Huntsman Cup hits the hill
The year will start off in a big way as the top disabled skiers and a number of up-and-coming athletes converge at the 20th annual Huntsman Cup at Park City Mountain Resort this week.
In addition to U.S. Disabled Team athletes, including Parkite Monte Meier, a four-time Paralympian and Paralympic gold medalist Allison Jones, many of Park City junior athletes such as Greg Shaw, 17, and Tod Apedaile, 19, will be present. Sit-skiers, standing mono-skiers and blind skiers will all compete in the races which began on Tuesday and will be held daily until Thursday.
The NorAm event, which is put on in conjunction with the National Ability Center (NAC), is also a World Cup points qualifier, for those hoping to capture one of the remaining spots on their national team. For those already on their World Cup Teams, the event marks one of the final opportunities to prepare themselves for the challenging season ahead. Besides skiers from the U.S., there will also be teams present from Australia, Germany and Canada.
Some of the teams have been in Park City since the weekend after spending two days in a special training camp with multi-time Paralympic gold winner Chris Waddell. Others came in spefically for the three days of racing this week.
For the younger skiers, like Shaw of Park City, the Huntsman Cup is the perfect time to interact with the world’s top skiers and challenge himself on the hill.
"It allows us to see what we need to do to make our goals and make it to the Paralympics," the sit-skier said.
The junior skiers compete in an open class and receive junior rankings and medals. Shaw began racing just a few short years ago but is already making a name for himself. He is also a member of the U.S. Sled Hockey Team and will be coming to the Huntsman Cup fresh from a regional tournament with his local club team in Salt Lake.
Apedaile, who hails from Richmond, near Logan, like Shaw has had a quick rise to the top of the junior ranks. After watching the Paralympics in 2002, he knew it was something he wanted to try. The sit-skier, who suffers from spina bifida, began skiing on the mountains in Logan and soon became involved with the NAC programs. He quickly became a top racer.
"I think I just have the talent for it," Apedaile said. "I picked it up very fast."
Both racers are very competitive with one another, but Shaw says he imparts as much knowledge to his teammate to help their overall team perform well. That might be true or a challenge to Apedaile, bit either way the two are ready to prove themselves this week.
The teams have been training since the mountain opened over a month ago. This is the first major race for many of them. Both slalom and giant slalom races will be held.
Apedaile says that the key to a good mono-ski race is all in the timing, but Shaw said that a little bit of daredevil doesn’t hurt.
"I’ll get to the top of the course and nothing will scare me," Shaw said.
No matter what their secret to success is, they both agree that the Huntsman Cup is a phenomenal opportunity, for locals to learn about their sport both with the New Year’s timing and the Park City venue.
"I think it’s awesome that people get to see what it’s all about," Apedaile said.
"The NAC allows us to get our sport out there and allows people to learn about it," Shaw agreed.
According to NAC outreach manager Ryan Jensen, the experience is definitely rewarding for the fans.
"This is your chance to see people who will be competing in the 2010 Paralympics or those shooting for 2014," Jensen said. "Vancouver is close by and many of the new athletes will make it to those Games."
He also points out that at an event like the Huntsman Cup, most of the athletes are out there for honor, not glory.
"You really see the love and passion for the sport," Jansen said. These are guys that are going out for the love of skiing."
The Huntsman Cup will continue through Jan. 3 at Park City Mountain Resort, with a giant slalom on Wednesday and slalom on Thursday. Races will start at about 10 a.m. each day.
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