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Hotham High Achievers

Posted Thursday 13 September 2018

There are a lot of kids skiing and boarding at Hotham, and there is a whole range of reasons why they love it. Some love the social aspect, some want the ability to ski or board independently and adventurously, some want to try out a career in snowsports.

You might not be aware that there are Hotham locals currently doing well in competition, and some who started at Hotham who have reached the highest levels of their sports. Here are a few of them – if you know of others, please drop us a line and let us know.

Greta Small, Harry Laidlaw and Louis Muhlen-Schulte – Winter Olympics

These three are the current big local names in snowsports, and will be familiar to many people. They all started at Hotham.

Greta Small is a Porepunkah local who at 18 years of age was one of the youngest in the field in her 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics debut, where she competed in every event on the women’s alpine program. This year she competed in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Downhill, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super G and Super Combined.

According to the Australian Olympic Committee’s website, Greta was a standout from a young age.

She began racing at age 11 and was selected to compete at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012. Having led the Australian Team as flagbearer she would go on to secure top ten results in the slalom (7th) and super combined (7th) while finishing 13th in both the giant slalom and super combined.

In 2013 Small made her senior World Championships debut securing three top 50 results before winning super-G silver and slalom bronze in the U18 division of the Junior World Championships a couple of weeks later.

Injuries in 2015 and 2016 slowed her down a bit, but her appearance at PyeongChang was a testament to her determination and resilience. She recorded the best-ever Downhill result by an Australian woman, achieving 1:42.07 and claiming her spot in Australian alpine history. Steve Lee is the only Australian athlete to record a better Olympic Downhill result when he achieved 19th in the event at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.

Greta does comes back to ski at Hotham when she has the opportunity, so you might see her around the place.

Harry Laidlaw was a Hotham regular who began skiing at the age of two and loved skiing so much he dropped football to pursue his snowsports career, focussing on free ski and giant slalom. National under 12 and under 14 champion, and most recently a member of the Australian team for the PyeongChang Winter Olypmics, he is also part of the Australian National Alpine Ski Team.

Louis Muhlen-Schulte is a Harrietville local who achieved a bronze medal in Ski Cross at the 2016 Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympic Games. In late 2017 it was announced that he had been accepted into the US Ski Team’s high performance development program.

Louis was regularly seen on the podium for international alpine FIS races in 2016-2017, and has been earmarked for World Cup events. Recently he claimed World Cup starting rights in Slalom as the top-ranked continent skier.

As part of his training with the US Ski Team, he’ll receive high performance on-snow coaching, strength and conditioning, ski servicing and access to the best training venues in the USA and internationally during the year round program with the US ski team.

Gus Broersen – Australian Junior Halfpipe title holder

Local 14 year old Gus Broersen has just won the Australian Junior Halfpipe title and placed second in the Australian Junior Slopestyle event.

According to his parents, Gus strapped on a pair of skis in 2012 at the age of eight has virtually never taken them off since, supported by his parents who had decided to manage a lodge at Hotham and have done so for the past seven years.

“He would race in from school at Dinner Plain Primary and throw down his school bag, grab his skis and we wouldn't see him again till the lifts had closed,” says mum Tammy. “When everything else was shut he would head for the Big D for the last half hour of skiing. Then he and his mates from other lodges would come back and build jumps and spend the remaining daylight hours hiking and skiing Mount Little Higginbotham [behind the lodge], then get up and do it all again the next day.”

Gus started skiing with Mount Hotham Free Ski (MHFS) in 2014 and won a joint scholarship to their full winter program at the start of the 2015 season. As a result he placed first that season in the Hotham Bread and Butter rail Jam, the Cheese and Crackered rail jam, the Skier cross, the Hotham Freeride and the Spring Slopestyle. Coach and Head of Programs at MHFS Martin coached Gus in moguls early in the season and the same year he entered the Junior Nationals at Buller, qualifying in 6th place and finishing in 11th place in his first taste of national competition.

2015 also meant a trip to the Ski and Snowboard Australia (SSA) Futures Camp at Perisher, skiing with Winter X Games silver medallist Russ Henshaw and competing in the Junior National Slopestyle and Half pipe with a 5th place in both events.

When he’s not competing, Gus loves free riding and exploring the back country and the natural terrain at Hotham. We look forward to seeing Gus continue to achieve great things.

Carter Mills and Tom Heffernan - Freestyle Ski and Snowboard, FIS Junior World Championships (New Zealand)

Two Hotham locals, Carter Mills and Tom Heffernan, were selected in the Australian Team for the FIS Junior World Championships.

Carter Mills is a 17 year old SBX athlete who placed 32nd in a field of 47 International Riders at the Junior World Championships.

He also recently took part in the ANC races at Hotham and was happy to score a 10th and 13th in an international field that included World Cup riders. He’s currently training in Vail and getting fit at altitude in preparation for European training camps in November followed by competition on the Europa Cup circuit for the 2018/19 season.

Tom Heffernan is also seventeen years old, and virtually grew up at Hotham, where he spent many years living and going to school. On skis since he was three years old, he trained with Mount Hotham Free Ski for a couple of seasons, then spent two seasons training in Breckenridge, Colorado. In 2017 he spent the season in Laax, Switzerland, where he focussed his training on Big Air and Slopestyle.

