By Luke Kirchmayr EBS Contributor

The Big Sky Ski Education Foundation season has begun in earnest and the athletes have been training for months to get ready for the competition circuit this winter. Here you’ll find an update on the alpine, Nordic and freeride teams that will compete around the region this season.

Alpine

The alpine team has been hard at work since July, when the team spent 10 days at Mount Hood in Oregon to work on technique. Dryland training started in October and the team spent six days on snow in Panorama, British Columbia, just before Thanksgiving. The athletes have been training five days a week on snow since opening day at Big Sky Resort to get ready for the season.

There are more than 20 races scheduled this season, and Big Sky athletes will represent the team from U8 to FIS races. Big Sky will also host two races during the first two weekends in January. The first will be a U16 regional qualifier held Jan. 4-6. The following weekend, Big Sky will host a FIS race which is a national race for U18 and older. Watch for Big Sky athletes flying down Tippy’s Tumble both of those weekends.

Caleb Unger training on the giant slalom course at Panorama, British Columbia, during November. PHOTO BY ROSS WENGER

On Dec. 17, the first race of the 2018-2019 season was held in Red Lodge, Montana. The Big Sky Ski Team had a strong showing by winning three out of four age classes and the race was held in ideal conditions with firm snow and clear skies.

Prior to the Dec. 17 race, Red Lodge Mountain hosted a two-day slalom camp for the U14/U16/U19 age groups, and the BSSEF alpine team had 25 racers participating in the mini camp.

Race results for the Big Sky alpine team on Dec. 17:

U16 Boys

2. Unger, Caleb (1:31.76)
4. Beatty, Ryan (1:36.36)
5. Kirchmayr, Luke (1:38.42)
6. Hassman, Kjetil (1:39.68)
7. Hoover, Miles (1:45.73)

U14 Boys

1. Ueland, Cameron (1:46.16)
2. Pecunies, Cameron (1:50.93)

U19 Girls

1. St. Cyr, Maci (1:36.91)
5. Winters, Madison (1:44.57)
6. Winters, Mackenzie (1:45.95)

U16 Girls

1. Davis, Hillary (1:42.72)
2. St. Cyr, Franci (1:43.75)
5. Carish, Gracie (2:18.71)

U14 Girls

1. Brown, Brooke (1:44.21)
3. Klug, Carson (1:54.15)
5. Manka, Skylar (1:56.60)
6. Unger, Cloe (1:56.65)
7. Davis, Margaret (1:57.77)
9. Ditullio, Drew (1:58.05)
10. Vap, Morgan (2:00.05)
11. Hoover, Myla (2:02.90)
12. Johnson, Allene (2:03.29)

Freeride

The Big Sky Freeride team has also been training over the past few weeks and is getting ready for their upcoming season. Over the last few years, the freeride team has more than doubled in size and continues to become a prominent team in the West.

Head coach Wallace Casper is expecting a fun and strong season from his athletes and is excited to welcome new members to the team. “The freeride team is all about learning how to ski hard through technical big mountain terrain,” he said.

“We hike the headwaters [and] ski the tram on a daily basis, learn about avalanche safety and work on the IFSA judging criteria: line, control, technique, fluidity and style,” Casper added. “We love ripping around in the mountains with friends and improving our skills! Anyone who can ski all the terrain on the mountain and wants to compete is welcome to join us.”

2018-2019 freeride competitions:

Snowbird National – Jan. 18-21
Jackson Regional – Jan. 25-27
Targhee Regional – Feb. 9-10
Crystal National – Feb. 21-24
Targhee National – Feb. 28 to March 3
Big Sky Regional – March 8-10

Nordic

The BSSEF Nordic team is off to a very strong start to the season. With Big Sky’s abundant early snowfall and grooming of the trails in Town Center and Big Sky Community Park by Big Sky Community Organization, along with the Lone Mountain Ranch groomed trails, the athletes have been accumulating the kilometers too. The team mission is to provide an opportunity for kids to become great skiers and pursue personal goals while promoting good sportsmanship, healthy competitiveness, sound technical skills, and an appreciation for the spirit of skiing in the mountains.

Nearly 25 athletes from Ophir schools and Lone Peak High School compete on the Nordic team. Each practice focuses on skill development, often disguised as playing a game such as sharks and minnows on one ski, obstacle courses, no pole relay races and more, while increasing distances too.

The first competition of 2019 will be a biathlon race in West Yellowstone on Jan. 5. Biathlon combines the aerobic challenge of skate skiing with the non-aerobic skill of marksmanship shooting with a 22-caliber rifle. The athletes will be skiing three 1.5-km laps with a shooting station between the first two laps. The format starts with a 1.5-km ski into the shooting range and where racers attempt to hit five out of five targets. Then they ski a second lap and shoot another round, finishing with the final 1.5-km lap.

A penalty lap of 100 meters is assessed for each missed target. The ability to ski hard, and then calm one’s self to shoot accurately is the challenge. Look for results from our athletes in this continuing coverage throughout the winter.

BSSEF is currently working to establish a biathlon range in Big Sky using laser equipment. With help from the Moonlight Foundation, they’re working on funding for the necessary equipment to set up this winter. Stay tuned for updates on community events to learn more about it.

Local Big Sky cross-country races open to all will be happening again this winter with a combined effort from the Discovery Academy and BSSEF, supporting grooming efforts by BSCO. The 5@5 Town Series will be Jan. 22, Feb. 26 and March 26 if snow conditions allow. The races start at 5 p.m. and are held on a 5-km course. There will also be a 1-km race for skiers 8 and younger, and a 3-km race for skiers 12 and under. Same-day registration starts at 4 p.m.

For more information about the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation teams, visit bssef.com.