Hughston Norton has proven beyond capable in all manners of flying, which is exactly why the University of Alaska will be a perfect fit for the Whittell graduate this fall. Alaska has one of the best aviation schools in the nation and a top 10 Division I ski team.
Norton plans to be a part of both.
“We’ve got one of the best aviation schools in the country and Hughston’s a pilot and wants to peruse commercial aviation so, knowing that, coupled with his raw talent for skiing, it just seemed like a real natural fit,” Alaska ski coach Sparky Anderson said.
Norton, one of Lake Tahoe’s top slalom racers, earned one of three coveted freshman spots on the Division I ski team. He will complete a team of eight that has consistently finished in the top 10 in the nation for the past 20 years.
“Well he’s a talented skier obviously,” Anderson said. “One of the top-ranked slalom and giant slalom skiers in his age class, and after seeing him ski and seeing what he can do at the U-18 championships, and then seeing him head-to-head against my top kids at the U.S. Nationals that were held at Squaw, there’s certainly a lot of potential for him to make a big impact for us at the college level.”
Norton is on the younger side of Alaska’s usual ski team freshman, which is 19 or 20, but from what Anderson has seen, Norton is motivated and ready.
“He’s going to be training with these kids in their early 20s, who are ranked quite a bit higher, but I think he’s one of those kids who is going to rise to the occasion,” Anderson said. “He’s already got a pretty solid idea of what direction he wants to go. I think he’s got a realistic idea of what he can achieve on the skiing side. He’s got a nice balanced approach to what he can achieve, and I think this will be a great spot for him.”
Norton has already achieved quite a bit in the ski-racing world. He qualified for the U18 Nationals, an elite level of ski racing, and finished in third place — a half second shy of first. The Nationals performance also cemented Norton a spot in the U.S. Alpine Championships racing against the best in the nation in March.
At Nationals, it was Norton’s head-to-head skiing that impressed Anderson most.
“He beat a couple of my guys in the first run of the slalom nationals, and he unfortunately didn’t finish the second run, but those consistency issues are things we can work with him on once he gets here,” Anderson said.
Norton will join the team as a walk-on in August, and his skiing will be paid for. That means all travel expenses and lift tickets are taken care of, and Norton will also have a chance to earn a scholarship. The top three of four skiers on the team will earn tuition money.
The team will start dry-land training in the fall, focusing on strength and conditioning for two hours every morning. In November, the team will hit the slopes in Colorado for more training and then it’s game on.
Alaska is actually a Division II school, but the ski team successfully competes at the Division-I level.
“We beat a bunch of the D-I guys, which is a lot of fun. We’re the perennial dark horse,” Anderson said. “We’ve been top 10 every year in the last 20 years except for one year. We’ve finished as good as fourth, but usually it’s somewhere between fifth and eighth in the country.”
Alaska competes against Utah, Colorado, Denver, New Mexico, Montana State, Westminster and Colorado Mountain College in the West.
Anderson is excited about adding Norton to the program.
“We’re really excited to have Hughston,” Anderson said. “He’s got a lot of talent, a ton of potential and we’re excited to see where we can go with him.”