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Mogul skiers coping with limited time on snow

The Farmers’ Almanac says to be patient, that another wet winter is on the way.

But that encouraging prediction is doing Tahoe Basin skiers little good as their competitive seasons near.

Rather than wait for the first decent snowfall, members of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team hailing from South Lake Tahoe are creatively training with or without snow.



Travis Ramos, a 20-year-old returning from major reconstructive knee surgery, has a personal jump in the backcountry that is helping him gain confidence for the upcoming season.

“It’s a little jump that’s so insignificant, it’s not worthy of bringing everybody there,” said Ramos of his secret training spot. “I like training by myself.



“I definitely want to be on snow as much as possible. But I’ve learned to deal with not being on snow for the last year and a half, and not being on snow right now doesn’t make it any harder.”

Even the old reliable “Patch” at Red Lakes near Kirkwood hasn’t been an alternative this fall to the anxious and devoted skier.

“We went up there in mid-August and there wasn’t any snow there. We were so disappointed,” said women’s World Cup moguls regular Brooke Ballachey.

Imagine being Travis Cabral and having the pressure of validating your national moguls championship with limited snow to prep for his first season on the U.S. Ski Team.

Of course, the 16-year-old probably has found a way to cope since he earned his California driver’s license in September.

“I would have been on snow a little more, but it really didn’t matter because I’ve betting getting my dryland training in,” said Cabral, who shocked the country – even 1998 gold medalist Jonny Moseley – by winning the U.S. Freestyle Championships singles event last March in Deer Valley, Utah, as a 15-year-old.

“I would say I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone. I definitely don’t have too much pressure on me, as I have a lot of training ahead. I’m used to pressure, and I deal with it and compete and train to my best.”

Consequently, Cabral has supplemented his daily visits to Time Out Healthy Spa & Fitness with some free skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe.

“It’s nice to be able to ski with the conditions,” Cabral said. “It’s a good amount of snow. It’s still a little tricky with some rocks showing, but hopefully they’ll be covered in a few days.”

The sparse covering of snow has meant more time in the gym for women’s World Cup regular Ballachey.

“I’ve spent much more time in the gym and going up to Heavenly and skiing the flats,” said the 20-year-old Ballachey. “There’s a lot you can do skiing the flats to help your mogul skiing, and any time skiing is beneficial.”

Ready or not, Ballachey, who is almost fully recovered from a summer hiking accident where she cut her patellar tendon, will open her World Cup season this weekend in Blackcomb, Canada.

“I don’t know if I’m ready, because everything has jumped up so quickly. It will be good to go up there and get back in the competition mode,” Ballachey said.

But the bumpers aren’t about to complain about the sparse snow since they know there hasn’t been a better place to train than Lake Tahoe over the past five bountiful winters.

“It’s been our advantage with four nice winters in a row, and all of sudden we’re stuck with some late November snowshowers,” Cabral said.

However, the urgency for snowfall magnifies in the next few weeks as the U.S. Freestyle Team Selection Event is scheduled to make a rare visit to Squaw Valley USA Dec. 11-17. The U.S. uses the event to determine which and to what degree their freestyle skiers compete during the World Cup season. With Ramos returning from injury and Chris Hernandez looking to expand his World Cup role for the Americans, the event is an excellent opportunity since they are familiar with the course and terrain.

Keep looking out the window each morning when you rise. The snow will eventually arrive.


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