Durango’s Washburn chasing Alpine ski dreams in Steamboat


Isabelle “Izzy” Washburn is a girl on the move. Her ability to quickly get down an Alpine ski race course has her moving up the ladder of the sport.

Washburn, a 15-year-old from Durango, moved to Steamboat Springs for this year’s ski season so she could train full time with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. At the under-16 nationals in Mission Ridge, Washington, Washburn was top 10 among all girls in her events, and she placed first in giant slalom and fourth in slalom for her age. She placed third overall, which allowed her to represent the U.S. last weekend at the Whistler Cup in Canada.

At the Whistler Cup, Washburn placed ninth in the giant slalom, 12th in the super-G and 13th in slalom. Team USA also won the team duals, beating Switzerland in the final round. Washburn was one of 75 girls from 21 countries competing in her age division.

“Being around peers from around the world, I can see what I need to do to get to that next level,” Washburn said in an email to The Durango Herald. “These camps are motivating to push me to become a better skier and person, even though the races can come with a slice of humble pie.”

In February, Washburn was part of the junior U.S. team for an event in Liechtenstein, giving her two international trips during the season.

Washburn, daughter of Allen and Suzanne Washburn, said she has been motivated training in Steamboat with many of the best junior skiers in the country. Suzanne Washburn has split her time between Durango and Steamboat. Allen Washburn also moved to Durango from Arkansas in a true family effort to help the young ski star succeed in Steamboat.

Durango’s Trudy Mickel, 17, also made the move to Steamboat when she was 16 to train full time in moguls skiing and this past year was added to the U.S. Ski Team roster.

Like Mickel, Washburn got her start at Purgatory Resort with the Purgatory Ski Team. Washburn credited the coaching of Leah LeSage, Tyler McKnight and Ivan Unkovskoy for her development. Nicholas Unkovskoy is another Purgatory Ski Team athlete who now trains in Steamboat.

“They have been the most influential coaches of mine who have believed in me since I was 6,” Izzy Washburn said. “Along with my parents, of course, who have supported me and done everything they could to help me chase my dreams.”

Washburn, who said her favorite skier is Montana’s Keely Kelleher for her grit and raw passion for skiing as a whole, not just ski racing, first skied when she was only 3. Her first race came when she was 6, and she said she fell in love with racing immediately.

During the 2016-17 season, she took her school courses online and trained full time with the Purgatory Ski Team with McKnight guiding her. She was one of only four under-14 girls to qualify for ski up and compete in the under-16 division at junior nationals.

Washburn said her favorite event is giant slalom.

“This is due to the speed, technique involved and the feeling you get after the perfect arch,” she said. “In slalom, you don’t have enough time to think and the speeds are much slower. Super-G is faster, which I enjoy, but you have so much time between gates I tend to think too much. Giant slalom is the perfect median.”

After eight years with the Purgatory Ski Team, she was ready to make the move to Steamboat.

“At the end of last season, she decided that she wanted to push herself,” Allen said of his daughter. “Looking around, she liked the atmosphere of the Steamboat team. Plus, with the larger program, there are many faster and older skiers to push her. Even though she has expanded opportunities, her drive and commitment have always been there.”

Washburn’s parents have been proud to see their daughter grow as a person and as an athlete during her year in Steamboat, especially as she overcame a knee injury.

“The big goal is to feel confident in myself and my skiing,” Izzy Washburn said. “This has been my biggest goal through recovery. Going into next year, my goal is to become stronger.”

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