Dedication, hard work, and sacrifice have become familiar for 15-year-old, Durango, Colorado, native Toby Scarpella. For the past several years, Scarpella and his family have been living nearly six hours away during the winters for Scarpella to continue attending Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, a program which he acknowledges has helped his skiing immensely.
Scarpella emphasizes that the combination of being with amazing athletes and top coaches has contributed to his recent successes as a ski racer. “When I went to Vail, I immediately got better,” he says.
This past season, Scarpella found himself competing in top junior races across the country. Regionally, Scarpella climbed the podium in two of the Sync Series U16 giant slalom races, one of which was at his home away from home in Vail earlier in February. The next week, Scarpella finished second in the giant slalom at the Rocky Central U16 Junior Championships in Winter Park. He also ended the weekend in Winter Park with a top-ten finish in the super-G race.
Even though Scarpella did not podium during the U16 National Junior Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado, in April, he managed to finish the series as the top qualifier to the Whistler Cup later that spring and still called the series one of his season highlights, in addition to his podium performance at the Regional Championships in Winter Park.
Scarpella first started skiing when he was 12-months-old at a local program in Durango. It became clear at a young age that Scarpella and his younger brother, Finn, both had a natural ability and passion for racing.
Quickly outgrowing the program, Scarpella and several other strong young athletes along with their families decided to move to Vail part-time for their children to attend SSCV. Thanks to a strong work ethic and continuous focus, Scarpella’s time at Vail has been successful, something his parents say he learned at home in Durango and brought with him to Vail.
However, Scarpella and his family recently made the decision to “pull the plug” at SSCV and return to life full-time in Durango. Recognizing that balancing life in both Vail and Durango, nearly 300 miles away, was too difficult for the family, the time commitment, specifically the travel and the living situation, as well as the financial strain required to run two households were some of the other factors the Scarpella family weighed in their decision to leave SSCV, his father, Brian, says.
Scarpella and his father both emphasized how hard the decision was, especially given the quality of coaching at SSCV.
“We feel that he had one of the best coaches in the country,” Brian says of U16 coach Ian Lochhead, who provided Scarpella with coaching that really clicked for him. Scarpella added that coach Will Hadden also had an influential impact from his time at Vail.
One of Scarpella’s challenges this past season was juggling school work with the amount of travel required for races. “It was really hard with school,” he says. His father added that the only negative of the program was how hard it was to keep up with school.
Scarpella’s academic strategy was to get work done on the plane in order to meet and ski with new competitors at far-away venues, as well as reach out to his teachers in order to have an effective dialogue during the school year, he says, as some of Scarpella’s races were on opposite sides of the country. With trips to the U16 National Performance Series at Burke Mountain Academy, Vermont, earlier in the season and the Whistler Cup in Whistler, Canada, in April, Scarpella had plenty of schoolwork time in airports across the country.
In addition to becoming a high-caliber ski racer, Scarpella also found a passion in both cross-country mountain and road biking, which he started in Durango through a development program comparable to a local ski club. “I’ve loved it ever since,” he said.
His family’s involvement with biking and Durango’s famous biking culture got him to naturally latch onto the sport. Scarpella commented that his time on the bike is a good way to cross-train for skiing out of season, and vice versa for biking. Aspects of the sport, such as how to enter and exit corners on a bike with, helps with his GS and super-G, he says.
Colby Lange, a Vail native and previous elite-level SSCV team member, is one of Scarpella’s role models. Lange graduated from ski racing and has become a professional biker who is now looking to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Now that Scarpella will be attending high school in Durango, he will have more time to bike, he said. His father similarly voiced that there will be time constraints to train on a bike at the same level and intensity as skiing, specifically the number of days on snow and how late ski seasons have become in recent years, with clubs in Colorado regularly training into the late spring.
Scarpella added that qualifying for the Whistler Cup in April prevented him from training for bike season as early as he would have liked.
As for ski racing, Scarpella will still be competing for his high school, noting that he will have less pressure on himself. “It’s going to be fun,” he says. His goal is to become a dual-sport champion, winning high school state titles in both ski racing and mountain biking.