Vail Daily column: The homegrown approach | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: The homegrown approach

In 2010, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail conceived a plan to build a dormitory at the Minturn campus to house student-athletes from out of town, out of state, perhaps even out of the country. The rationale was, if we could provide housing similar to the boarding ski academies, then SSCV would open itself up to a broader pool of athletes and continue to strengthen and grow its membership.

The project was postponed for one reason or another, and during the course of reviewing our strategic initiatives, we decided not to proceed — not because it's too expensive, but because we chose to develop a Vail Valley-centric focus instead.

One of the special qualities of SSCV is access to a fairly large local population of young, talented athletes and enthusiastic families who live in the Vail Valley. In an earlier column, I wrote about our intent to raise the level and frequency of training provided to our younger athletes. This resident population pool is a positive attribute of our club, in contrast to most major programs across the country. At Burke Mountain Academy, where I previously served as headmaster, the majority of our junior program skiers did not live in close proximity.

SSCV does accommodate cases where athletes wish to transfer to Vail from another program, and when this strengthens our core program, we encourage enrollment. We have numerous athletes in that very position — athletes who come from out of town who make arrangements to live with a host family. More significantly, it's also common for families to relocate to the Vail Valley, specifically to train and compete with SSCV. Lindsey Vonn is a notable case. By no means are we closing our doors to these out-of-town members, but the primary population from which we are trying to cultivate talent already resides in the valley.

Outstanding Results

Recently, we have had outstanding results by SSCV athletes. Sixteen-year-old freestyle skier Tess Johnson, from Edwards, achieved her first World Cup top ten in Lake Placid, New York. Our U16 alpine athletes dominated the National Performance Series and earned seven (of 12 total) individual invitations to represent the U.S. at the Seven Nations Cup in Austria. And we are pleased to be sending two junior Nordic skiers to the prestigious U18 Scandinavian Cup Championships in Trondheim, Norway. What do these athletes have in common? They all live in the Vail Valley.

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SSCV is proud to announce record membership this winter: roughly 670 individual athletes who take part in everything from one-day-per-week, entry-level programs to full-time, elite-level competitions. We're proud to say, the overwhelming majority of the members we serve are from the Vail Valley. With this robust membership, we will strive to contain the cost of our entry-level programs. We also have been overwhelmed by the support of our annual campaign, which exceeded our goals for the year. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is committed to prioritizing that support in the Vail community and develop athletes at the grassroots level.

Kirk Dwyer is the executive director of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and former Headmaster of Burke Mountain Academy, where he coached, among others, Vail's own Mikaela Shiffrin.