On Mar 12 and 13, the Battlin’ Bears ski team competed at the USCSA Western Championships in Red Lodge, MT. Usually around this time, the Bears would be competing at Nationals but due to coronavirus restrictions in the east, the 2021 Nationals were canceled. That did not stop the Bears from competing, though, and coach Jerry Wolf managed to organize a championship at the Bears’ home hill in Red Lodge.
Four other teams competed with Rocky including College of Idaho, Western Colorado University, Colorado Mesa University, and Colorado School of Mines. Over the course of two days, everyone ran four races consisting of two giant slalom (GS) races and two slalom races.
Both the men and women dominated and won the overall team awards. On the women’s side, sophomore Sydney Weaver came in third for all four races, freshman Sofia Brustia finished second in both GS races and first in one of the slaloms, and freshman Hilde Sato finished first in both GS races and first in the other slalom. Overall, Sato, Brustia, and Weaver came in first, second, and third respectively.
The Rocky men also commanded the field with podium sweeps in the slalom and GS along with the overall team awards. In slalom, sophomore Ludvig Bye placed first in both races, followed by fellow sophomore Filip Johansson. In third for the first slalom race, sophomore Alex Sehlberg placed third, but on the second race, freshman Dani Larriu took the third spot. In the GS races, Sehlberg held strong at first place with Johansson right behind him. On the first GS race, Bye slid into third, and on the second race, freshman, Gusten Berglud placed third. Overall, Sehlberg claimed first, then Johansson in second, and Berglund in third.
Despite the tough protocols and race cancelations due to COVID, the RMC Battlin’ Bears made the most out of their abbreviated races season. When asked about how he thought the season went, junior Oscar Dalmalm replied, “It felt as this season was very uncertain from the beginning; we got the message quite early that our nationals got canceled and that felt like a pretty hard hit on us as we are the defending national champions.” Dalmalm stated that the season has been difficult with social distancing, masks, and the lack of nationals and big championship races. He also explains that traveling has been one of the most difficult tasks: “Ski racing is a traveling sport and without question, traveling has been something that has been really hard this season, [figuring out] how to do it as safely as possible.” The team had to increase the number of vans brought to races and training, and without Nationals he says, “it hasn’t been the same even though we are racing as a team, it feels like we are racing more individually.” In his final statement, Dalmalm said “I miss team racing, this is what I appreciated the most with collegiate ski racing.”
I asked Johansson about how he felt this season went and he emphasized that “this season was different in many ways and can’t be compared to past seasons. Our coach did put in a lot of effort to make this season as ‘normal’ as possible and we made the most out of it.” Johansson also talked about how the absence of big team races brought many new challenges, expressing that “motivation to race and practice has been low.” He also touched on the subject of freshmen, saying, “We have a team with a lot of new faces and covid made it difficult to show the new freshmen what college ski racing is all about.”
Swedish freshman Joel Dalmalm also commented on the season stating, “I think the season was done in the best way possible.” While he didn’t get the amazing college experience he thought he would, he still believes that “we made the most out of the season.”
A freshman from Norway, Bergitte Varne, commented on her first season with Rocky: “I am impressed by both the girls and the guys for making the best out of everything, even though we haven’t been able to travel too much.” She says that she “feels lucky being on a team like Rocky” and “it feels like my home away from home.” Varne, along with the rest of the team, is looking forward to next season where fingers crossed, everything will be normal.
The Battlin’ Bears ski team’s season isn’t over yet. While the collegiate circuit is finished, some of the Lady Bears will be competing in Jackson Hole, WY, on Mar 18-19. On Mar 26-28 the Bears will travel to Bozeman, MT to compete in Bridger Bowl. With two more race series coming up, the Bears are hoping to finish their season strong to set a good mood for next season.