The Purgatory Alpine Ski Team is off to a blazing start to the new ski racing season.
In early January, the team battled super-cold temperatures at Taos Ski Valley where the Purgatory skiers collected a bunch of awards in the Southern Series giant slalom.
The Purg team sent 27 skiers ages 7 to 17 to the Taos race where they competed against 75 other skiers from Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
Purgatory racers mastered the challenging giant slalom course on Lower Stauffenberg. Nicholas Unkovskoy, Isabelle Washburn, Abbey Shepard, Madeline Robbins, Madison LeSage, Elena Gober, Wesley Jackson and Jake Washburn all reached the podium in each of the four races.
Wiley Corra of the Purgatory Alpine Team won three of the four races.
Kaleb Ledbetter brought home two fourth-place ribbons. He’s back after suffering a season-ending injury in 2011.
Toby Scarpella scored three top-five finishes in the U10 boys class.
In the competitive U12 class, Harry LeSage boasted three top-three finishes, and Calvin Chase had a strong showing. He was in the top five in each of his races.
Jack “Bode” Eggleston had his work cut out for him in the U14 age class, and took home two bronze medals.
Lucas Robbins battled to remain in the top five in three of four races, and Gunnar Schwab posted a seventh and two eighth-place finishes in the competitive U14 boys division.
Anne Chase collected two sevenths, an eighth and a 10th-place finish in the U14 girls division.
Katarina Seibert came back from a fall on Saturday to win the women’s ability class race on Sunday.
Stephanie Bowles brought home a silver medal Saturday, but lost a ski Sunday and was unable to finish.
Bryce Ward happily finished both races, joining Bowles on the podium with a bronze Saturday and finishing fourth Sunday.
In the men’s ability class, Clay Eggleston of the Purgatory Alpine Team sped to bronze medals Saturday and Sunday.
This was the first USSA event for new team members Izzy Bonecutter, Amy Leonard, Paige Thompson, Annie Watson and Tobin Ogden, all of whom had solid performances and gained important competitive experience, according to head coach Leah LeSage.
“We haven’t been able to train gates very much with the lack of snow, but all our athletes came out and gave it their best shot,” LeSage said.
“We were able to train at Chapman Hill over the holidays, and that venue has proved to be some of the best training around,” she said. “It really gave our kids some confidence, and it was very evident with our excellent performance.”
Later in January, nine skiers from the Purgatory Alpine Ski Team traveled to Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs for the first SkillsQuest/Slalom competition.
The SkillsQuest competition was a judged event, where the athletes from Purgatory, Ski Club Vail, Aspen Valley Ski Club, Winter Park and Steamboat Springs were evaluated on a 10-point scale on four separate skills.
The scores were averaged and each athlete had a total score for the event.
The scoring is similar to NASTAR with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded for certain average scores.
There were 258 athletes participating, and there were no gold medals awarded.
However, 33 silvers were handed out as top honors in the event.
Six Purgatory skiers took home silver medals: Toby Scarpella, Isabelle Washburn, Nicholas Unkovskoy, Calvin Chase, Harry LeSage and Wiley Corra.
The top 10 scores in each age group were awarded individual honors.
Corra took first place in SkillsQuest.
Scarpella placed seventh, and Washburn took third for the U10 age category.
Unkovskoy finished second, and Chase took fifth overall in the U12 SkillsQuest competition.
Corra stood atop the podium on the slalom day, placing seventh overall.
Washburn came back from a hooked tip on the first run to place third on the second run.
Scarpella place ninth and eighth in the U12 division, and Nicholas Unkovskoy was fifth on the first run.
“ I am so proud of how well this team represented Durango,” LeSage said. “All our hard work has not gone unnoticed.”