VAIL — When Michael and Lisa Blunck decided to move their youngest son away from the family’s home in Crested Butte, they didn’t know what the future would hold.
“We felt like we were giving him away,” Michael Blunck said. “It was one of the hardest decisions my wife and I have had to make.”
A few years later, their son Aaron is now an Olympian freeskier, the poster boy for a club that has been named the best freeskiing program in the United States for the second year in a row by the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.
“You want to let your kids live their dreams, and (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) gave us that opportunity,” Michael Blunck said.
CLUB OF THE YEAR
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail learned this week that in addition to defending their title as the nation’s top freeskiing program, the club also earned the overall designation of United States Ski and Snowboard Association Club of the Year, the highest honors a ski club can receive in the U.S.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail also won four of the five big individual program Club of the Year honors, with alpine, snowboarding and freestyle joining freeskiing this year. Avon resident Elijah Teter also won Coach of the Year for snowboarding.
“It was an incredible year for us,” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Executive Director Aldo Radamus. “It’s unprecedented in my knowledge that a single club has won as many of those awards in the same year as we were honored with this year. I think the outstanding performances of all of the programs are just a testament to the commitment of the kids, the hard work of the coaches and the level of support that we have in the community.”
Freeskier Cole Pates, who grew up in Eagle County, says it’s the overall atmosphere created by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and their academic partner, the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, that has driven his success as an athlete.
“You look around the room, we’re all pushing each other to get better,” said Pates, who this season learned tricks like the difficult switch double rodeo 900 with the help of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s facilities. “The coaching staff is amazing, the athletes are amazing, it’s just a great vibe.”
The United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s new president and CEO, Tiger Shaw, says that vibe Pates referenced is an atmosphere which ski clubs across the country should try to emulate.
“In some ways, it’s no surprise to see (local athletes like Pates) come out of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, it’s such a tremendous, such a great mountain,” Shaw said. “But, at the same time, as you get big, it’s very hard to maintain quality, and (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) seems to have been able to do that, and be a real prototype for the rest of the country, for clubs of all sizes.”
SHAW: ‘I’M AMAZED’
Shaw and company will present Ski & Snowboard Club Vail with their awards at the United States Ski and Snowboard Association Congress 2014 Chairman’s Awards Dinner in Park City, Utah, on May 16.
“From what I’ve seen under Aldo’s leadership, the quality of coaches and the quality of programs and training at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is truly extraordinary,” Shaw said. “And it’s rare when you see a club that is able to focus on so many different sports and execute so well on so many of them.”
The only major Club of the Year discipline distinction Ski & Snowboard Club Vail didn’t win this year was cross country. They won that last year.
“Vail is really in a league of its own,” Shaw said. “With the halfpipe at Golden Peak, the alpine venue at Golden Peak, the cross-country program that they’re able to do, the academy that they run, it’s continued to amaze me, the breadth of that which they’re trying to operate. They take on all of these at the same time. It’s impressive.”