Rising Italian ski mountaineering star spends summer in Summit County

FRISCO – After most of the US team’s contingent returned home last winter following the International Ski Mountaineering Federation’s world championships in Switzerland, Sierra Anderson, a member of the Summit County national team and the US Ski Mountaineering Association, decided to stay.

Anderson spent nine weeks in Europe traveling and running, including a few ski mountaineering World Cup and Italian Cup events. It was during these events that Anderson got to know the members of the venerable Italian team.

“I kind of kept showing up to these random races,” Anderson said. “And the girls were like, ‘What are you doing here? She must be serious.

Anderson chatted with the group and casually mentioned that all Italian girls are welcome to visit the American ski mountaineering community in Summit County. Samantha Bertolina, a modest 18-year-old from the mountain towns of northern Italy, Valfurva and Bormio, spoke.

“She was the only one who perked up among the girls and said, ‘I want to come. I want to come this summer, ”Anderson said.

From there, Anderson thought of young American ski mountaineering star Grace Staberg of Silverthorne. Staberg, 17, had competed for the US national team at the World Championships in Switzerland. She raced in the junior division, a younger age group than Bertolina’s junior division. At the World Championships, Staberg took sixth place in the Cadet Girls Individual Race with a time of 1 hour, 15 minutes and 46 seconds, about 10 minutes behind Bertolina’s pace for second place (01:05:51) in the individual junior girls race on the same course.

Despite having raced in the same place at the same time, Bertolina and Staberg did not meet each other during the world championships. But they grew closer after Anderson introduced them in April via Instagram, and the Staberg family welcomed Bertolina to stay with them for the first half of the summer.

After Staberg and Bertolina exchanged corresponding type messages via SMS, Bertolina arrived in mid-June. It was with the Staberg and Anderson that Bertolina first discovered the reality of high altitude exercise, the Stabergs taking her running on the Frisco Peninsula and Anderson taking her on a mountain bike ride in the region. by Horseshoe Gulch. The persistent snow made the bike ride twice as long as expected, but Bertolina was a rider, she said.

Also during her time here, Bertolina hiked Mount Royal and competed in the Gold Run Rush Summit Mountain Challenge mountain bike race in June.

“I think your people are really crazy,” Bertolina said with a laugh. “Because on the descent, they went really fast. And I like the descent. But before I came here I broke my arm on the bike, and now I’m slow and slower than the people here. But the race was really fun.

Bertolina also finished fourth in the men’s and women’s 10k trail race at the Power of Four on July 13 at Aspen Snowmass.

In terms of high-altitude endurance sports, Bertolina hasn’t shied away from much, although she chose not to ski even with Summit’s persistent snowpack. For Bertolina, from June to November is a good time to train for summer sports, such as hiking and mountain biking. She found it funny when she accompanied Anderson and Staberg on a day of skiing and a day of practicing their ski-mountaineering transitions out of the snow at Anderson’s.

“Samantha was sitting there laughing and filming us, sending it to all of her Italian friends, ‘You crazy Americans,’” ​​Staberg said.

The Stabergs and Andersons also introduced Bertolina to other members of the Summit ski mountaineering community, including Breckenridge. Bertolina has attended Summit Endurance Academy workouts hosted by US trainer Joe Howdyshell and athlete Jaime Brede at places like Gold Hill and Beaver Run.

Outside of sports, the main thing Bertolina has learned is that the weather in the Rockies can be extremely volatile, much more so than in the northern Italian Alps near her home.

“I really like this place,” Bertolina said. “But it’s funny. Like, the weather is changing really fast. One day it was snowing, the next day it was really hot and in summer.

As their time together draws to a close, Staberg said she enjoys learning more about Bertolina’s life and culture at home, told in part by the small wooden bowls Bertolina gave to the Stabergs. They were made by his carpenter brother in Italy. As for training, Staberg said it was telling to see Bertolina’s emphasis on shorter, high-intensity running as opposed to long-distance running that the cross-country star of the Summit High School Staberg generally undertakes.

Anderson said she was proud of the way Bertolina came out of her more timid and calm presence to become a member of the county’s tight-knit endurance sports community, greatly improving her English along the way. Then there’s also the element of Bertolina’s journey that inspired Summit residents of her age to do something similar.

“When you see a person doing it, it fuels the confidence and the courage to do it yourself,” Anderson said. “I see the bridge being built through these connections.”

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