An Auburn teen’s trail to the top of the World Cup ski circuit is becoming a little less bumpy.

Bump Heldman, a senior at Gould Academy in Bethel, will mix school work and sort through the maze of college options as a member of the U.S. Ski team.

The U.S. Ski team officially announced the 2006-07 team Tuesday. Along side former World Cup champion Bode Miller and Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety was Heldman. At age 17, he is the youngest member of the men’s squad.

“It’s been awesome,” Heldman said Tuesday night from Bethel. “I like the guys on the team and the coaches. It’s been quite an experience.”

Another Maine skier – Olympic veteran Kirsten Clark of Raymond – headlines the women’s team.

While the association made it official Tuesday, Heldman and his family have known for a few months that he was on the team.

The U.S. Ski team is divided into four levels, with Miller, Ligety and the other top Americans on the ‘A’ team. Heldman is one of five male skiers on the U.S. Development team, the lowest rung on the four-team ladder.

Heldman burst onto the scene last March with a stellar effort at the U.S. Championships held at Sugarloaf/USA in Carrabassett Valley. Competing against Miller, Ligety and the other top Americans, Heldman placed 18th in the slalom and eighth in the combined event. That effort earned him a bronze and silver medal in the junior division.

He also finished in the top half in the downhill and giant slalom.

“I had a great series of races there, and (the coaches) saw I could race with these guys,” Heldman said. “I did well in all four events, which is what they’re looking for right now. They don’t want a one-discipline racer right now.”

At this stage in his development, Heldman feels equally comfortable racing slalom, giant slalom and downhill, and doesn’t feel one area is stronger than another.

Heldman has trained with the U.S. team since the end of May. He was skiing at Mt. Hood, Ore., as late as July, and spent August training with the team in Chile.

The biggest challenge, said Heldman, will be keeping up with his studies at Gould, while traveling to various ski competitions in the Western U.S., Canada and Europe on the Nor-Am circuit. Heldman credits the school with helping him adjust to the growing demands.

His current schedule lists 41 races this winter. In addition to the Nor-Am circuit, Heldman expects to compete in a couple of Europa Cup races – one level below the World Cup.

His first race is scheduled for Colorado in late November.

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