Domestic Clubs Preview: Stratton Mountain School


Julia Kern (front middle, Alpina boots) leads the way in a rollerski session, SMS women, summer 2022. (photo: courtesy SMS)

What’s the official name of this ski team? SMS T2 Team (SMS or Stratton)

Where is it located? Stratton, Vermont

Who’s the coach? Officially speaking, Perry Thomas is the new head coach, replacing Pat O’Brien, but he is quick to say, “Pat is being coined as ‘Assistant Coach,’ and myself ‘Head Coach,’ but I’m not really one for garish titles.” Jason Cork continues his longstanding coaching work with Jessie Diggins.

Who’s on the roster this season? Ben Ogden, Jessie Diggins, Julia Kern, Will Koch, Alayna Sonnesyn, Lina Sutro, Lauren Jortberg, and Sydney Palmer-Leger. Ogden, Diggins, and Kern are on the U.S. Ski Team A-Team; Koch and Palmer-Leger are on the USST D-Team.

What’s different from last year? Katharine Ogden and Ian Torchia retired. Bill Harmeyer has moved on. Lauren Jortberg and Sydney Palmer-Leger are new to the team.

What were some highlights of last season? How long do you have? Jessie Diggins won a silver medal in Beijing at the 2022 Winter Olympics, in the 30km skate, and a bronze, in the skate sprint; alongside her gold from Pyeongchang, she now has a complete set of Olympic medals. She also has more Olympic cross-country medals than everyone else in American ski history (Bill Koch and Kikkan Randall, one each) combined. On the World Cup circuit, Diggins was second in the overall standings, after also finishing second in 2017/2018 and winning the overall title in 2020/2021. She made five individual World Cup podiums and two team podiums, including anchoring the Americans to victory in the inaugural 4 x 5km mixed relay. Also, this happened:

Julia Kern made her first Olympic team, with a best finish of 18th in the sprint in Beijing. She made seven World Cup sprint heats, including two finals, with an individual best of fourth (twice, once each in a skate and classic sprint), and teamed up with Diggins to finish second in the skate team sprint in Dresden. She ended the season ranked 8th in the Sprint Cup and 20th in the overall standings. Kern then returned to this continent in March and won nearly everything at Spring Series, taking second to Diggins in the 5km skate but getting the win in the classic sprint, 10km classic, and 42km skate.

Ben Ogden was another first-time Olympian; he made three starts in Beijing. His 12th in the skate sprint appears to have been the best-ever men’s individual sprint finish in American Olympic history. He raced nearly all of World Cup Period 1 and 2, serving notice with a 13th-place in the season-opening classic sprint in Ruka, then following that up with 12th in a skate sprint in Davos. Back at home, after winning the only race held at 2020 NCAA Championships, Ogden swept NCAA Championships in 2022, likely the first American-born man to ever do so.

From left, Julia Kern, Katharine Ogden, Lina Sutro, and Alayna Sonnesyn made up the SMS relay team at Spring Series.

Will Koch won a medal at World Juniors (bronze, men’s 4 x 5km relay), which would have been headline news a few years ago before the U.S. started medaling in this event nearly every year, and turned heads when he outpaced JC Schoonmaker to win qualifying for the skate sprint at U.S. Nationals. Alayna Sonnesyn won nearly everything domestically in SuperTour Period 1, then went to the World Cup, where she completed the Tour de Ski. She later had two podium finishes in two races at OPA Cup finals. She also won the Birkie. Again.

Lina Sutro made the finals in the skate sprint at U.S. Nationals, finishing sixth, and had an additional four top-10 finishes in SuperTour racing. Lauren Jortberg made her World Cup debut, finishing 45th in skate sprint qualifying in Lahti before Covid prevented her from doing additional European racing. She had six top-10 finishes on the SuperTour, including two podiums. Sydney Palmer-Leger was sixth in the 15km skate at World Juniors in Lygna, Norway, and was fifth and seventh at NCAAs. Her worst finish in four races at Spring Series with deep fields was seventh.

On snow at Mt. Bachelor, May 2022. Back row, from left: Alayna Sonnesyn, Jessie Diggins, Lina Sutro, and Lauren Jortberg. Head coach Perry Thomas is in front. (photo: courtesy SMS)

What does the coach have to say? Here’s Perry Thomas:

“Summer training went really well! Hard to believe it’s already mid September – today is feeling pretty brisk here in Stratton, and the leaves are already turning colors in areas, which means winter is coming! The team had a great group of athletes here throughout the summer which made for a super fun and quality program. Closing out the summer training with some on-snow time in Germany, Norway, and Australia was really productive, and the athletes got a lot out of those trips.

“With Sydney, Ben, and Will back at school we currently have the other five ladies here in Stratton. The stoke is pretty high as we start to increase the intensity a little more. We’ll head to Park City in early October to join in with the US Ski Team camp, and by the time we get back to VT we’ll only have a few weeks before World Cup athletes start traveling to Europe, and the domestic crew starts trying to find snow and prepare for Period 1 SuperTours. 

Ben Ogden (front, Madshus boots) leads the way, SMS men, summer 2022. (photo: courtesy SMS)

“Really exciting to have over half of the team starting Period 1 World Cup! Jessie, Julia, and Ben will be joined by Lauren and Alayna for the first four weekends of racing in Europe. I’m fired up to see everyone race well, but more importantly I’m excited to continue this journey with them all through our first race season together, and to support them and their goals as best I can.”

How can you get more information or follow the team? website | Instagram | blog | newsletter

Elsewhere in this series: Bridger | Sun Valley | Team Birkie

Leave a Reply

Share post:



More like this

Domestic Teams Preview 2023: Stratton Mountain School

What is the official name of this ski team?...

Domestic Teams Preview 2023: Gus Schumacher, JC Schoonmaker, Novie McCabe, Renae Anderson Join APU

Speaking at a press conference this February in advance...

Laukli Wins Again at Pikes Peak Ascent; Rémi Bonnet Takes Down 1993 Course Record in Men’s Race

Sophia Laukli wins. Again. Racing against a full international...

Pikes Peak Preview: Sophia Laukli Prepares to Go Uphill Fast

Sophia Laukli has proven on multiple occasions this summer...
%d bloggers like this: