Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and Ski Club Arlberg exchange goes full circle in Austria
17 U14 Alpine athletes travel to Austria to train with Austrian Club
Seventeen Ski & Snowboard Club Vail U14 Alpine athletes and three coaches recently returned from a life-impacting experience in Austria. Ski Club Arlberg played host to these 12 and 13-year-old SSCV athletes on the heels of a same-aged group of U14 and U16 Alpine athletes from Ski Club Arlberg visiting and training with SSCV and hosted by SSCV U14 parents in December.
Not only were these SSCV athletes exposed to their fellow Austrians’ athletics and training venues, but they also experienced a total cultural immersion with family homestays (and in some cases, family-owned hotel stays) with the parents of similarly-aged Austrian ski racers from Ski Club Arlberg. This element made the trip a very low-cost, financially-accessible one.
SSCV athletes not only formed lasting friendships with athletes and parents, but they also trained and became familiar with the local fare. They even ventured to St. Anton for a women’s World Cup super-G race. The FIS Junior World Ski Championships were also taking place at St. Anton. Several current and former SSCV athletes were competing with the top youth Alpine athletes in the world. SSCV coaches and staff are confident that opportunities like these are capable of making young athletes dream big — and also foster the intrinsic motivation to make those dreams a reality.
John Hale, SSCV Executive Director, stated, “The exchange between SSCV and Ski Club Arlberg began in 2019/20, resumed in 2022/23, and we are especially proud of the program. We look forward to all the exchange will bring to the young ski racers of the Vail Valley and Lech and St. Anton for years to come.”
“The opportunity for young athletes to immerse in the respective cultures by staying in family homes and forming lifelong friendships, and the low-cost benefits — are fantastic,” he added. “We are grateful to the team at SCA for making the European leg of the exchange a resounding success!”
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Two of the three SSCV coaches traveling with the athletes are former World Cup racers — Martin Bell from Great Britain and Patrik Jaerbyn from Sweden. Having both fluent in German made it much easier for everyone to navigate their time abroad.
The third SSCV coach, Brett Borgard stated, “Not only was it great to watch the athletes be exposed to the Alpine racing culture, talent pool and coaches at Ski Club Arlberg, but it was also great for them to experience international travel and stays away from home and parents before their first international training camp or competition trip.”
“The growth in these young athletes, even over the 10 days we were in Austria, was quite remarkable. When children are at home it is easy to rely on parents for too many things,” Borgard continued. “My favorite story of the trip which really brought this to light was an athlete who forgot his skis on a training day with no ability to go home to get them or to call his mom or dad to bring them to him. Well — he figured it out.”
After walking a few hundred yards to the base village, the athlete found a ski shop that carried race skis, got them fitted to his bindings, and quickly got back to the base of the lift to join his teammates, missing only one run.
“He must have made a good impression on the shopkeeper who gave him a pair of complementary race skis to use for the day,” Borgard said. ” More importantly, neither this athlete nor anybody else on the trip forgot their gear the rest of the trip.”
Ski Club Arlberg is the oldest ski club in the world with over 9,000 members. Beaver Creek Resort and Lech Zeurs are sister resorts and Ski Club Arlberg is the only ski club associated with Lech Zeurs. Former Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz was involved in forming the Beaver Creek Resorts side of this sister resort relationship and was part of the early discussions for facilitating this exchange of Alpine athletes a number of years ago and remains involved to this day. The exchange is in its second year, postponed for the past two seasons due to COVID-19.
“We look forward to continuing this exchange with Ski Club Arlberg for many years to come,” stated SSCV U14 head coach Rob Worrell. “Long after their ski racing years are over the athletes involved in these exchanges will continue to reflect back on the friendships made and carry with them an impressive level of confidence for taking on new experiences near and far, knowing they can do it on their own.”