Vail Daily column: Growing up with ski racing
There is excitement around Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s alpine racing program, some resulting from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alumni and U.S. Ski Team members Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, Will Gregorak, Paula Moltzan, Abby Ghent, Katharine Irwin and the upcoming Olympics in Sochi. It is also in large part because of the committed, knowledgeable and professional coaching staff, world-class venues, year-round on- and off-snow programming and three academic partner options at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, Vail Mountain School and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Winter Tutorial to support our full-time athletes starting as young as fifth grade.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail offers full-time and part-time alpine racing programs for children of all ages and abilities, from 6 to college graduates, vying for a spot on the U.S. Ski Team. We are most grateful to Vail Resorts for providing a dedicated training venue at Golden Peak for our snowsports athletes. Multiple age-appropriate slalom, giant slalom and super-G training courses are available on any given training day at Golden Peak, supplemented by thousands of acres of freesking terrain, the most important part of the alpine training program. Following the recent highly successful World Cups on the Raptor and Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek, our athletes were able to conduct speed progressions experiencing some of the world’s best downhill courses. With on-snow time a critical ingredient to success in alpine racing, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes have an incredible advantage being able to ski on Golden Peak from early November and taking advantage of spring snow nearby through May. Additional preparation period camps are conducted in Oregon, the Southern Hemisphere and on the glaciers of Europe for the top athletes.
The exposure our athletes have to the world’s top ski racers, both training alongside their heroes on Golden Peak and watching them compete in the World Cup and next year’s World Championships, is an advantage available to no other alpine programs in the world.
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Our alpine programs are under the leadership of Karen Ghent, director. A former U.S. Alpine Team member, USSA Level III certified coach and USSA’s Domestic Coach of the Year in 2009, Ghent’s background as an experienced alpine athlete, coach and parent of three Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alumni provides her with a highly specialized skill set for carrying out the club’s philosophy of creating a fun, supportive environment for learning the fundamentals while developing a lifelong love for the sport and maximizing individual potential. Age and skill appropriate program competition opportunities abound for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s ski racers under the leadership of more than 40 alpine coaches.
There is much more than what meets the eye on snow in assuring the success of an alpine racer. Video analysis, strength training and conditioning, nutrition counseling, sports psychology and equipment preparation are among other critical components for alpine athletes, providing them with the age appropriate physical and mental attributes needed to attain peak performance.
Annually, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail hosts alpine competitions for each age and ability of our athletes from the Steadman Clinic Vail Cup to the MacDermid Cup Nor-Am Cup taking place in Vail this week. Consisting of two men’s and ladies’ giant slalom and slalom competitions at Golden Peak, the top alpine racers in North America are vying for World Cup spots and national team nomination.
A number of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail current and alumni athletes are racing in the Nor-Am Cup here in Vail this week. I encourage you to come on out as a volunteer (no experience necessary for a number of positions) or a spectator to see some of the best ski racing just shy of the World Cup level that our valley has to offer. Details are available at http://www.skiclubvail.org.
More than anything, growing up ski racing in the Vail Valley is a great way to learn a love of the outdoors, snow sports and an active lifestyle while learning invaluable life lessons about character, courage and commitment.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.