When the US Olympic Team parades in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Vail Valley locals might spot a who's who of familiar faces from around town mixed in with the other athletes. Sure, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin aren't surprise contenders for medals at this year's Games, but with Vail-area athletes supplying half the United States' mogul squad, and a mix of snowboarders, freeskiers, and nordic skiers culled from local programs, there are plenty of reasons to have some serious hometown pride when the Olympic competitions kick off on Friday, Feburary 9.
Team USA Locals
Lindsey Vonn, Alpine
If you haven't heard of Lindsey Vonn, you've most likely been living under a rock for the past 15 years. She's only won 4 World Cup overall titles, was the first American woman to win downhill gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and is only a few World Cup wins away (at 81) from passing Ingemar Stenmark's 86 World Cup wins set back in the 1970s. The world will obviously be watching Vonn as she heads to her fourth Olympics and looks to win again while representing Team USA for alpine skiing's speed events, but we're guessing this corner of the globe will be cheering extra loud as she screams toward the finish.
Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine
What hasn’t already been said about Mikaela Shiffrin’s success? The reigning overall World Cup champion already took home a gold medal at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and has been racking up wins on the World Cup circuit at a pace unmatched by legends Lindsey Vonn and Ingemar Stenmark at the same age since she first landed on the World Cup podium as a rookie at age 16. The slalom maverick’s 2017 season has given her fans even more reasons to bet on gold for the young phenom as she heads to PyeongChang, with wins on slalom and downhill World Cup courses carrying her to PyeongChang.
Tess Johnson, Freestyle
Tess Johnson makes her first Olympic appearance as a member of the US moguls team, where she hopes to follow up on her success at the Junior Worlds level (two top-five finishes in 2015 and 2016) with some hardware to bring back to the valley. She finished up the 2017 season ranked 13th in the world for women's moguls, and although she's one of the youngest competitors in the sport, she's no less formidable.
Jake Pates, Snowboarding
A hometown favorite, Jake Pates has been showing his fellow competitors he has what it takes to take home gold in PyeongChang, most spectacularly with big a win in the halfpipe at Breckenridge’s Dew Tour in December 2017. Pates won two gold medals in Slopestyle and Halfpipe at the Youth Olympic Games while finishing in the top five on the U.S. Grand Prix/FIS World Cup tour in 2016. While this is his first Olympic Games, Pates is heading into the competition with plenty of momentum.
Meghan Tierney, Snowboarding
This might be her first Olympics, but Meghan Tierney is quickly becoming a recognized name in the world of snowboardcross. The New Jersey native moved to Eagle to train in the mountains, and has since gone on to podium at the Nor-Am championship in 2013, making her first World Cup tour in 2015. At 19, Tierney was the youngest X Games competitor in her field, and finished in 10th place, before breaking her back later that season in a training accident. Back on the snowboardrcross course and ready to compete, Tierney is looking to make a splash at the PyeongChang Games.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Alumni
Casey Andringa, Freestyle
Casey Andringa will be heading to South Korea for his first Olympic games, where the mogul skier hopes to see some of the same results he's achieved on the World Cup circuit (where he's finished in the top ten twice this season) and Junior World Championship level (where he placed 3rd in 2015) translate on the world's biggest athletic stage. The Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum soars off the slopes, too, rock climbing and surfing during the summer season.
Aaron Blunck, Freestyle
Hometown: Crested Butte
Despite an injury-plagued year heading into 2014, SSCV alum Aaron Blunck still managed to snag seventh in halfpipe competition at the Olympic Games in Sochi. Blunck’s been on the professional halfpipe scene for the past 5 years, and made his first X Games appearance in 2013. He earned a gold medal at the 2016 Park City Grand Prix as well as a bronze at the 2016 Mammoth Grand Prix, and kicked off 2017 with his 7th Winter X Games – earning a gold medal at the event’s superpipe competition.
Annalisa Drew, Freestyle
Hometown: Andover, Massachusetts
East Coast native Annalisa Drew heads to PyeongChang after competing on the roster at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, where the 21-year old has been dominating halfpipes around the world. She's been a crowd pleaser at the Dew Tour, X Games (she took home a bronze in 2016), and the FIS World Cup Circuit (where she's been a regular in the top 10 since 2013). Drew has past Olympic experience—she placed 9th in 2014 in Sochi—which should help her as she looks to break into the podium in South Korea.
