Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    

Winter Sports: Olympic-level Training in Our Backyard


Boulder County is known for its year-round access to outdoor sports. With more than 70 Olympians living in Boulder alone, Boulder County has become something of a haven for athletes. However, our state’s true obstacles emerge when the winter months blow in. Due to Boulder County’s proximity to the ever-looming mountains and the variety of intense challenges that can be found within them, winter athletes from all over the country seek Colorado out to train in the cold and snow to test their limits.

As we prepare to enter into our winter months, we took a look at the Olympic-level training opportunities that BOCO has become renowned for. Additionally, we highlighted a few local events occurring over the next few months for athletes and their families to enjoy.

Are You Ready to Train? Spotlight on Alpine Training Center 

Photo: Mike Thurk

As we enter into the winter season, local athletes must look to indoor training centers where they can prepare themselves to face the elements while not being directly affected by them. One such place is the Alpine Training Center (ATC), a favorite amongst locals. Entering into its fourteenth year, the ATC is owned by Connie Sciolino. She and her trainers are skilled coaches dedicated to pushing their athletes to be the very best versions of themselves. Sciolino told us that her business is based on three distinct principles: Promote full body strength, Increase work capacity, Build stamina. She went on to tell us that her “mission is to improve performance in outdoor sports. The number one thing when it comes to performance is being able to do your sport day after day, week after week, month after month, and the only way you can do that is if you are healthy.”

Mountain Spotlight: Eldora

Eldora is the closest mountain in proximity to Boulder for athletes to train. Located 21 miles west of Boulder, it’s only a 40-minute drive from downtown. Since Eldora offers public transportation, wasting time finding a place to park won’t be a concern.

In the past few years, Eldora has added early morning uphill training. Sciolino noted that many of her serious athletes can make it out to Eldora for a morning ski and back before work.

Eldora is the perfect spot for skiers, snowboarders, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers to train or enjoy leisurely activity. The Eldora Mountain Resort offers several activities and amenities for adults and children alike.

Some events to keep in mind: 

Nov. 18 is Eldora’s opening day for the 2022–23 season. Alpine skiing and riding will be the primary sports at the beginning of the season.

Dust off the Rust: This is Eldora’s women’s ski and ride event. This event is not just for the serious female athlete. From coffee and tea in the morning to a few hours on the slopes, and finally, to a hard kombucha-tasting event in the evening, any female, regardless of skill, will find something to enjoy on the mountain.

Photo: Mike Thurk

Sciolino holds a master’s degree in exercise science from Montana University and a certification in strength and conditioning from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. She uses this hard-won expertise to focus primarily on preparing athletes for their sport.

Sciolino’s love for the outdoors and athletics was ingrained in her at a young age. She grew up skiing and playing sports year-round and now spends her free time practicing a combination of resort and backcountry skiing. “Every year going into the ski season, I was always working to prepare for that season,” she told me. This experience has taught Sciolino the value of training to prevent injury. “The biggest thing about skiing is sport injury risk,” she said. “Athletes need to focus on building strength to prepare themselves for the ski season to prevent injury.” She also emphasized the importance of cardio training when it comes to skiing.

Sciolino’s biggest training tip for athletes is that they train with the mindset and goal of becoming as durable and injury free as possible. If you want to improve your performance in an outdoor sport, “a big part of that is being able to do your sport continuously, and the only way to do that is to be healthy and keep injury risk at bay.”

“At the Alpine Training Center, we focus on outdoor sports,” she informed me. Her primary focuses for winter sports are alpine skiing, downhill skiing, uphill skiing, and ice climbing. However, Sciolino does not limit herself and her trainers to a handful of sports or even local athletes. Athletes train with their coaches at the training center and then venture out on their own to practice their sports outdoors. While training her athletes for skiing, her major focus is cardio, so they can move fast through the mountains.

Photo: Mike Thurk

Eldora is the best location for ski enthusiasts to practice their skills due to its close proximity. However, Sciolino also recommended Winter Park and Loveland for athletes who are willing to make the drive. These ski areas provide flexible hours.

All sports are living entities. As they continue to develop, they shift and alter with the world’s changing culture. Sciolino, her trainers, and others like them are always searching for the best ways to be prepared for and adapt to any changes that come their way.

