A year ago when it was announced Durango High School would host the Colorado High School Activities Association state skiing championships, DHS athletic director Adam Bright worried it might be the state water skiing championships during a season of warm temperatures and limited moisture. One year later, the worry is that there might be too much snow.
More than 300 skiers from around the state will slide into Durango this week for the CHSAA state championships. Alpine skiers will compete in slalom and giant slalom on the Pandemonium run at Purgatory Resort, while Nordic skiers will test their cross-country skills in a classic event and skate race at the Durango Nordic Center only 1/3 of a mile north of Purgatory.
OpenSnow is calling for snowfall between 16 to 34 inches between Wednesday and Friday evening. That’s on top of the more than three feet the resort has received in the past six days.
The state meet will be held Thursday and Friday, with alpine races beginning at 9 a.m. each day and Nordic set for 2:30 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. Friday.
“On the Nordic side, the snow is going to slow things down a bit,” Bright said. “We will see slower times than what would have been. On the downhill side, we will try to stay ahead of the powder and pack it down. It won’t be the thawed ice racers usually see. The powder will slow it down and there’s a bit of a danger area if the snow is blowing around, but we have a crew of volunteers 100 strong who will be keeping it safe and keeping it going.”
Festivities will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Chapman Hill with a torchlight parade followed by fireworks. It is a spectacle a CHSAA state skiing event has never seen before. Hosting state was a big goal of Bright’s when he came to DHS from Middle Park in 2016. He was quick to bring back a high school-sanctioned ski team and has seen it grow in numbers each year.
“For me, it’s all about getting the spotlight to Durango,” he said. “We are in a corner away from the rest of the state. I feel like Denver is my second office with how much we are up there. I’ll do anything we can to show off what Durango is and bring big events. It’s about being on committees to make sure we are represented. That’s a big deal to me, and I’ve taken pride in it and our area and want to represent Durango at the state level. Bringing a big event like this, it can help put us back on the map as a ski town, and there’s no better week than when we’ve got two or three feet of powder.”
Along with the opening ceremonies, there will be a dinner and awards banquet Friday night in the Fort Lewis College Ballroom.
“This is Durango. We are making it a big deal and raising the bar,” Bright said. “We are dressing everything up a whole lot nicer than what is typically done.”
Durango High School will have 10 alpine athletes set to compete, with another eight Nordic skiers, with four boys and three girls.
Here is a closer look at the events and athletes:
AlpineDurango senior Analise Gates, who takes online courses, will be a force on her home mountain as she will look to dethrone elite rivals from Aspen, Battle Mountain, Middle Park, Steamboat Springs and Summit County.
Gates won a giant slalom this season at Loveland and was fifth in a giant slalom Feb. 7 at Ski Cooper. She was three seconds back of Battle Mountain senior Gretchen Pavelich, the favorite in the alpine events this weekend.
Other contenders include Pavelich’s junior teammate Berit Frischolz, Aspen senior Levyn Thomas, Aspen sophomore Edie Sherlock, Steamboat freshman Annika Ort, Steamboat junior Ella Pietras, Middle Park sophomore Ella Wiser and Summit freshman Jenna Sheldon.
Gates will be joined by DHS teammates Juliana Gans, a sophomore, and Skylar Thorpe, a junior, in giant slalom.
“It’s definitely intimidating,” Gates said of competing against the best high school skiers from around the state. “But it’s really cool to have good competitors come here. Everyone is super friendly, and the races are always fun.”
While visibility may be a concern, Gates said the snow under her feet Thursday will worry her more than the flakes flying in front of her face.
“All the snow should be good,” she said. “It’s kind of difficult when there’s a lot of snow and it’s soft, but I’m hoping to have a good surface that will be OK. The footing is crucial to performance. I’ve skied a lot of bad visibility, but it’s more important to be able to grip on the snow.”
Gates and Thorpe will be joined by Durango junior Claudia Luthy and freshman Zoe Kiesel in Friday’s slalom. Luthy, like Gates, has been on the DHS ski team all three years since it was brought back.
“It’s definitely getting a lot more organized,” Luthy said. “It excites me when the Purgatory Ski Team kids get on the high school team. More kids are joining the Nordic team that just started this year, and I joined to do both, and that’s been super cool.
“I know last year it would have been awful to host state, so I’m glad we have good snow for this. A girl last weekend was saying she didn’t want to drive to Durango because it was so far, but we drive seven hours every week. I’m just excited to see all the people here, and I think they are going to like it.”
DHS sophomores Jian Cohen and Harry LeSage will compete in both alpine events. Cohen will be a skier to watch, as he competes despite being disabled without arms. DHS freshman Blake Ridgway also will compete in Thursday’s giant slalom. Miles Bronson, a junior, and Levi Tichi, a freshman, also will ski in slalom.
Nederland senior Reece Titus and junior Max Lynch have had their share of success this season. Evergreen’s Alex Ulrich, along Middle Park’s Mason Moorhusen and Brendan Droll, also will contend for podium position. Battle Mountain freshman Will Bettehausen has also been a force along with Aspen’s Trey Thorpe, Vail Mountain seniors Shane Cole and Robert Harnick and Battle Mountain seniors Dominick Lettovsky and Max Timm, who was named the 2019 skimeister for his combined success in alpine and Nordic racing. Aspen’s Edie Sherlock was crowned the girls skimeister.
NordicFresh off being named to the junior national team for the Rocky Mountain region for the third time in his skiing career, Durango’s Logan Moore will look for a podium finish when he competes in the classic race at 3 p.m. Thursday and the pursuit event at the same time Friday.
Moore, joined by Durango teammates Noah Bodewes, Cobe Freeburn and Luke Tichi, will chase Vail Mountain’s Cameron Wolfe, Aspen’s Everett Olson, Summit’s Peter Hayens, Aspen’s Colt Whitley and Middle Park’s Tyler Scholl, among may others.
Halle Moore has led the DHS girls Nordic team this season. She is joined on the Demons roster by Hannah Garvey, Tea Forrest and Kristina Bodewes.
Summit’s Tai-Lee Smith will be the favorite followed by teammate Noelle Resignolo. Aspen’s Emma Barsness and Jordan Miner, Vail Mountain’s Emma Blakslee and Battle Mountain’s Liz and Naomi Harding and Grace Johnson all will contend for podium places.