Race draws top young men | ParkRecord.com

Race draws top young men

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

This week, some of the country’s most promising male skiers will converge on Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR). The National Development System Invitational will feature some of the top young men between the ages of 15 and 19 in a head-to head competition on CB’s Run.

The National Development System is the U.S. Ski Team’s program that falls just below the Development or "D" team.

"This is a project-based system to bring in top athletes to give them a taste of the top level," said Walt Evans, director of the NPS program.

The event is part of a joint partnership between the Park City Ski Team, the U.S Ski Team and PCMR. Evans explained that the invitational will be more training and racing focused than the typical showcase event that the ski team might put on. The event is especially for the young American men who rarely have the opportunity to compete in such a manner. The top young female skiers have Nor Ams to compete against other elite athletes in the country, but on the boy’s side the field is often just too large. In the NDS Invitational, the field will be restricted to 45 athletes, selected from among the top 350 in the world or have an invitation.

"We’ve invited junior boys in from all over the country," Evans said.

The boys will also be able to sample a little bit of the highest competition as I. S. Ski Team members Dane Spencer, Erik Schlopy, Kevin Francis, Bryon Friedman and Jake Zamansky take a break to ski in the event. Schlopy just had his second child and will compete in the NDS event before returning to the World Cup schedule.

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According to Evans, Utah will be more than well represented during the three days. Some University of Utah skiers, some Park Ski Team members and Rowmark members will be in the field. Many of the qualifiers for the 2008 FIS Alpine Junior World Championships will also be skiing. In fact, the points that those men earn in the invitational will be able to be used in the Junior Worlds event which will be help in Spain in two weeks.

Evans says that he is thrilled to be able hold this event at PCMR this year and hopes it can become an annual event. He anticipates holding two events next season with one in Park City and the other one in Italy.

"This is fun for us," Evans said. "There are a number of exciting young skiers."

One of the highlighted skiers is Andy Phillips who is a Junior Worlds qualifier.

"Andy has had a great season," Evans said. "It will be fun to see him competing against Schlopy and Spencer and Zamansky. This will be a first for us and for Andy.

The Ute skiers are on a training break from college competition and so team members like Tag Thoreson and Scotty Venis will also add stiff competition.

Evans is hopeful that locals will come out to watch and support the young athletes.

"I just urge folks to meet these people," Evans said. "This is a great event and the skiers are anxious to meet their fans."

The NDS Invitational giant slaloms will be held on Feb. 13 and 14 at 10:30 a.m., followed by the slalom on Feb. 15 at 9:30 a.m. at PCMR.