All in ‘The Club’: Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has been developing World Cup athletes one generation at a time
Keep an eye out for SSCV athletes at Birds of Prey
Special to the Daily
When the U.S. Ski Team’s River Radamus comes down the course at the Birds of Prey this year, he’ll be cheered on by a local fan club of young ski racers ringing cowbells and donning team jackets. Every racer at the event gets a warm reception from this enthusiastic bunch, but none likely warmer than Radamus, the Edwards local who grew up right down the street from the famed course and earned his racing stripes at one of the most renowned clubs in the world: Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
Radamus will be joined on the hill for the second year in a row by fellow SSCV alum and U.S. Ski Team member Kyle Negomir, who is confirmed for the super-G and eyeing starts in the downhill and giant slalom. Also up-and-coming on the national team roster are SSCV alumni Cooper Cornelius and Bridger Gile, who will likely compete for a remaining start via time trial, while Jacob Dilling and Kellen Kinsella round out new additions on the national Development Team.
It’s a special group that trained for years at SSCV under Matt Underhill and Max Lamb, both of whom this season also graduated onto the U.S. Ski Team as coaches. And they’re just the latest generation of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alumni to be tapped by the national team, joining the likes of Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and Chad Fleischer, who have all skied to thrilling finishes at the Beaver Creek venue.
This year, the Golden Eagle track will be familiar territory for Negomir who grew up performing course-slipping and hill-prep duties at the annual Birds of Prey races. It’s a long-standing tradition and partnership between race organizers and SSCV — and in certain cases, it’s good preparation for athletes who go on to earn one of the coveted starts at the annual World Cup event.
“All through Ski Club, we would come out and slip the course and set up B net for World Champs and World Cup,” Negomir said. “We’d do those high-speed slips down the downhill. And that was my first introduction to the course. It makes it super cool to be able to ski it now, and to go into the downhill never having raced it before, I can still tell you every turn from memory from having worked it so many times over the years.”
Every year, SSCV mobilizes more than 50 coaches, athletes and parent volunteers per day amounting to nearly 4,000 man hours to help set up and refine the Golden Eagle course. The club’s responsibilities include installing B net, slipping the track and facilitating the runner crew.
“It’s definitely an intimidating course,” said Negomir, who until recently lived in Avon and could see the venue from his house. “But having done those high-speed slips and having worked it so many times, it doesn’t feel like my first time at a race venue. It all feels very familiar.”
Expansion and development
With a fresh crop of SSCV alumni populating the U.S. Ski Team this season, local coaches and staff are working hard to develop the next generation of racers, aided now by long-awaited developments taking shape at Vail’s Golden Peak training and race center.
“It’s been a really exciting time at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail,” said Executive Director Kirk Dwyer. “Over the summer, we were thrilled to begin construction on the expanded training and competition venue at Golden Peak, which is going to be a game-changer for developing athletes at the club. We’ve also now settled into our new clubhouse at the base of the hill, with construction of the interior set to be completed in 2020.”
The expanded terrain on Golden Peak, which is expected to be open and operational before the end of the year, will provide approximately 30 acres of additional trail space, a new surface lift and improved snowmaking infrastructure. With these enhancements, 600 vertical feet have been added to the venue, providing more than 1,700 vertical feet of total terrain. This amounts to a doubling of the training space on Golden Peak and creates three new trails — two that will primarily host alpine ski racing activities and one as a dedicated mogul venue (the latter potentially ahead of the 2020-21 season).
The venue can be homologated up to men’s NorAm downhill and women’s World Cup downhill and will be primarily for ski racing activities on a season-long basis.
At the base of the hill, SSCV is nearing completion of a new landmark facility, which has been considered in one form or another for decades and replaces the old clubhouse that once stood in its place. The first three stories of the new structure will host SSCV facilities, such as enhanced equipment storage, locker rooms, coaches’ workstations, administrative offices, conference rooms, athlete lounges, video rooms, warm-up/warm-down rooms, a state-of-the-art tuning facility, a gym and medical treatment center.
“The expansion represents another element of the incredible progress that is happening at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail,” said SSCV Chief Operating Officer John Hale. “Both the expansion and the new clubhouse have been projects that have long been dreamed about at SSCV. Happily, both of these projects are rapidly becoming reality, but none of it matters without great coaching. So we’ve taken huge steps over the last few years to hire and retain top-tier coaches at all levels of the program, and it’s been exciting to see the progress happen for our athletes in real time.”
Geoff Mintz is the communications director at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. For more information, visit http://www.skiclubvail.org.