Steamboat’s Anderson set on making final World Cup trip
Steamboat Springs — They tell a lot more jokes at Telemark races.
Whether it’s World Cup events that draw racers from around the globe or smaller national events, such as the race in Steamboat Springs on Friday, that draw skiers mostly from across the region, a light atmosphere seems to dominate the events.
The praise for a good turn can be nearly as great as that for a winning run, often a marked difference from a higher-level Alpine skiing race where athletes sweat the minutiae and ski through the pressure.
But Telemark racing is not a sport without its nerves, as Shane Anderson realized again in spring.
He stood at the top of the course at a Steamboat-hosted Telemark World Cup event in first place.
“I’ve never been that nervous,” he said.
The thrill of that competition, and the success he realized in it, are what have made traveling this winter to compete in the Telemark World Cup circuit in Europe such an obvious decision, Anderson said.
The coach of Steamboat’s quickly expanding race program until this year, Anderson is intent on giving his dreams of top-level competitive skiing one last, full shot.
“I’m really shooting high,” he said. “I’d really like to get on the podium again, but that’s also really hard to do. Every year, people are getting a little more involved, people are getting a little more competitive.”
Falling for it
Ski racing is nothing new for Anderson. He grew up an Alpine racer and ran the gates at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.
The years added up, however, and soon he was looking for something new.
“I was a little burnt out,” Anderson said. “That’s when I discovered Telemarking, and I wanted to give it a try. I fell in love with it.”
Telemark racing includes key differences from the far more popular Alpine variety.
First, of course, are the turns. Racers are judged on how well they are executed.
Races contain jumps where competitors are judged by their landing form and the distance they travel. Some have a 360-degree turn, a reipeløkke, at the bottom, followed by a stretch of cross-country skiing.
“I like the all-around challenge,” Anderson said. “There are parts of the sport I wasn’t ever very good at. I didn’t know how to skate ski before I started Telemark racing.
“Now I love to just go skate ski for a couple hours.”
He’s found a way to turn that challenge into success.
1 last trip
Anderson took over coaching the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Telemark racing efforts in 2006 and dabbled in World Cup competitions with the club’s most successful athletes.
He ran a full season in Europe in 2005, but, among all those experiences, he said he was never able to get comfortable on the big stage of his favorite sport.
That all changed in spring when, thanks in large part to the massive growth of Telemark racing in the region and in particular Steamboat Springs, the World Cup made a stop in Ski Town USA.
Anderson earned two third-place finishes in the event, by far the best results he’d recorded on the World Cup stage.
That encouraged him to make one last push through the World Cup, which will host all its events this winter in Europe.
“I never expected this to be happening this late in my life,” said Anderson, 31. “It probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t moved to Steamboat.”
Anderson is one of two Steamboat residents attacking the World Cup for a full season this year. Lorin Paley delayed college by a year after a successful dip in the World Cup waters last season.
She’s already been training in Switzerland for months.
A number of other local skiers and fans will travel to Europe for the Telemark World Championships, set for March in Norway.
“There are always a lot of fans in Norway. It’s televised and really professionally run,” said Steamboat’s Erika Walters, who plans to make her third Europe trip in March. “It’s always a lot of fun, and you get to see all your European friends.”
Anderson hopes his long stay on the continent can have him ready for that event, which he expects to be his final competition at that level.
“I’ve already decided this will probably be my last year of racing,” he said. “Competing against all these 18-year-olds, it’s pretty hard on the body.”
He paused and laughed, considering future races on lower levels and the long career of racing that prepared him for the World Cup experience.
“I’ve been saving since I was a little kid so I could be a ski bum,” he said with a grin.
He’s done everything from work as a mason to plant flowers to work the Howelsen tubing hill to pay winter bills.
“I might finally need to find a job where I actually make money.”