seeking long-term external sponsors to host the event. The four topics under review include concepts and recommendations for creating championships, managing travel and per diem expenses, managing championship bracket/field size, and managing future budget requests.
Only 34 schools currently field ski teams in Division I, II and III while 23 of those teams were represented at last year’s NCAA ski championship field. The risk of some of these decisions could mean more schools drop the sport and only the top 4-6 schools qualify for the NCAA Championships.
While these discussions are in the early stages, expect collegiate skiing to eventually be impacted by structural changes to the NCAA Collegiate Skiing Championships unless they can land sponsors and partners (ski areas, doners) willing to foot the bill.
Photo: Steamboat Pilot & Today/Amelia Smart