Alex Ferreira, Freestyle
Aspen might claim Alex Ferreira as its own, but the SSCV alum will still have plenty of Vail Valley-based fans cheering him on as he looks to medal in the halfpipe at his first Olympics. Fresh off a 2nd place finish at January's X Games in Aspen, Ferreira has good momentum heading into the 2018 Games—although, he'll have stiff competition from fellow American David Wise, who not only took home the gold at the X Games, but is looking to defend his gold from Sochi in 2014, and fellow Coloradan (and Aspenite) Torin Yater-Wallace, who brought home bronze at the X Games.
Faye Gulini, Snowboarding
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Faye Gulini might be a Utah native, but the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum is sure to have a Vail Valley following as she pursues her third Olympic Games in PyeongChang. Gulini moved to Vail and joined SSCV at age 15 to further her love for snowboardcross, and saw her passion for the sport – and her competition results – skyrocket. In the 2011 Winter X Games, Gulini placed in the top 10 and then 3rd in the U.S. Championship during the same year. Since then, she’s had a successful few years on the World Cup circuit, and two top-ten finishes at Winter X Games, finishing 5th in 2016. She heads into 2018 after a 4th place finish at the 2017 World Cup in Val Thorens, and a silver medal in Montafon, Austria, which landed her a spot on Team USA.
Noah Hoffman, Cross-Country
Another SSCV alum headed to South Korea for the 2018 Games, Hoffman makes his second Olympic appearance, having placed 10th in the 4x10K relay, 24th in the 50K freestyle, 29th in the 15K classic, and 30th in the skiathlon 15K/15K at Sochi in 2014. "My training has been going very well, the hilly courses and the cold slow snow in Korea suit my strengths perfectly," says Hoffman. "And I can’t wait to put together races that represent all of the hard work that I’ve done over the past 15 years."
Hometown: Pittsford, New York
Morgan Schild joins teammates Emerson Smith, Tess Johnson, and Casey Andriga (all locals or SSCV alum) on Team USA's mogul squad, and heads to her first Olympic Games after big top-20 finishes in her last two seasons on the professional level.
Emerson Smith, Freestyle
Hometown: Dover, Vermont
SSCV alum Emerson Smith makes his Olympic debut on a mogul squad stacked with hometown talent, as he looks to best top ten finishes on the Junior Worlds Circuit in 2016.
International Competitors with Vail Valley Connections
Anais Caradeux, Team France, Freestyle
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum Anais Caradeux will be representing Team France as she soars in halfpipe competition, and looks to medal at her first Olympic Games.
Chris Del Bosco, Team Canada, Skier Cross
Although Chris Del Bosco currently lives in Quebec, Canada, the valley calls the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum – and longtime Vail Valley resident – its own. Del Bosco will be competing for Team Canada in his 3rd Olympic Games.
Charles Flaherty, Puerto Rico, Alpine
Another athlete to pass through the program at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Flaherty has called Puerto Rico home for the past several years, and will represent the US territory as an alpine ski racer at the 2018 Olympic Games.
Matt Leseur, Team Bermuda, Freestyle
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum Matt Leseur trains in Vail while chasing snow all over the world. Leseur will be competing in mogul events for Bermuda – his father is from the Caribbean island – in PyeongChang for his first Olympics.
Sarah Schleper, Team Mexico, Alpine
Vail's own Sarah Schleper has been a familiar face on the World Cup circuit since the late 90s, first as a member of the US Ski Team for 12 seasons before becoming a Mexican citizen in 2014. PyeongChang will be Schleper's 5th Olympics, and her first representing Team Mexico.
Rakai Tait, Team New Zealand, Snowboarding
The valley's very own Kiwi will be making his Olympic debut in the halfpipe for Team New Zealand. The Vail Mountain School alum is hoping to land two double-cork 1080’s to put him in the mix for a medal in PyeongChang.
Thomas Walsh, Team USA, Alpine
Even before attending his first Olympics, ski racer Thomas Walsh has some serious Olympic connections, having been first coached by Eileen Shiffrin, and attending prom with classmate Mikaela Shiffrin in 2012. Walsh will be competing for Team USA in Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G, and Super Combined as he looks to build off of a slew of top-20 finishes on the world stage in 2017.