By Austin Colbert
Ski racing on the East Coast is as it should be — icy and fast. Aspen's Ben Throm isn't quite as enthusiastic about the freeskiing, however, but he's certainly not complaining about having the opportunity to compete collegiately.
The 2015 Aspen High School graduate is a freshman at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, which is located on Lake Champlain and only a short drive from Stowe Mountain Resort. Throm recently took to the slopes in Stowe while competing at the NCAA skiing championships for the first time.
"It was awesome. It's way different than any other race I've ever done," Throm recently said. "There are only 34 people to race. There are cameras everywhere. It's a pretty cool experience."
Throm, 22, is a former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete with deep roots in the Roaring Fork Valley. His college career got off to a slow start because of a three-year break after high school. He had to overcome two ACL tears, including one his senior year at AHS, spending much of that time in the AVSC's post graduate program.
He's competed in numerous FIS and Nor-Am Cup races over the past few years, working to get his points down and get the attention of a college team. He's even returned home to compete in the Audi Ajax Cup, AVSC's largest fundraiser, and was part of this past year's winning team alongside pro Megan McJames.
Finally, it was Purple Knights coach Gus MacLeod '02 who saw enough and offered him a spot on the Saint Michael's alpine ski team this season.
"This was the one coach who wanted me," Throm said. "I met with him last fall and he's a really good guy. Super good coach, so it just worked out really well."
Throm recorded four top-10 finishes over the season, all in giant slalom, including one podium. Throm was one of five Saint Michael's alpine skiers — three men, two women — to make the NCAA championships, held March 6 to 9 in Stowe.
He finished toward the bottom of the pack in giant slalom, taking 24th, while finishing 19th in slalom. While he has competed in super-G in recent years, his focus nowadays is purely on technical events as there are no speed races at the collegiate level.
"It's a different scene when you are in school," Throm said of skiing while also being a college student. "A lot more work and a lot less time skiing. I feel like most sports when you go to college you end up playing them way more. Skiing is kind of different. You are skiing less than you ever have been before."
Throm was one of two former AVSC athletes who competed in alpine races at the NCAA championships. Sky Kelsey, who competes for the University of Alaska Anchorage, finished 29th in the men's slalom and 16th in GS.
The University of Utah won the 2019 national championship — a combined alpine and Nordic affair — while host Vermont was second and the University of Colorado was third. Alaska Anchorage was eighth and Saint Michael's 13th out of 24 schools.
"Next few years, hopefully the same kind of stuff," Throm said of moving forward. "Make NCAAs and hopefully ski better."
The AVSC also had a lone representative on the Nordic side of things at the NCAA championships. Anna Fake, who attends Montana State University and grew up in Telluride, was 27th in the women's 5k freestyle and 22nd in the 15k classic.
Carbondale's Evelina Sutro, a non-AVSC athlete (at least recently) who attends the University of Vermont, had a stronger showing. She was ninth in the classical race and third in freestyle, even edging U.S. Ski Team member Katharine Ogden by a spot. Ogden won the classical race at Stowe.