If moguls skier Jeremy Cota was knocking on the door last winter, he’s hoping to charge through it in 2011.

A year after narrowly missing an Olympic bid, Cota, of Carrabassett Valley, has set off this winter to make his mark among Maine’s next generation on the U.S. ski team.

“Last season helped me realize exactly what I need to work on in order to be more competitive with the top World Cup skiers,” said Cota, 22. He scored his first top-10 World Cup finish of the year this week with a No. 9 finish at Meribel, France. Teammate David DiGravio of Farmington finished 40th.

The pair will be shredding mountains from Finland to Moscow this winter as part of a small contingent of Maine skiers and snowboarders on the World Cup scene.

Both are alumni of Carrabassett Valley Academy, the school at the base of Sugarloaf that has churned out Olympians like two-time gold medalist Seth Wescott of Farmington, Alpine skier Bode Miller and former downhill veteran Kirsten Clark of Raymond.

For Cota and DiGravio, their discipline — freestyle — combines the speed and precision of moguls skiing with the aerodynamics of two twisting jumps.

Cota’s star rose considerably last season, his first on the U.S. ski team.

“(Cota) is in a really good position to do something really spectacular,” said Ron DiGravio, the head moguls coach at CVA, who is also David’s father. “It’s make or break for Dave. It’s a pretty critical year.”

Cota logged two top-10 World Cup finishes before Christmas last year and finished second at the U.S. Olympic trials, placing just one spot away from earning a trip to the Vancouver Games. He is on the B team, which means his travel and expenses are paid for.

DiGravio is on the C team, which means only some of his funding is provided. Both skiers are shooting for the A team and are working to compete in the world championships later this winter.

Cota does a back flip with a full rotation and a cork 7, which is an off-axis, 720-degree rotation. He does have a double-full jump in his arsenal, which he won’t use unless conditions are perfect.

“He’s improved a ton in the last two years and is a really good athlete, an explosive athlete,” said Ron DiGravio. “He has the top jumps out there in his repertoire, a double full and a cork 10.

“We keep asking him when they’re coming out for good, but he’s a seasoned athlete and I’m sure when the conditions are right he’ll be pulling them out.”

Cota finished last season with two more top 15s on the World Cup circuit. Last week in Suomo, Finland, he finished 14th, the second-best performance by an American. DiGravio, whose financing kept him from training with the team until five days before competition, finished 22nd.

DiGravio had four top 15s on the World Cup circuit last season, his best an 11th at Deer Valley, Utah.

“I’ve learned that you need to practice like it’s competition and compete like it’s practice,” said DiGravio, 24. “You need to care every day.”

The lifestyle can be grueling.

Take the December-January season schedule this year, for example: Training in Austria, then World Cups in Finland, France and China before Christmas, then to Canada and Lake Placid, N.Y., in January.

It’s a dogged schedule, working out, hitting the mountain for training and eating and sleeping well.

“Our team is really close, so we spend a lot of time together,” said Cota. “When we’re not training I spend time eating as much as I can, bowling in the hallways of hotels or doing cannonballs into the pool.”

The two spend significant time together on the road, including their new ritual of social time on event days along with teammate Sho Kashima of Utah.

“Once we arrive at the lodge we have social time where we drink our energy drinks and socialize to warm up our minds before we do our physical warm-up and get ready to head out to the hill,” said DiGravio.

On the snowboarding World Cup circuit young, 20-year-old Alex Tuttle of Stratton will be traveling alongside Seth Wescott, who is coming off a second Olympic gold medal in snowboardcross.

Wescott competed in his first World Cup of the year this weekend at Telluride, Colo.

Tuttle, who is not yet an official member of the U.S. snowboarding team, is paying his own way on the circuit. His career has hovered between the World Cup level and the NorAm level, which is a class below the elite.

He hopes to make the jump this season.

“It’s a big deal how I finish this year,” said Tuttle. “I’ve been close the last couple of years, but my finish can kind of dictate how the rest of my season pans out.”

Tuttle flew to Telluride and was staying with Wescott to train for and compete in this weekend’s World Cup. The pair got in some early-season training at Sugarloaf, meeting each morning around 9 to snowboard for a few hours.

“We ride together quite a bit when we’re both around,” said Tuttle. “I can pick up little techniques here and there. See, ‘Oh, he does it that way.’ It’s really just the little things.” 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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