Beginner to Olympic Skiing in Steamboat Springs: Steamboat Ski Resort

Colorado has numerous ski resorts to choose from, but Steamboat Ski Resort, located in Steamboat Springs, is particularly renowned for its Olympic competitors. The 3.5-hour drive might sound long, but for any self-respecting winter athlete, it’s worth the trip.

Mt. Werner, Steamboat Ski Resort

Athletes travel from “all over the U.S. and the world to train here,” Hanna Albertson, the communications coordinator of Steamboat, informed me. With 100 Olympians and counting coming from Steamboat Springs, world-class athletes are part of Steamboat’s identity.

“This town has produced more Olympic athletes than any other town in North America,” Albertson said. Among them, 13 went to the Olympics in Beijing.

Steamboat Springs was founded on the Western heritage of ranching. This history and culture are prominent features throughout the resort and town. Locals and guests alike will be immersed in the Western roots of the area in both the feel and architecture of the surrounding buildings and decor.

Things to Do in Steamboat Springs

Even though Steamboat is a ski resort, visitors are not limited to skiing activities when they visit. “It is a place for everybody,” Albertson explained. Just around the town, there are multiple family-friendly hot springs to visit, including the remote Strawberry Park Hot Springs located 20 minutes up the mountain.

Due to the town’s western roots, horseback riding is a common activity in the winter. Steamboat Springs also has multiple iconic dining and shopping opportunities downtown.

One fun family activity is the Haymaker Sleigh Ride Dinner. Guests will enjoy the views of the Nordic center as they ride around in a horse-drawn carriage.

For those coming to stay at the ski resort, the Steamboat Grand Hotel is located directly across the street from Steamboat. There are options for the whole family, and the best part is you can get out of bed, walk across the street, and start skiing.

Steamboat Ski Resort

Steamboat Event Spotlight: Opening Day

The Steamboat 2022–23 ski season officially begins on Nov. 23. The resort will be hosting an all-day event starting at 7:30 am to celebrate and kick off the ski season. This opening event will also include the debut of new features within Steamboat from their Steamboat Full Steam Ahead Project such as the new Skeeter’s Ice Rink, the Mountain Stage, and the new Wild Blue Gondola. The Mountain Stage will host many concerts throughout the season.

Other events to watch out for: For serious athletes, Steamboat has several Olympian and famous runs to train on. Nelson on Nelson is an annual event where athletes can ski Nelson Carmichael’s classic mobile run with him. Participants will have the opportunity to receive skiing tips from the Olympic Athlete. There will also be opportunities for athletes to interact with alpine ski racer and director of Steamboat Ski Resort, Billy Kidd, throughout the season.

In addition to its Olympic aspirants, Steamboat is also known for its family-friendly terrain. Steamboat Ski Resort has a new, unique beginner skiing area with an all-terrain-based learning system. The goal for every athlete is to feel prepared to experience various types of terrain. “The added features allow for first-time skiers to get a feel of what a normal run would feel like,” Albertson explained.

Steamboat Ski Resort

Steamboat Ski Resort also offers skiing lessons for tots. Happy Camp ski lessons and childcare is available for ages 18 months to five years. For teens and adults, you can choose between group or private lessons. Lessons range from 1–8, so even the most advanced skier can work on building and tweaking foundational skills. All of Steamboat’s instructors are ski pros who are trained in progressive learning techniques to help you evaluate and develop your skiing to the next level.

Spotlight on Steamboat Spring Winter Sports Club

The Steamboat Spring Winter Sports Club is a separate entity from Steamboat Ski Resort. However, they frequently use the resort as a training ground for serious athletes. The All Out run is a private track for the Winter Sports Club to train their athletes in alpine skiing. The club is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping athletes accomplish their goals.

The Winter Sports Club is based out of a smaller, historic ski area called Howelsen Hill. It is known for its Nordic jumping and skiing terrain. If you are a serious athlete—especially someone who aspires to Olympic training—Howelsen Hill and the Winter Sports Club will be able to provide you with the best training for your needs.

