Cullen McLean (6th grader at Mountain Elementary School) earns a 2nd place finish missing the top of the podium by three hundredths of a second. Teammates Axel Vaskas earns the 4th place finish and Malik Boukahlfa earns the 10th place finish. Courtesy photo.
BY PAULA KNEPPER
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Southern Series of the Rocky Mountain division ski racing season opened on January 20, 2023 at Purgatory Mountain Resort in Durango, Colorado with a speedy day of Super Giant Slalom (SG or SuperG) racing. In spite of adverse conditions, over 100 youth athletes from across Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona descended upon Purgatory Mountain Resort. Fourteen Taos Winter Sports Team (TWST) veteran athletes competed, supported by 3 coaches, Julian LaCome (head racing coach TWST), Holland Beckens, and Hailey McDowell (senior at Los Alamos High School).
Julian LaCome said, “watching the kids race reminds me so much of my childhood and why I became a race coach in the first place. I’m so proud of my athletes and how well they did against a strong team like Vail. We had several athletes make the top ten and some that won their age group. This makes me very excited about my future with TWST and what’s to come.”
Julian LaCome inspects the course with athletes. Photo by Michelle Mosby.
A SG is an alpine speed event that combines the precise turning of a giant slalom with the speed of a downhill race course. A SG race course has the gates spaced closer together than in an alpine downhill event.
Cullen McLean (6th grader Mountain Elementary School) skiing aggressively down the SG course. Photo by Michelle Mosby.
Oliver Mosby (6th grader Los Alamos) takes flight over the camel jump. Photo by Michelle Mosby.
TWST female athletes competing in the SG included Solana Pearl (U18), Rowan Heflin (U16), and Corrine Pogue (U14 from Los Alamos). TWST male athletes competing included Isaac Olson (U16), Aksel Boukhalfa, Sasho McDowell (8th grader Los Alamos Middle School), Konik Pearl (U14), Max Oliver, Joseph Gallegos, Vincent Brady, Axel Vaskas (U12), Cullen McLean, Oliver Mosby, and Malik Boukhalfa.
Taos athletes successfully earned podium spots in a contentious competition. Solana Pearl took the top spot for female U18 athletes. Rowan Heflin earned 6th place in the U16 female field. Isaac Olson took the top step of the podium for U16 male field followed closely by Aksel Boukhalfa in 2nd place, and Sasho McDowell in 4th place. Cullen McLean earned 2nd place for U12 male competitors, followed by Axel Vaskas in 4th place, and Malik Boukhalfa in 10th place.
Isaac Olson takes the top spot on the podium followed by Aksel Boukhalfa in 2nd place, and Sasho McDowell (8th grader Los Alamos Middle School) earns 4th place in the Super G. Courtesy photo.
Purgatory Mountain Resort provided a welcoming venue for the Southern Series season opener. TWST athletes are excellent ambassadors for our mountain, community, and favorite winter sport, skiing.
TWST is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that was established in 1976 dedicated to providing opportunities for athletes to become great skiers and pursue personal goals. TWST promotes the development of good sportsmanship, healthy competitiveness, sound technical skills, and a reverence for the ethos of the mountains. For more information about TWST see http://www.taoswintersportsteam.com