Current and former US Ski Team racers Nolan Kasper ’07, Hig Roberts ‘10, Michael Ankeny and AJ Ginnis made a special stop at Burke Mountain Academy February 5 to 7 with Finnish National Team members Jens Hettinen and Joonas Räsanen for a pre-Olympic Slalom training camp.
“Coming back to Burke to train was amazing,” told Kasper ‘07 who qualified for PyeongChang this January after overcoming four knee surgeries in the past two and a half years. “It was really great seeing the changes that have happened since I graduated in 2007, both on the hill and on campus. I wish I had access to those resources when I was a student, they’re a total game changer,” added the 2010 and 2014 Olympian who will compete in the men’s slalom in PyeongChang on February 22.
The six athletes made the most of Burke Mountain’s spectacular training conditions and were among the first skiers of the season to charge down slalom courses set on the recently improved McHargs trail.
“It was so fun training at Burke this past week,” said Ankeny. “The Burke facilities blow my mind time and time again. That training hill has got to be some of the best training in the country. The challenging steep pitch paired with the rolling terrain towards the bottom pair to make a versatile and very effective training hill that will create balanced all around skiing. With the addition of the new McHarg’s slalom hill, I believe that these kids have everything in the toolbox to become successful racers. And the RBC is so impressive,” he added.
This past summer, Burke Mountain and Burke Mountain Academy made major investments of $1.8M to significantly improve the mountain’s training quality and quantity. Funds were used to replace BMA’s WWII era poma with a brand new high-speed T-bar, purchase 32 high efficiency snowmaking tower guns, install a 3,200 foot snowmaking pipe to secure snow quality on more trails, and make significant terrain changes to BMA’s signature training hill, Warren’s Way, as well as McHarg’s.
Since being designated a US Ski Team High Performance Training Center in December 2016, Burke and Burke Mountain Academy have been hosts to hundreds of development and college racers from the Eastern circuit who have chosen to take full advantage of the improvements which now make Burke one of the nation’s leading ski racing training sites.
“The fact that Nolan and his World Cup peers came to Burke to train right before one of their most important competition speaks volumes in terms of the caliber and reliability of the terrain and conditions we have to offer,” shared Willy Booker ‘96, Head of School at BMA. “When we set out to make these major improvements, we were driven by a clear and bold vision for Burke to be a leading training venue for our athletes as well as for the ski system as a whole. It’s been gratifying to see this project reap so many positive outcomes already in its first year of fruition.”
In addition to having first right access to the hill, BMA student-athletes have also benefited from the ski hill enhancements and added traffic which has allowed them to train alongside other high caliber racers and created a vibrant synergy on the hill.
After skiing alongside these World Cup athletes, a group of BMA FIS men expressed that this first-hand experience gave them a very fast pace, pushed them beyond their limits, gave them good visual cues, and showed them what it takes to make it to the next level.
Despite their busy training regiment, Kasper and Roberts made a special stop on campus to visit the Burkies and share their experiences on a more personal level.
“With his comeback from major knee surgeries, Nolan has a powerful story of resilience and determination which is extremely inspiring for our students,” added Booker ‘96. “It’s awesome when our alumni can blend right into the school both on the hill and back on campus at lunch and dinner and in the Ronnie Berlack Center. Their presence is highly motivating for our students as it gives them a tangible exposure to what their BMA experience can lead to with tremendous commitment, effort, and perseverance.”
In PyeongChang, Kasper will be joined by other fellow BMA alumni vying for medals including Kai Horwitz ‘17 (Alpine Skiing, Chile), Ida Sargent ‘06 (XC Skiing, Vermont), Mikaela Shiffrin ‘13 (Alpine Skiing, Colorado), Liz Stephen ‘05 (XC Skiing, Vermont), Tommy Biesemeyer ‘08 (Alpine Skiing, New York *qualified but injured and not competing), and Harry Laidlaw ‘14 (Alpine Skiing, Australia).
Notable BMA alumni also involved in the Games in staff positions include Jong-Moon Byun ‘94 (Alpine Sport Manager for the Organizing Committee, Korea), Scott Lyons ‘85 (NBC Statistician, Colorado), and Steve Porino ‘84 (NBC Broadcaster and journalist, Oregon).
Since its founding in 1970, BMA has sent 36 alumni to the Olympics.
“The entire BMA community has been excited to cheer on all our athletes and alumni at the Games. It’s inspiring to know they each carry a small piece of that relentless Burkie spirit when they get their moment to shine and strive to fulfill their fullest potential,” concluded Booker.