Steamboat Ski Resort

Albertson painted a picture for me of what a day spent at Steamboat Resort might look like, waking up on a powder day, skiing under the endless bluebird sky, and ending the day eating at one of Steamboat’s mountain dining overlooks. The sheer beauty of the place contributes to the overall sense of happiness and comfort that permeates the Resort.

“In other towns, it’s easy for people to get the winter blues,” Albertson said. “In Steamboat, it’s the opposite. We have this winter cheer. You can feel it with the guests. As a local, I can feel it with my friends. There is this overall genuine excitement for being in Steamboat and a shared passion for being in the outdoors.”

It’s Time to Climb! Spotlight on The Spot Boulder

While skiers and their ilk thrive in the winter, the cold weather is a sign for climbers to train indoors. Luckily, Boulder and its surrounding areas have more than one climbing gym to enjoy, but when it comes to events and competitions, The Spot Boulder is a favorite for both professional and recreational climbers. With locations in Boulder, Denver, Golden, and Louisville, The Spot has many different events and competitions for climbers to train for. Some recent and upcoming events are Psychedelia, which happened in October and the Yeti Open Nationals at the Denver location which will be on Nov. 10.

Photo: Patrick Bodnar

“Climbers are in training rather than performance phases during winter time,” Janell Thurnauer, head coach at The Spot, informed me. Much like Sciolino, Thurnauer’s focus is to get her athletes strong enough to embrace their outdoor climbing season injury free.

Thurnauer is a Boulder native who grew up doing gymnastics at CATS Gymnastics. Her introduction to coaching was early in her life as a teacher at CATS. In her youth, she remembers watching elite athletes climbing on the CATS climbing wall, but she herself didn’t start climbing until after becoming a mother of three. Climbing soon became her passion, leading her to her present position where she primarily trains youth climbers.

Event Spotlight: Winter Wonderland on Dec. 10

Winter Wonderland, The Spot’s annual winter bouldering competition, part of its bouldering series, is a celebration for climbers and their families. Winter Wonderland will take place at The Spot Denver location. There will be sessions for kids during the day and adults at night including indoor ice climbing, gift wrapping, and mitten climbing competitions. For those looking to test their winter climbing skills, this event is the place to be.

Photo: Brice Powers

The Spot has a few different training teams. Athletes who need to focus on the developmental side of climbing join one of the competition-focused teams while the fast-progressing and more advanced athletes are involved in the elite teams.

“Taking our kids outdoors is a huge part of our program,” Thurnauer told me. “Competition climbing is only for a short part of your life, but outdoor climbing opens the doors for climbing to be a part of your whole life, and it can involve your family.” The Spot makes it a priority to take its athletes outdoors every week. There are multiple outdoor days weekly, and they take team trips out of state a few times a year. In the wintertime, outdoor days are more local. “During wintertime, it’s always best to be on the rock a little less,” Thurnauer told me as it’s important that athletes do not become too cold. Some local locations that Thurnauer recommended for climbers include Eldorado Canyon, Boulder Canyon, and the Flatirons.

In addition to getting their athletes outside, The Spot encourages them to practice their climbing skills at different gyms around town. “It builds your climbing IQ to get on new and different sets,” Thurnauer explained. Athletes need to experience different styles, terrains, and settings, especially when training for indoor events at other gyms. Other climbing gyms that her athletes frequent for additional training include: ABC Kids Climbing, Boulder Rock Club, and Movement Gym.

“I absolutely love the conditioning of winter training,” said Thurnauer, “but what I think is really cool is when we can do mock competitions for athletes. It gives them a good sense of where they are at and where we need to focus.” The Spot is very supportive of its athletes and their desire for events. In addition to their multiple climbing events every year, all of the trainers are excited to help their students prepare for outside events. “Events are like big parties for climbers,” she explained.

Time to Enjoy the Season

As Hanna Albertson from Steamboat mentioned, now is the time for “winter cheer.” The colder weather moving in is a sign for us to embrace all that Mother Nature has to offer. From ski resorts to indoor gym competitions, the winter season is a time for athletes to test and strengthen their skills. BOCO’s athletes, regardless of sport preference, will find the optimal training and competing grounds right in their backyard.

Leave a Reply