Ski Club Vail honorees: Levy, Ellefson helped establish tradition of excellence |

Ski Club Vail honorees: Levy, Ellefson helped establish tradition of excellence

Sharon Schmidt
Special to the Daily
Ali Levy was the first Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete to be named to the US Freestyle Team.
Special to the Daily |

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail honorees

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail began preparation over a year ago for its Alumni Reunion Weekend, which takes place Feb. 6-8, during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. This community-wide celebration features the first-ever Hall of Fame and Wall of Excellence induction on Feb. 7 at the Four Seasons Resort Vail. For Hall of Fame and Wall of Excellence along with Alumni Reunion Weekend event details and tickets, call 970-790-5161.

Hall of Fame, Athlete Category

Sarah Schleper

Hall of Fame, Leader Category

Byron and Vi Brown

Wall of Excellence, Athlete Category

Rudd Pyles-Knutzen

Johnny Buxman

Jeff Gorsuch

Chad Fleischer

Ali Levy

Sylvan Ellefson

Wall of Excellence, Leader Category

Tom Pitcher

Pete Seibert Jr.

Larry Benway

Mike Porter

VAIL — Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is naming six people to its first Wall of Excellence in the Athlete Category and four people to its Leader Category on Feb. 7 at the Four Season Vail. Among the Athlete Category nominees are Ali Levy and Sylvan Ellefson. As snowsports have evolved over Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s 50-plus year history, so have its program offerings. Levy and Ellefson were both members of the inaugural Ski & Snowboard Club Vail team in their snowsport, Ali on the first Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Freestyle Team and Sylvan on the first Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic Team.

Ali Levy

Growing up in the Denver Front Range and spending many a winter weekend in Vail, Ali was part of the Vail Resorts Ski School moguls program as a young girl. As her skills blossomed, she outgrew ski school, forcing her to seek moguls training elsewhere. With very few moguls freestyle programs in Colorado at the time, Ali and her brother, along with a number of fellow moguls athletes, were thrilled to return to Vail to become a part of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s newly formed freestyle program.

As part of a small Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Freestyle Team in its early beginnings, the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coaches meant so much to her. When asked about her favorite memories of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, she recalled those morning runs in shorts and a T-shirt before a competition mandated by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Troy Benson, something unheard of in the freestyle world. Fast forward a few years and she recalled the 2003 U.S. Selections with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Brian Baker sliding down the course beside her on each run screaming words of encouragement. To have Brian at her side at the finish that day at the very moment that she realized she had just qualified for the U.S. Freestyle Team remains the greatest moment she could possibly imagine. This marked an equally memorable moment for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail as Ali was the first Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete to be named to the U.S. Freestyle Team.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s core values of character, courage and commitment have reached far beyond the ski hill for Ali. She finds herself using them every single day without even realizing it, passing them along to those she works with as a coach, as a teacher and in her current career.

Ali was on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team and a World Cup athlete from 2003-05. She went on to receive a B.A. in Geography from Middlebury College and a master’s degree in counseling and sport psychology from Boston University. Ali has continued to give back to her sport, including teaching skiing, supporting the sports psychology program at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and being part of the NBC Olympics production team in Vancouver as well as a member of the Youth Committee for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

Ali is enjoying her professional career in the Boston area, but she never loses sight of the feeling that coming to Vail is “coming home.”

Sylvan Ellefson

Starting out his Ski & Snowboard Club Vail snowsports career as an alpine ski racer at the age of 11, Sylvan Ellefson a few years later transitioned to high school alpine racing for Vail Mountain School. Sylvan found Nordic skiing during his sophomore year of high school thanks to a few of his friends and Dan Weiland, who became his Nordic coach. Combining his talents in alpine racing and Nordic skiing, Sylvan went on to win the Colorado State Skimeister Championship title in his sophomore year, being recognized as the best all-around high school skier in Colorado.

As Sylvan’s Nordic results began surpassing his alpine results, he made the decision to fully transition to Nordic skiing in his junior year, participating in both high school and club racing. As a senior in high school, Sylvan joined the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic Program during its inaugural year under Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Dan Weiland.

Among Sylvan’s most memorable moments while at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail was his third-place finish at Junior Nationals in Truckee, California, in 2005. This great performance not only carried with it a place on the podium but also a realization that he could in fact compete at a Division 1 collegiate level, which would serve as a stepping stone to a professional ski career.

Sylvan’s favorite memory at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail was crossing the finish line at U.S. Nationals last year in the 30-kilometer freestyle for a first-place finish and a national champion title. Sylvan had set this goal for himself 10 years prior, and when it was ultimately realized, he experienced an overwhelming sense of emotion, recalling the many family members, friends and coaches who had put in the time to help him get there.

In addition to his 2014 U.S. National Championship title in 30-kilometer freestyle, he was a two-time Junior National All American in high school, a collegiate All-American at Bates College, a two-time Bates College Athlete of the Year, had 23 World Cup starts, was the 2012 SuperTour Champion (the overall points leader in the U.S.), and took third place in the U.S. National Championships 15-kilometer freestyle in 2012.

According to Ellefson, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail played an amazing role in his life, helping to develop him not only as an athlete but also as a person, fellow athletes and coaches having a positive influence on all of his life decisions, not just those involving athletics. To a degree, Sylvan felt he had a natural work ethic, but the club’s fostering of that work ethic was the most important thing Ski & Snowboard Club Vail provided him over the years.

Although Sylvan retired as a professional athlete at the end of last season, he continues to instill his knowledge of and passion for the sport heading up Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic Futures Stars development level program for youngsters ages 6 and older alongside his sales and marketing career at Cirque Mountain Apparel.

A lifelong valley resident, Sylvan is a beloved member of the community, one that embraced him along the way in his pursuits as a professional Nordic athlete.

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