Telluride Ski & Snowboard Club skiers attended Alpine Summer Camp at Mt. Hood. (Courtesy photo)

There may be no snow, but for athletes with the Telluride Ski & Snowboard Club (TSSC) the work that goes into a successful season is well underway.

Indoor and outdoor dryland training for all TSSC athletes launched at end of October with 40-50 kids working out and weight training on staggered schedules at TSSC headquarters at the bottom of Lift Seven. Between 425-450 athletes in grades 1-12 are registered across all disciplines this year including Nordic skiing and ice skating. Approximately 50 of those skiers attended freestyle, park and alpine training camps this summer at Mt. Hood and in Park City. 

COVID rules remain in place for this season’s competitions, including restrictions against athletes traveling with coaches. Instead, athletes must travel with their parents and/or via pod-oriented carpools. While there are currently no mask restrictions in place for lift lines or chairlifts, there will, once again, be small field sizes for competitions and one-day, likely midweek, events which can pose challenges with school.

“Because we’re not officially a school sport, we’re trying to get some sort of recognition of TSSC as a club sport at the schools so teachers and the administration know that these kids aren’t just ‘going skiing,’” explained TSSC Executive Director Justin Chandler. “It’s not like these athletes are just skipping school. It’s really hard work.”

Given that initial TSSC competitions begin presently, skiers and snowboarders need to get on the snow to practice.

“Which we usually do anyway to train for early season competitions,” Chandler said. “We’ll buy space at dedicated training venues like Loveland or Copper Mountain which involves a lot of logistical planning because a lot of teams are doing the same thing.”

Chandler reports strength on the All Mountain (grades 4-6) and Big Mountain (grades 7-12) free skiing teams, which see, by far, the most participation of all TSSC disciplines.

Big Mountain Director and Head Coach Ryan Van Nuys says this is the first year he has a team of athletes who grew up skiing “within the structure.”


“Seniors Ely Blakney, Lily Young and Chloe Herir are primed for big years,” he added. “And Tia Schenk looks to continue some impressive results in her first year in the oldest comp category.”

Van Nuys is especially looking forward to hosting the home national level event in Telluride in late February.

Last season six TSSC alpine skiers, each with a podium finish in a championship event, were named to the Rocky Mountain All-Star team. Among Chandler’s new hires this season is Alpine U16/U19 Head Coach Thierry Colas, a career elite alpine coach from France who’s led teams from Europe to Canada to Park City.

“Thierry has extremely high expectations for work and attendance, and the kids love it,” noted Chandler.

In an effort to align his athlete’s goals with the possibility for success, Colas led vigorous dryland and fitness training over the past month where U-16 alpine racer Booker O’Dell caught his attention.

“I love his work ethic, his motivation and his commitment,” said Colas.

For the past five years Colas has led his own traveling team across Europe but the pandemic and its prohibitive restrictions prompted him to land this new coaching position with TSSC. With an “outside of the box” coaching style and extensive international coaching experience, Colas says the key to his effective coaching style are “his eyes.”

“I have an amazing capacity to analyze technique and to explore the freedom of the body,” he explained. “My goal is to take all the pressure off race day. World champions have a routine so I want my skiers to have a routine of timing, video analysis, with the coach on the sideline, in order to be ready for race day.”

Freestyle Director and Head Coach Jeff Yingling believes strong “community and culture” distinguish TSSC as an organization.

“My overarching goal as a coach is to create a positive learning environment on skis where athletes build confidence and belief in themselves which are useful in other aspects of their lives,” he explained.

In addition to hosting freeski and mogul competitions again this season, Yingling hopes to create a Southwest Freestyle event series.

“Head Freeski Coach Nikki Jones and I are also working on a ‘Alta-bird’ trip in March that will focus on team-building and recharging ‘stoke’ as athletes head into their championship events in late-March and early-April,” he added.

He says that local freestyle skiers Katie Dreitlein, Cole Paczosa and Freddie Mickel competed well last year, trained hard over the summer and are headed towards a successful season. Mogul skiers Natalie Sharpe, Tula Emrick and Maddy Messier have also demonstrated strong dryland training while free skiers Taylor Carter, Sam Herman and Caleb Ward have a good shot at qualifying for US Revolution tour events next season.

The lack of snow, which lead to Telluride Ski Resort pushing back the start of the ski season to this Friday, forced TSSC to cancel their biggest annual fundraising event — Donation Day — typically, the unofficial opening of the mountain, Nov. 24.

“None of what we do would be possible without the kind and generous support of Telski,” Chandler said. 

For more information or to donate to TSSC, visit TSSC.org.