View from the Top: High School Skiers Gear Up for State Competition on the Slopes
While loaded lunges, bleacher-runs and air squats may not typically be the first images that come to mind when thinking about downhill skiing, for high school students who’ve trained with the Medford Ski Education Foundation (MSEF), these types of leg-blasting workouts often become synonymous with the sport. That’s because, because of the short snow-season in Southern Oregon, MSEF student athletes begin these types of arduous physical—and mental—preparations long before the first snowflake ever falls.
“We start dryland training at Spiegelberg Stadium in early November,” said MSEF Head Coach Gary King. “This is an important time to build up the athletes’ strength, stamina and conditioning, and while we try to incorporate a variety of exercises, there always ends up being a lot of lunges. Dryland trainings have become notorious for being hard.”
Established in 1992, MSEF is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization currently serving students from eight different schools across Jackson, Lake, Klamath and Josephine counties, bringing together more than 36 athletes each on a mission to score points for their schools as they race down the slopes.
Nearing the season’s end, this year’s skiers participated in their final race weekend February 14 and 15, closing out the calendar with all five of their scheduled competitions completed, only one of which had to be adjusted for weather.
“We had thin snow to begin with and not as many of the heavy powder days we like, but weather has still provided good conditions overall,” said Coach King. “And training on our home mountain, Mt. Ashland, is not only convenient but also gives us an advantage as it’s steeper and more challenging than other race venues, so our kids end up better and faster as a result.”
The two-day, weekend race events include both the Giant Slalom and Slalom disciplines with contestants completing two runs for each category. While winners are ultimately determined by how fast they make it down the course, scoring is calculated on both an individual and team basis—meaning the racer with the lowest combined time for both runs is deemed the winner and awarded the maximum number of points for their respective school. Subsequent racers also earn points for their teams based on their individual placements, and the team ending with the highest total score wins.
An athlete’s individual results also help earn them the opportunity to participate in the ultimate challenge—the State High School Alpine Championship. Held the first weekend in March, this year’s epic event is especially exciting for MSEF athletes as it will be held on their home turf.
“We get to host the state championship race every five years or so, and this year is one of them,” noted Coach King. “We’re very proud of having this mountain, and fortunate for the added benefit of getting to train where we race.”
Taking place March 4 – 6, this final feat will bring more than 250 qualified student racers and 50 coaches onto our Rogue Valley mountain, eager for three days of Alpine racing on Mt. Ashland’s Lower Winter & Tempest runs.
But pre-qualification isn’t required for those looking to experience a bit of vicarious thrill-seeking—race spectators are always welcome and encouraged. Afterall, it takes a lot of guts to willingly fly down a mountain on two skis, battling myriad weather variables while maneuvering sharp poles protruding from the snow.
“Our kids work their tails off all season long, and hearing the cheers and cowbells, knowing people are appreciating what they’re doing is just awesome,” said Janelle Dunlevy, MSEF Board Chair and parent of two MSEF skiers. “There isn’t much glory or coverage for ski racing, so these kids really do it with intrinsic motivation, knowing skills they’re developing will be utilized for many, many years.”
State High School Alpine Championship
March 4 – 6