Also in 2017 he was invited to take part in the One Hit Wonder Festival at Thredbo, where an international field of the world’s best athletes met to demonstrate their Big Air skills.

While at the FIS Junior World Championships this season, Tom had the chance to get on a big jump there and landed a left triple cork 1440, and a switch right triple rodeo 1260.  He now plans to head back to Laax to train and compete.

Courtney Bartlett, Jessi Bartlett, Rose Rostron, Tristan Rowley - Interschools Snowsports

Australia’s Interschools Snowsports has grown to become one of the largest multi-sport winter events in the world. Held annually for over 60 years and hosted across several resorts in NSW and Victoria, the Interschool Snowsports competitions boast around 7,000 competitors across the spectrum of Snowsports disciplines including cross country, alpine, skicross, moguls, slopestyle, snowboard cross (SBX), snowboard giant slalom and slopestyle. The event has grown to include competitors from South Australia, Queensland, ACT, Victoria and NSW. The event also includes a multi-class division which provides a unique opportunity for kids with special needs to participate.

This year, the national Interschools were held at Perisher and attracted 3,380 students from over 250 schools for the event. Competition divisions are based on school years, that is:

  • Division 1: Years 11 & 12
  • Division 2: Years 9 & 10
  • Division 3: Years 7 & 8
  • Division 4: Years 5 & 6
  • Division 5: Year 4 and below
  • Division 6: Kindergarten – Years 2 (Alpine and Skiercross only)

Courtney Bartlett, Jessi Bartlett, Rose Rostron and Tristan Rowley are all Hotham locals that did very well. Courtney scored 1st in Division 2 Snowboard Cross, Jessi scored 1st in Division 4 Snowboard Cross, Rose scored 3rd in Division 4 Snowboard Cross and 5th in Giant Slalom, Tristan scored 2nd in the Division 3 Moguls.

The three girls also competed in the ANC FIS races, doing very well – Courtney placing 7th and 9th in her Snowboard Cross races, Jessi placing 1st in her Snowboard Cross Grom race, and Rose placing 3rd in her Snowboard Cross Grom race.

Will Atwell and Kareema Wakim – Junior National Moguls Championships

The course for this year’s Junior National Moguls Championships (Jnats) at Buller featured 200m of moguls and two table top jumps. The event attracted over 80 athletes from Mt Buller, Falls Creek and Mt Hotham, competing across two separate age groups.

Kareema Wakim and Will Atwell scored podium finishes, with Kareema taking 1st in Youth Female, and Will taking 2nd in Junior Male. These were great results in what were considered challenging conditions with low visibility.

Up and comers

George and Eliza Walker are young powerhouses with an appetite for competitions. Both of them were pretty much raised on snowsports, as parents Meridee and Ross brought them up to Hotham almost from birth. They were both on skis as soon as they could walk.

George, 9 years old, joined Mount Hotham Free Ski this year, and as a result scored his first podium finishes at the Victorian Interschools this year, with a 2nd in Moguls and a 2nd in Ski Cross. He also achieved a very respectable 10th in Giant Slalom.

He went on to the Australian Interschools at Perisher and took out 7th place in Moguls in a very competitive field. In Ski Cross he scored 17th place, and Giant Slalom took 22nd place. 

His younger sister Eliza is 6 years old and started racing in Hotham events this season. She has been the youngest in her category and like her brother enjoys the thrill of racing. She entered the Victorian Interschools this year for the first time and finished a fantastic 16th out of a field of 120 competitors. These siblings are definitely worth watching!

Little Shredders

There’s a perception that participating in snowsports is expensive and out of reach for most people. Any sport requires some investment of time and money, though if you are contemplating a career then the costs will go up as travel, coaching and competition entry fees can add up.

However, the cost of getting onto the snow can be a barrier to trying it out. For this reason, most resorts have special deals for beginners, like Hotham’s Brand New Day, to make it possible to try it out in a budget-conscious way before committing to it.

If you have children, Snowsports Australia has introduced a program called Little Shredders, which can be accessed by schools through Sport Australia’s Sporting Schools Program. It is focused on introducing children of all ages to snowsports with the aim of developing children's knowledge, physical preparedness and confidence to go to the snow.

Because it’s part of the Sporting Schools program, sessions are subsidized by the program and delivered on almost any surface or vacant space in schools using modified equipment.

In addition, each participant in the Little Shredders program receives a “Golden Ticket” which can be redeemed at any snow resort in Australia for two days free lift, lesson and equipment hire. At Hotham all the details on redeeming the Golden Ticket are on our website.

Photo credit for banner photo of Gus Broersen (middle) on the podium accepting first place for Half Pipe in the Australian Junior Freeride: Hayden Arscott

Gallery photos L-R: George Walker, Eliza Walker, Eliza Walker, Tom Heffernan, Gus Broersen, Gus Broersen, George Walker.

For more great stories about what's happening around Hotham, sign up to the weekly Hotham Herald here.

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