A big start for the AHS ski team


Courtesy of Annika Nichols

The sun shines on Thunderbowl during ski team training in early January.

With back-to-back state championship titles for the boys and a state championship and state-runner up titles for the girls under their belt, it is clear the Aspen High School alpine ski team is a powerhouse. However, it is little known that a team atmosphere is as important as performing well to the team.

The AHS ski team is the largest team in the school, with 56 athletes of all grades and abilities competing. This creates a unique situation where the team must work hard to be competitive on the snow as well as cohesive from the slopes to school.

Jennifer Morandi-Benson is the coach of the ski team and believes that a team-focused mentality and cohesiveness is important to the success of the team.

“We did have a team dinner recently at the Ale House, and we start there [to build a team mentality], and then I’m going to leave it to some good captain thinking on how to bring us closer together. Ski racing is an individual sport, but in high school, we’re scored as a team. We do really kind of emphasize that team aspect more than a World Cup racer who’s still racing for a nation, but they’re not necessarily tied to a team like we are here,” Morandi-Benson said.

Senior at AHS and team captain, Sophie Wilcox, also feels that working together as a team necessary.

“With a big team, team cohesiveness is something we need to definitely work on more, and that is what we captains are working on this season. But overall, our athletic ability is good… My goal for the team besides winning states is creating closer bonds between the team and becoming a team on the mountain and off,” Wilcox commented.

James Kelly is a junior at AHS and believes the climate of the team plays a role in his ski racing successes.

“The atmosphere of the team is super laid-back and fun, which makes it easier for me to succeed,” Kelly said.

The alpine team also focuses on developing “grit” in their athletes to get as many as possible to finish a race and, secondly, qualify for states. Morandi-Benson is a proponent for grit and its benefits.

“We like to be gritty, and here’s what I mean by that; not always is it a perfect course with perfect conditions. We really emphasize to the kids that grit is needed when the course gets rutty… and think, how do we ski through the rut? We are really working with the kids on determination and that will to finish, even if you blow out,” Morandi-Benson said.

While the team does have a goal of qualifying as many kids as possible for states, Morandi-Benson feels it is important to keep the mission statement of the team in mind.

“It’s really about fostering and growing the joy of skiing and ski racing. It’s about that appreciation of snow the appreciation of being on it and just enjoying it together,” Morandi-Benson remarked.

The AHS Alpine team has their home race on Thursday, February 6th, on Thunderbow.