Area high school athletes ski the distance to protect winter | PostIndependent.com

Area high school athletes ski the distance to protect winter

Savannah Kelley
Post Independent correspondent

This winter, a group of high school ski racers has been hard at work putting the kilometers they ski towards a good cause. The athletes, all members of the student-founded Project Ski More and teammates at Aspen Valley Ski Club (AVSC), are skiing as far as they can to raise funds to protect winter so kids of the future can ski.

Among the high school athletes participating is Jacob Barsness of Glenwood Springs, a Nordic and skate skier on the AVSC team through Aspen High School. Although Barsness began competing in Nordic skiing during his eighth grade year, his skiing career started long before that.

"I skied a lot recreationally when I was younger," Barsness said. "Whenever my family wanted to go out skiing on a weekend, we'd go out."

Although at first, Barsness' parents, Chad and Jenny Barsness, encouraged him to try skiing for a fun experience, the sport soon became a passion for Jacob to explore more fully in his high school years.

"Not everybody can do it," Jacob Barsness said. "Being able to go out there and suffer my way and learn how to do it and now be good enough to compete with some of the best people, it's just super satisfying and so much fun for me."

Colt Whitley, another cross-country ski racer on the AVSC team, founded Project Ski More in 2016. He recruited Barsness to participate last summer. Right now, there are six athletes contributing to the program, three other Nordic skiers and two alpine skiers.

Recommended Stories For You

"Project Ski More is a community service project based around getting other people able to ski," Barsness said. "Last year, we donated all the money we raised to skiing scholarships, and this year we're donating all the money we raise to POW."

POW, or Protect Our Winters, is a nonprofit organization that actively works to engage the outdoor sports community in the fight against climate change through education, political advocacy and community-based activism. All money raised by the athletes in Project Ski More this winter will go towards POW.

The way that Project Ski More works is, the more the participating athletes ski, the more money is donated. Donors pledge a flat rate or per-kilometer depending on how far the AVSC team members ski and the money will then be donated to POW. Jacob's goal this year is 1,400 kilometers.

"I've been spoiled with opportunities throughout my life to ski and play in the snow," Barsness said. "A lot of people are losing that ability quickly, and I feel that it's really important to preserve that for generations to come and for everybody to enjoy.

Barsness primarily skis in Spring Gulch above Carbondale, but this year, he was met with the added difficulty to find snow.

According to onthesnow.com, the total snowfall for the Aspen/Snowmass area this year so far is 168" with 30 total snowfall days and an average base depth of just 24 inches. That amount is tracking way behind last winter, when there was a total snowfall of 319" on 69 snowfall days and an average base depth of 67 inches.

Jenny Barsness, Jacob's mother, has witnessed first hand the extra effort that the team had to put in this year.

"These kids this winter have had a real hard time trying to find snow to ski on," she said. "They have to train a ton of time so they've had to kind of chase snow all over the state to try to get their training in."

Although difficult at times, the team has found ways to keep skiing towards its goal distance.

"It has personally impacted him this particular year," Jenny Barsness said. "It's motivated him to be more involved in POW and specifically with his teammates in Project Ski More."

In addition to Project Ski More, the AVSC team also participated in the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) State Skiing Competition through Aspen High School this year. The team won overall and Barsness individually placed third in classic skiing and sixth in skate skiing.

"I have also won the Joy of Sport award for team AVSC," Barsness said. "It's honestly just tons of fun."

Jacob and the team continue to ski toward their goal of ensuring the snow and winters that accommodate their sport are here to stay. To learn more about Project Ski More and the athletes involved, or to donate, visit http://www.projectskimore.com.