Morris’ win a boon for Powderhorn racing club

When Powderhorn ski racer Birgit Morris was crowned overall age-group champion last week at the Junior Championships at Steamboat Ski Resort, she made the entire Powderhorn Racing Club a winner.

Morris, a J4 skier (ages 11-12) for the Powderhorn Racing Club, finished 11th in the super-giant slalom, sixth and 17th in the giant slalom and fifth in her morning run of the slalom.

She capped that by winning the afternoon slalom run, her combined results earning her the overall J4 championship, the first such title claimed by a Powderhorn racer.

“It was so exciting,” said her mother Stephanie Morris, who, along with husband John, was among the crowd cheering her daughter to victory. “It was amazing because all these parents from other teams were so excited for a racer from a small area to win and when she finally won, everybody was cheering for her.”

The J4 Junior Championships (previously called the Junior Olympics) included the top 11-12 year old athletes from the Rocky Mountain and Central Division of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. More than 160 athletes (boys and girls) represented 18 states.

Although previous Powderhorn races have competed in the Junior Championships, Birgit’s (pronounced Ber-geet) finish may have been the best ever for a Grand Valley skier.

The achievement says a great deal about her individual focus and drive and also says much about the local racing program, said John Morris.

“She had a really good season, we’re quite proud of her,” Morris said. “It really is an accomplishment, not just to ski well but to ski consistently.”

Birgit’s success “also says a lot about our kids, our coaching and the support from the community,” Morris said.

Birgit’s older sister Marta, a J3 (ages 13-14) skier, also qualified for the Junior Championships.

It might be in their genes: John grew up on skis and his father, who trained the 10th Mountain Division troops at Camp Hale, has been teaching skiing at Snowmass since 1952.

In most sports, success usually follows numbers, meaning the more kids turning out for a team (football, baseball, ski, etc.), the better chance a coach has of fielding the best athletes available.

Numbers certainly count in skiing, as does proximity to a ski area where athletes can practice every day.

“Teams like Vail and Aspen may have 60 or 70 skiers,” said Powderhorn head coach Matthias Schmidt, whose team numbered around 16. “I was riding up the lift with a coach from the Vail team, talking about our time on snow, and he said his team had 55 days on snow prior to their first race.

“We barely had that many days all season.”

Schmidt and John Morris both had many good things to say about the support for ski racing shown by the Powderhorn Mountain Resort management.

“We’d love to see the program continue to grow, and I think that will happen with the support we’ve had from the new ownership at Powderhorn,” Morris said. “Hopefully this will get a little revival of skiing in the area.”

That would be fine with Schmidt.

“Birgit’s invitation to the Can-Am is a huge thing for the (racing) club and the mountain as well,” Schmidt said. “It really shows the quality (of racers) we can produce at a small mountain.”

The only downside came when Birgit was invited to compete in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s prestigious Can-Am race set for Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Maine, only to find out a lack of snow in Maine likely will cause that race to be canceled.

Schmidt already is looking forward to next winter and building on Birgit’s success.

“We had several other skiers not far from qualifying for the Junior Championships,” he said. “I think we’ll have some good results next year.”


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