Fifteen-year-old Daniel Ferucci of Anchorage is sticking to alpine skiing, even though he attends high school in the ski-jumping capital of the United States.
Or is it the snowboarding capital of the U.S.? Or maybe the moguls capital?
Ferucci is a sophomore in his first year at Steamboat Mountain School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he is surrounded by some of the country’s top winter athletes. The town is a mecca for ski jumpers and snowboarders and is home to many Winter Olympians -- more than any other town in America, it contends.
Ferucci isn’t Olympic-bound quite yet, but he’s coming off a terrific performance earlier this month at U.S. Ski & Snowboarding’s Rocky Mountain/Central Division regional championships for skiers 16 and under.
He won gold medals in the slalom and giant slalom, was 10th in the super-G, 11th in the downhill and placed second overall.
The results were good enough to qualify him for the U.S. national championships, except those championships aren’t being held this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic spurred the Ferucci family to check out Steamboat Mountain School last year. Ferucci was a freshman at South HIgh, and when in-person classes were replaced with online learning, he struggled a bit.
“He had wanted to go to school and ski race out of state for a while,” said his dad, Paul Ferucci. “The fact that he could continue his high school education in person ... and be in small classes was very important to us as parents. He has thrived this year both in school and with his ski racing.”
The school is a boarding school for about 70 students, including Ferucci. Alpine skiers train every day from 1-4 p.m.
“It’s really fun, because (in the winter) we drop a couple classes so you get to focus on school in the morning and ski training in the afternoon,” he said. “I kinda like the smaller environment. You get to know everyone. The teachers live on campus so it’s easy to interact with them.”
The school’s two-week spring break is coming up, and Ferucci will return to Anchorage to see friends and family. Then comes a month when the two classes skipped during the winter term are condensed into a couple of weeks of intense instruction.
Ferucci started skiing at age 5 as a Mighty Mite with the Alyeska Ski Club and developed into one of the club’s top age-group skiers. He said he misses his friends and former teammates and “how pretty it is” in Alaska, but he plans on finishing high school in Steamboat Springs.
“Just being around a bunch of good skiers is good,” he said. “They help push me and motivate me.”
The mountain is a 15-minute drive from the school, and going to competitions doesn’t require long and expensive trips. “We can drive an hour and a half to Copper Mountain,” Ferucci said.
He trains with a competitive group of other U16 skiers, and there are world-class athletes from a variety of winter sports all over the place.
“It’s cool. We get to watch the ski jumpers when we’re training,” he said. “It’s really cool because I’m kinda used to being around alpine racers, but here there’s mogul skiers and snowboarders and ski jumpers. It’s pretty diverse.”