United States’ Sam Morse competes during a men’s World Cup downhill skiing training run in Beaver Creek, Colo., In November 2017.  AP file photo

 

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — For Sam Morse, this week’s United States Alpine speed championships are a welcome return home to Sugarloaf.

Morse was born and raised in Carrabassett Valley. He has been on the U.S. Ski Team for five years, but this year has been a bit of a change.

Instead of traveling through Europe on the Europa Cup circuit for just a month during the winter, Morse has been gone for three months touring mountains from Norway to Austria.

The 22-year-old’s schedule this year has taken him almost everywhere in the world except Maine.

“As a team we train in Park City, Utah, and work out of the training center there,” Morse said. “We work out all summer long, and pretty much all summer we will go on trips to go skiing down in Chile or New Zealand.

“Then the season comes around and I swung home for two days in October to get some different equipment and head back on the road. I was home one week at the end of February, then I was just over in Norway then I just came back. It’s pretty nice that we have this race here this week and I get to be home.”

Morse’s trip through Europe has been a successful one. Racing almost exclusively on the Europa Cup circuit, which Morse described as the AAA baseball of skiing, the Dartmouth College student has amassed multiple top-10 finishes.

United States’ Sam Morse skis during a training run at the men’s World Cup downhill ski race in Aspen, Colo., in March 2017. (AP file photo) AP

“It’s a European game so you need to learn to live over there,” Morse said. “Whenever you take that step up to that next level it always is difficult. It’s been certainly a struggle in some regards.

“I’ve had good results. Season results that are noteworthy, I had four Europa Cup top-10s.”

In Kitzbuehel, Austria, Morse competed in what he called, “The Super Bowl of ski racing.” With Red Bull sponsoring the event and television cameras everywhere, it was one of Morse’s biggest and most memorable moments of the season.

“The track that we run, we run a section of it in the Europa Cup and we run some of the gnarliest parts of it, and it’s by far the toughest downhill in the world,” Morse said. “Of course, it’s the one event that Red Bull comes in and sponsors, so it’s a big event with a lot of TV cameras and announcers.

“So, to race there is always pretty cool at a venue like that. For me, I placed seventh in downhill, which was really good for where I’m at. It makes you feel like it’s the big show, which is cool.”

Morse has moved up and competed a couple of times in the World Cup circuit, and even finished in the 40s a couple of times, most recently in Kvitfjell, Norway, where he finished 42nd in the super-G and 45th in the downhill.

“That was pretty sweet,” Morse said.

Sam Morse cross blocks a blue gate at the bottom of the headwall during the men’s slalom at the 2017 U.S. Alpine championships at Sugarloaf. Sun Journal file photo

The constant traveling has become second nature for him. Many problems that normal travelers experience have become just another part of the job for Morse, who traveled over 100,000 miles last year.

“Travelling becomes a non-stressful event,” Morse said. “For a lot of people it’s like, ‘Oh, getting on airplanes, getting your luggage, getting a sandwich.’ It’s all things you’ve seen a zillion times, but it’s nice, you get pretty used to it all now. It’s like, ‘Whatever, it’ll happen.’”

Planes and hotels have become the norm. Morse travels with a suitcase and that’s about it, going from hotel to hotel and back to the U.S. Ski Team’s European base in Innsbruck, Austria. There are some slight inconveniences, though.

“Sometimes you’re down for a good cheeseburger,” Morse said. “The cuisine is really good in Europe, but for the most part you just eat their cuisine. We kind of take it for granted in the U.S., but we are eating so many different ethnic foods and mixing it up, and over there you’re eating a lot of the same things.”

Morse is able to get a good cheeseburger this week now that he is finally home at Sugarloaf. That is, if he can fit time into his busy schedule.

“At this point, I’ve been doing it for enough years now that you really feel at home on the road,” Morse said. “It’s your new normal. Coming home is kind of weird. There’s a million things I need to do when I’m home and there’s not a lot of relaxing.”

Regardless, being able to compete professionally in front of his friends, family and community is something that Morse isn’t taking for granted.

“It’s an awesome place to come home to,” Morse said. “It’s a pretty unique part of Maine. … It’s been an awesome community to grow up in and they’re really supportive of the ski racing. Ski racing has a long history and heritage at Sugarloaf.

“It means a lot to come back here and race in front of the home crowd, and it’s just awesome to have elite-level racing come back to Sugarloaf.”


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