SVSEF XC athletes Peter Wolter and Sammy Smith headed to the world stage

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Cross Country Program is excited to announce SVSEF XC Gold Team Athlete, Peter Wolter, has been called up to his first official World Cup start in Les Rousses, and SVSEF XC Comp Team Athlete, Sammy Smith, has qualified for the 2023 FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships. Both athletes shined at the recent 2023 Toyota U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships held in Houghton, MI, and results there qualified them for these upcoming starts.

With four starts in the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships, Peter Wolter had his strongest showing ever at this year’s nationals. Wolter kicked things off with a 9th overall and 5th American finish in the 10km Freestyle Interval Start race. Next up was the 1.3km Classic Sprint where he finished 11th overall, and later in the week he finished 23rd overall in the 1.3km Freestyle Sprint. But Wolter rose to a new level in the 20km Classic Mass Start where he finished in 4th place overall after having led the race for a period of time, rotating leads with a group of four athletes and clocking the fastest split overall on the third lap of the 5km course.

“Although Houghton may not be a 5-star destination for the regular traveler, the ski trails there are all time,” said Peter Wolter, SVSEF XC Gold Team athlete. “My races at Houghton were very solid and some of my best yet. You can bet I am still wanting more out of the season, the best from me is yet to come.”

Wolter has been mostly a distance skier and has had success there throughout his career. He grew up racing through SVSEF, went on to race at Middlebury College, and is now back training and competing with the SVSEF XC Gold Team. According to his coaches, his distance racing is top notch, and his sprinting is getting stronger each race, which will ultimately give him the opportunity to compete in more events and earn starts at a higher level.

“One of the great things about Peter as an athlete is he is always ready to race,” said Rick Kapala, current SVSEF Director of Sport Development. Kapala was Wolter’s coach on the SVSEF XC Comp Team. “He’s a great blend of being chill and being tough. Racing at a high level requires that balance. This run of success he’s had recently is not surprising and we are so excited to see what he can do at the next level.”

From U.S. Nationals, Wolter traveled to Hayward, WI to compete at the Seeley Hills Classic on Jan. 14-15, the second-largest annual classic cross-country ski event on the Birkebeiner Trail. He came away with the overall win in the Seeley Hills Classic 32km SuperTour race with a time of 1:25:22, and followed that up with a 4th overall finish in the event’s Classic 1.3km sprint—his best sprint result ever as a senior racer.

“Heading into Seeley Hills where he’d be racing against many of the same competitors from U.S. Nationals, Peter really took what he learned from his experience there and focused on how to execute at the next SuperTour event—things like dialing in where to make moves and what tactics to employ when you are at the front of the pack,” said Becky Woods, SVSEF Cross Country Program Director. “He brought it all together in Wisconsin. Witnessing athletes as they find these moments of realization and then have the means to bring it all together on race day is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a coach—we’re super proud of Peter. He is so focused on the potential of making it to the big stage, so getting to see that play out is really exciting.”

Officially announced today, Wolter has been called up to race for Team U.S.A. in the 20km Classic Mass Start in Les Rousses, France on Jan. 29. This will be Wolter’s first official World Cup start, and he’ll find fellow SVSEF XC Gold Team teammate and member of Team U.S.A.’s Cross Country B Team, Kevin Bolger, on the start line as well. Wolter leaves this Wednesday for the race.

“Since I started skiing, I’ve always wanted to compete at the highest level possible,” said Wolter. “I’ve just qualified and received a confirmed spot for my first World Cup. This hopefully is just the beginning of what I have to offer as a Nordic skier, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s taken a ton of work to get here, but it would not have been possible without my SVSEF and Middlebury coaches, and a monumental amount of support from my family and friends.

Wolter qualified for a World Cup two years ago in Czech, but it was canceled due to Covid. This upcoming World Cup in France was on the line due to snow issues; however, FIS released a confirmation of competition this morning.

“I want to mix it up in the big leagues, watch them ski, and then ski with them,” said Wolter.


For the second consecutive year, SVSEF XC Comp Team and U.S. Cross Country Ski Development Team athlete, Sammy Smith, has qualified for the 2023 FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships. The event will be held Jan. 27-Feb. 5 in Whistler, British Columbia.

Smith’s performance at this year’s U.S. Nationals in Houghton, MI proved her strength, skill, focus, and tenacity to mix it up at the highest level. As a U18 junior, she finished in the top ranks among the collegiate and senior athletes, and on the U18 junior podium in all of her events.

In the 10km Freestyle Interval Start, Smith finished in 16th overall and took 2nd place on the U18 podium. She followed that up in the 1.3km Classic Sprint with an 8th overall and the top step of the U18 podium. In her final event at the U.S. Nationals, the 20km Classic Mass Start, Smith mixed it up with the senior girls holding her own in a lead group of about eight athletes. At times during the race, she helped push the pace in sixth then fifth place among the leaders. The race came down to a battle on the home stretch to the finish, where Smith finished 7th overall and again took 1st place on the U18 podium.

“U.S. National Championships is always a great event—it’s the perfect early season opportunity to have some really tough competition and see where you stack up,” said Sammy Smith, SVSEF XC Comp Team and U.S. Cross Country Ski Development Team athlete. “For me personally, I think it’s super valuable to compete there because it gives me an idea of what I need to focus on and what adjustments I need to make in training.”

Events like the U.S. Nationals that serve as qualifying events for World Juniors and the U18 Nordic Nations Cup are where the U.S. Ski Team looks at race results and the best racers for opportunities to move up in the sport and earn further international starts.

“This year I was able to qualify for World Juniors again, which I couldn’t be more excited about,” said Smith. “I’m so grateful to have this chance, and hopefully build off some of my results from last year. Every time you have the opportunity to represent your country it’s a surreal experience. Qualifying for these events wouldn’t be possible without my amazing coaches and endless support from my family. Go USA!”

While 17-year-old Smith is consistently excelling in the sport and has big goals on her mind, she is also thoughtful about how she moves forward with all these opportunities. Smith was also invited to compete in the prestigious U18 Nordic Nations Cup, which will take place in Jyvaskyla, Finland from Feb. 17-19, 2023.

“I made the difficult decision to decline the U18 Nordic Nations Cup (Scandos) because I felt that the OPA Cup, which is being held in March, would be better competition and a better development opportunity,” said Smith. “I’m excited to have a few weeks at home before leaving for OPA so I can prioritize my training and work on peaking for the races in Italy.”

“Sammy is truly a generational athlete for our team,” said Kapala. “She is committed in every fiber of her body to be better. If a race doesn’t go her way, she is already onto the next opportunity and how she’ll execute differently based on what she has learned. She’s always open to feedback, to learning—she operates with the ultimate growth mindset, she’s all-in.”