After winning a freestyle mogul skiing national championship in singles and placing third in duals this winter at Deer Valley, Utah, Durangoan Charlie Mickel, 17, had met the criteria to become a member of the U.S. Ski Team.
This week, the organization officially announced that Mickel had a spot on the team.
“It felt good,” Mickel said. “I already knew I would make the team, but it was nice to get it officially announced. Now I can start working with the team, get my contract figured out and take steps to utilize their resources.”
Mickel started skiing in Durango at Chapman Hill and Purgatory Resort.
“His foundation was built here,” said his dad, Alex Mickel. “I’m really grateful for all of the support he got here.”
With goals of making the U.S. Ski Team, like his sister, Trudy, Mickel then skied for teams in Telluride and Steamboat Springs before joining the Wasatch Freestyle team in Park City, Utah, two years ago.
“She definitely had a big influence on me,” Mickel said about his sister. “Seeing her success gave me confidence in myself. And she’s always been very diligent, super-hard working and definitely a role model. She set a bar that I’m trying to reach.”
Wasatch Freestyle, led by director Jon O’Brien, is a three-time USSA Domestic Club of the Year and one of the premier freestyle programs in the U.S.
During the 2021-21 winter season, Mickel won a junior national title while riding for Wasatch. He was favored to win the junior event again this year, but said he made some mistakes during his first run and he didn’t make the finals.
Mickel, however, was also slated to compete in the senior nationals, and changed his approach for it.
“Going into nationals my mentality was it doesn’t matter what I place, I just wanted to ski as well as I could possibly ski,” Mickel said.
He qualified for the finals in sixth. In the finals, he threw a cork-7 on the top air and a cork-7 with a lead tail grab on the bottom air while flying down the mogul run in a total of 24 seconds, which was tied for the fastest time.
“I was trying to lay down a clean run to get on the podium,” Mickel said.
After his run put him in first place, Mickel had to wait and watch his competitors, including two U.S. Ski Team members, ski the course. Mickel’s score, however, stood up to earn him the senior national title.
“It was definitely one of the best runs I’ve ever laid down on that course,” Mickel said. “It really comes down to execution and doing it perfectly when you only get one opportunity.”
He said the transition from Wasatch Freestyle to the U.S. Ski Team should be “a seamless transfer.” Both are based in Park City.
Mickel has already been training at the Utah Olympic Park’s water ramps, allowing him to dial in his tricks on a softer surface before taking them to the snow.
He’ll also gain access to the 85,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Park City. The facility blends high-performance athletic facilities including strength-training areas, a gymnasium, ski and snowboarding ramps, trampolines, a nutrition center and recovery/rehabilitation facilities.
He is in Park City and training at Snowbird, doing bump training and working on his technique. He said he’ll go to camps in Whistler, British Columbia, and Mount Hood, Oregon, this summer and do water ramping in between.
In the fall, Mickel and his U.S. Ski Team teammates will compete at an event in Europe that will determine who gets the first starts in the World Cup.
“I’m definitely really excited, but also a little nervous,” Mickel said, noting that he doesn’t have a confirmed spot in next year’s World Cup yet. “I want to work hard so I’m ready for it when I get the opportunity. I think it’s important to make the most of your first start and then build off of that.”
Mickel will also graduate from high school, which he attends online, this spring.
“I’m really grateful to my parents (Alex and Molly) for supporting me through all of this,” Mickel said. “They still live in Durango, and making it work for me was something they had to go out of their way for so I could ski on the best teams I could.”