Fresh powder means slope practice for Utah ski team

By Liz Frome , Staff Writer

Snow touched the tops of the Wasatch Mountains on Wednesday, and for the Utah ski team, the fresh powder means the long-awaited start of practicing on the slopes.

Since the start of classes and throughout the summer, the skiers have been doing everything they can to stay in shape in the offseason. Without snow, there is only so much they can do to keep refreshing their fundamentals, but the athletes have been working hard in the weight room to maintain their physical conditioning, said director of skiing Eli Brown.

“We’re definitely excited about the weather,” Brown said. “It’s crunch time for fitness, strength and agility training.”

Brown said both the nordic and alpine teams have been participating in long-distance runs, biking sessions, roller skiing and weight lifting to stay in shape in the time when hitting the slopes at Utah resorts hasn’t been an option. The team also holds a weekly soccer game in which the nordic and alpine teams play each other.

Earlier in the summer, Brown said a few athletes had paid to travel out of the state or even out of the country to get to fresh snow where they could practice their skiing, in addition to participating in team-organized training and workouts.

The team hasn’t been able to ski at the Utah resorts yet this season, but Brown said he’s proud of the initiative his athletes took during the summer to maintain their optimum fitness levels. The 2010 team consists of almost 30 athletes, with approximately one-third of them joining the Utes after the end of the 2009 season. Brown said he has been impressed with how the old and new athletes are coming together.

“Everyone is getting along well; it’s a great group,” Brown said. “Everyone is giving it their all.”

Utah went to the NCAA Tournament last season, but went home empty-handed after placing third, fourth and sixth, respectively, in the giant slalom, 15/20K classical and the slalom. Brown said the team is eager to get back on the podium.

“We know we can do a lot better this year,” he said.

With their first tournament still more than three months away, the Utes will have plenty of time to practice on the mountains throughout the rest of the fall and the winter.

The Utes will host the Utah Ski Team Open House at the Ski Team Building on Saturday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fans are invited to come meet the team and see the soccer game between current and former skiers.

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