Taking the next step

  • By Rich Myhre / Herald Writer
  • Monday, May 7, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

LAKE STEVENS – Officially, Colby Granstrom’s hometown is still Lake Stevens, though you might not know it given his full and occasionally frenetic travel schedule.

Granstrom, a 16-year-old skier with Olympic and World Cup aspirations, is on the road much of the winter ski season. Even in the spring and summer he’s often out of town, and sometimes out of the country. Two weeks ago he was racing in Norway. Now he’s trying to decide whether to spend part of his summer skiing in New Zealand, where it will be winter.

“I like traveling,” Granstrom said. “Sometimes it’s kind of hectic, but overall it’s great fun. It’s fun driving around, going on trips, and being with all the other kids on the team. But sometimes I miss home. The comforts, like the same food, the same bed.”

Being on the road is part of the deal when you want to be one of the very best in the world. And if not there just yet, Granstrom sure seems headed in that direction.

Last week, Granstrom was one of six boys named to the United States Ski D Team, or development team, in his first year of eligibility. Next fall and winter, he expects to be training at least part-time with fellows like Bode Miller, Ted Ligety and the rest the nation’s top skiers.

Someday soon, says Mission Ridge Ski Team program director and head coach Ryan Shorter, American youngsters may be bidding to become the next Colby Granstrom.

“Colby is definitely a world-class athlete,” said Shorter, who has worked with Granstrom for the past several years. “If everything goes well and if he stays injury free, he could eventually be better than Bode Miller. I think he can win the World Cup in overall someday, maybe 10 years down the road. And he definitely can win the Olympics, probably seven years from now.

“He’s only 16, so he has a ways to go before he reaches his athletic peak, but he certainly has an extreme amount of talent,” Shorter went on. “I’ve worked with kids who were just as talented or maybe close in talent, but what he has is different. Colby also has the commitment, dedication and work ethic. He has the complete package.”

Granstrom, who comes from a skiing family, was a 2-year-old toddler the first time he ever stood on a pair of skis. He started racing at Stevens Pass when he was 5, and he was 8 when he won an event for kids 12 and under from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. At 12, he won two gold medals at the Whistler Cup, a competition in Whistler, B.C., for kids 11-14 from around the world.

Granstrom is currently ranked first in the United States in slalom for boys 15-16. He ranks third in giant slalom, fifth in super giant slalom and fifth in downhill.

In late March and early April of this year, Granstrom competed at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Alaska’s Alyeska Resort.

“All the big guns were there,” he said, “so it was fun. In the slalom, Bode Miller actually started behind me because I had better points than him. He beat me, but it was kind of (fun) seeing him over my shoulder.”

Equally fun was working out at a training facility in Norway and stealing glances at Aksel Lund Svindal, the 2007 World Cup overall champion and the skier Granstrom most admires, across the room.

Granstrom is a sophomore in the Lake Stevens School District, but his travel schedule makes it impossible to attend Lake Stevens High School. Instead, he is enrolled at the HomeLink Alternative School, and does much of his studying and testing via e-mail.

In addition, he expects to take a class or two at Everett Community College this summer, though he will also continue a six-days-a-week training regimen. He goes to a workout facility in Redmond when he is in town, but also expects to head for places where there is snow, including Oregon’s Mount Hood, which has skiing throughout the year.

As you might imagine, none of this would be possible without the full support – financial and otherwise – of the Granstrom family. Dad Kris Granstrom, a longtime skier himself, figures the family kicks in about $20,000 a year to enable Colby to train and compete.

“I don’t really think of it like an investment for the future, like there will someday be a return,” Kris Granstrom said. “I just think of it as an investment in him now. He loves (skiing) and we’re lucky enough to be able to (support him), it’s just that simple. … We’re glad we can do it.”

Ahead for Granstrom is, hopefully, a long tenure with the U.S. Ski Team. From the development squad, he can advance to the C, B and A teams, the latter for the country’s best skiers. He hopes to get into World Cup competition in a few years, and perhaps be in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“When you’re a little kid,” he said, “you say, ‘I want to be an Olympic gold medalist.’ When you’re a little bit tired and you don’t want to take the last run, you say, ‘This may help me a little bit to get in the Olympics or get to the World Cup.’ So you think about it. I’d say I think about it every day, at least once. It’s always kind of in my head.”

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