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Nordic team ramping up for 2016-2017 season

Revamped and getting ready

by Than Acuff

New things are afoot with the Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT), with Molly Susla moving from assistant coach into the head coach/program director role, a couple new coaches joining the staff, and some tweaks to the existing programs to open the world of recreational and competitive Nordic skiing to the community even more.

“We’re trying to make sure the programs are more accessible to more people,” says Susla.

Susla grew up in Maine and started racing in high school as part of her high school team and the local club team. She went on to ski for the NCAA Division I program at Colby College, including one year as the team captain. Once that was over, she looked for a way to remain connected to the Nordic world.

“The Nordic community is awesome and I wanted to stay involved as a coach,” explains Susla.

She looked west, specifically Boulder, but she got a call from CBNT Nordic head coach Austin Ross asking her to work with him as an assistant coach here in Crested Butte. Despite never having heard of Crested Butte, Susla took the job and rolled into Crested Butte in October 2013. She liked what she found and has been an assistant coach for the team for the past three years.

“It’s a smaller team than what I was on in Maine, but it’s also part of a bigger nonprofit so we get support from the entire Nordic community,” says Susla.

Then, when Ross stepped down from the position this year, Susla moved right up the chain to take over as the head coach.

Brittany Perkins returns as well to join Susla on the coaching staff. Perkins is the recreation program’s director, heading up both the Striders and Gliders programs as well as the newly expanded Explorers program.

The Striders program offers game-based group instruction to help new and experienced kids develop proper technique and confidence on skis.

The Gliders program offers group instruction two days a week to help young skiers build more confidence, improve their technique and have more fun on (and in) the snow. Skill games, drills, and long distance skis will be used to coach different aspects of technique and to improve fitness.

Both Striders and Gliders will have opportunities to participate in unique local races to show off their newly developed skills in a safe and fun environment. No experience is necessary.

Explorers are for kids who have experience on Nordic skis, and who want to have fun in the snow while learning new outdoor skills, with a focus on general outdoor recreation instead of competition. Activities will include skiing on the new skier-cross course on the bench (with mini-skis!), avalanche education, ski mountaineering, winter survival skills and biathlon shooting techniques. This program will also cultivate a love of the outdoors while fostering teamwork and a commitment to a healthy, active lifestyle.

“We did it last year, but we hope to expand on it this year,” says Susla.

While running around as the program director, she will also be working as head coach for the development team and the competition team. The hope of the development program is to introduce a higher level of Nordic skiing to young athletes, giving them a taste of the competition circuit.

Meanwhile, Susla and her coaching staff will be spending a significant amount of time with the competition team.

“Those programs are the competition track and kids will really learn how to Nordic ski well,” says Susla. “There will be a lot of work on technique, with video analysis to help them take their Nordic skiing to the next level.”

Isaiah St. Pierre and Kevin Koval will be her assistant coaches on the competitive end of things. Koval is back for a second year, while St. Pierre, who ski raced in college and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in exercise physiology, is new to the staff.

“He’s an awesome resource to have involved with our training,” says Susla.

Susla expects to have as many as 12 skiers on the race team this season, led by Woody Martineau who will be racing in the U18 age class. Martineau is a veteran of the race circuit, having made two trips to Junior Nationals the past two years including cracking the top 15 last year as a first-year U18. In addition, Susla expects to see big things from U16 racers Seve Petersen and Robbie Oberling.

The training is already under way, with Susla running the kids through their pre-season dry-land training regimen.

“We start racing in December so this month is about awakening your ski muscles again,” says Susla. “We don’t want to peak until late February but you have to start the training now.”

The team will wrap up their pre-season with the annual trip to West Yellowstone for the Thanksgiving Camp, including numerous hours on snow with some races thrown into the mix as well.

Overall Susla is excited about the upcoming Nordic season. Last year the programs had a total of 70 kids involved and it looks like they will exceed that number this year.

“We already have 60 signed up, which is awesome and if we can get 80 kids I’d be stoked,” says Susla.

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