The World U23/Junior Ski Championships have always been a signpost for US Skiing’s development. As American skiers have looked to challenge on the World Cup, they’ve first looked to challenge the World, with “Junior Worlds” the first, week-long, all disciplines challenge that many skiers face in their budding careers. World Juniors boils down the essence of US Skiing; a continent’s-worth of skiers and their ski communities, into a unified and singular thing – Team USA, sending its best young talent to ski against the best young talent in the world.

When the 2024 World Junior Ski Championships started in Planica, Slovenia in early February, it came with all that tradition attached for Team USA. This year though, the signpost of World Juniors in many skier’s career came one and the same for their season. The athletes that represented Team USA at World Juniors were in the midst of contributing to what would become the best all-around season in American skiing history. Some came off of an ever-more competitive college circuit in the United States. A couple came directly off the World Cup. Many among those two circuits were bound for a single destination the week after; Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the 2024 Loppet Cup World Cups. Smack-dab in the middle of all those trajectories came World Juniors. A momentary pause to ski together, and ski for Team USA.

The result was an overwhelmingly successful World Junior Ski Championships. Three individual medals, won by Sammy Smith (Sun Valley) and John Steel Hagenbuch (Dartmouth) in the Skate Sprint, and Haley Brewster (UVM) in the 20 k Skate Mass Start, capped a week of top ten performances, a fourth place for the junior relay team, and an always-there presence for the Americans.

The takeaway was one that marked a clear trajectory. US Skiing as a whole was on its way to the best season it’s ever had on the World Cup, and at Junior Worlds, the skiers just a few years away from that circuit showed how deep the roots of that development are, and previewed a bright future to come.

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