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American Telemark Racers Cope With Disadvantages

  • Skier Larry Bosche, of USA, rounds the last section of the Sprint during the Telemark World Cup at Suicide Six in South Pomfret on Jan. 20, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, January 22, 2018

South Pomfret — The United States Telemark Ski Team is used to entering World Cup events as heavy underdogs against their well-funded European opponents.

Sunday’s parallel sprint — a head-to-head bracket elimination tournament on a shorter, faster course during the second day of competition at Suicide Six — was no different.

Cory Snyder, a Franconia, N.H. native and current Bozeman, Mont., resident, advanced the furthest for the U.S., which had seven men and one woman qualify for elimination rounds. The top eight men and top four women all represented European countries.

“This is my 10th year of racing World Cups. We just struggle to get there financially,” said Snyder, a two-time telemark national champ. “To go race that much is a real financial burden. I’ve done it a few times. We can compete. … It takes a while, being around that competition, to pull your game up.”

Swiss skier Nicolas Michel — the men’s World Cup points leader — cruised to his third victory of 2018 thanks to back-to-back disqualifications by Slovenia’s Jure Ales in the semifinals and France’s Guillaume Issautier in the finals. Ales, who earned his first World Cup victory in Saturday’s sprint races, wiped out on the second gate after the jump racing, and up-and-coming Issautier lost control before the late-race reipeløkke turn. 

Issautier, 22, eliminated Snyder in the quarterfinal round by 1.86 seconds.

Germany’s Johanna Holzmann, who lost out to Great Britain’s Jasmin Taylor in Saturday’s sprint, earned her second parallel sprint victory of the season in a wild finish against France’s Argeline Tan Bouquet that came down to a 0.71-second difference.

For Ales, it was his first podium appearance for parallel sprint after the Slovenian defeated Norway’s Sivert Hole for third place in the consolation race.

“I just came in to (the final few gates in the semifinal race against Michel) with a little too much speed,” Ales said. “I just lost some control. But I’m happy with my result. The conditions were good today.”

A misjudgment following the course’s jump was a common mistake among Sunday’s competitors, many of whom seemed to hit the jump with too much speed that either left them in the air too long or rocketed them into the course’s final few gates scrambling to regain control.

“It was people not reading the distance on the jump,” said American skier Jeffrey Gay, who was eliminated in the opening round by Switzerland’s Bastien Dayer. “It was very easy to make, and you could jump beyond the gate, almost. That’s tough. A lot of people, especially in qualifiers, went too far and a little bit off line. … Mainly, it was the distance. People were landing really far down the hill with four really quick gates afterwards. Those gates stacked up really quick.”

Eight men and one woman — including Americans Larry Bosche, Stephen Weglarz and Sarah Carley — were either disqualified or did not finish their runs.

The weekend’s results as a whole were a continuation of what some American athletes see as a rebuilding program struggling to keep up with the experienced and funded European powers. The United States Telemark Ski Association, the sport’s nonprofit national governing body, is not associated with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, leaving American athletes to largely fend for themselves when it comes to expensive equipment and the organizational foundation to train. Snyder said it’s cost him about $20,000 to fully fund a four-month circuit, and he has had plenty of help via grants and sponsorships along the way.

“The hard part with the U.S., all these Swiss and Norwegian teams, they all train together and work together very closely all throughout the year,” Gay said. “The U.S., it’s harder to do because we have an Eastern contingent and a Western contingent. It’s a lot harder for us to get together, to do training and to really push each other harder. We generally meet up for nationals and a few other races, but it’s not every day like some of the other teams.”

“(The Europeans) are really tough to beat,” he added. “We’re definitely working toward it. Cory and myself, we’ve really been on the edge for a long, long time, and we’ve got some young kids as well.”

Some, like Snyder, have found ways to keep pace. Tanner Visnick, a skier out of Steamboat Springs, Colo., is still recovering from a torn ACL and, Snyder said, would have also been in contention. But Snyder was pleased with the effort.

“(Issautier) is young and is much faster at the skate than me,” Snyder admitted. “My goal was to beat him to the skate, and I didn’t quite execute that plan perfectly. But for how much I’ve been training, I feel like I’m skiing pretty well.”

It helps both in growing the sport and as a competitive advantage to have World Cup events on home soil. This weekend’s races, in tandem with the World Cup’s stop at Sugarbush later this week, are the circuit’s first appearance in New England in 10 years and first World Cup events in the U.S. since a Steamboat Springs, Colo., stop during four years ago.

“I think it’s great to come out East and get that viewership and showcase the sport,” Gay said. “It’s really important (to have events on U.S. soil). It builds our user base, gets the information out and starts the kids earlier. And it helps spread the word, mainly. It’s what we’ve been working on.”

Added Snyder: “For me, coming back here and racing is awesome. It feels at home. I feel like I ski faster on the East Coast, just because I’m more comfortable with environment, the terrain, the snow. … I think the parallel is the way forward (for telemark). As an athlete, it’s definitely the most fun.”

The Telemark World Cup wraps up its three-day stop at Suicide Six with another sprint event this morning. The tour picks up again on Wednesday at Sugarbush.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.