Vail Daily column: The world comes to Golden Peak
When the “world comes to Vail” for early season training and racing, someone needs to have the house in order each day for our alpine guests and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes. Alpine Program Director and longtime SSCV staff member Karen Ghent and her committed coaches, together with Vail Resorts snowmakers, groomers, patrol and lift crews, are among those out there day and night making this happen.
It never ceases to amaze me, particularly during early season training, how our alpine staff are up by 4:15 a.m. each morning, commute to Golden Peak before sunrise and load the lifts before dawn to assure training venues are living up to Golden Peak’s world class reputation. What is even more inspirational is observing these same coaches’ excitement and professionalism. After several hours of demanding physical work they greet their athletes with excitement for the start of training. Post-training, even more tasks await to prepare for the next day.
Working in collaboration with the alpine staff to assure continued excellence on the hill are SSCV Director of Operations C.B. Bechtel and, on race days, SSCV Alpine Race Coordinator P.J. Jenick, providing experienced leadership and support throughout the season.
Birds of Prey World Cup
Just as our early season training venues come to a close the SSCV alpine staff and older athletes play a critical role at the Birds of Prey World Cup in Beaver Creek from late November through early December. There, they log more early morning hours of venue preparation followed by race day course work while being exposed to the sport’s highest level of competition.
Ski racing was critical to developing the international reputation enjoyed by Vail and the reason that Ski Club Vail, now Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, was conceived 53 years ago. The club carries with it a rich history of producing U.S. Ski Team members and NCAA collegiate athletes. More importantly, it has helped produce generations of successful adults who are applying the life lessons learned through the vehicle of competitive snowsports daily.
At a national level, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association has recognized Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Alpine Program as the leader among more than 400 USSA clubs around the country, naming Ski & Snowboard Club Vail four times as the USSA Alpine Club of the Year since the award’s inception in 1999. Most recently, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail was the first ever back-to-back winner in 2014 and 2015.
What lies ahead
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail will host many exciting alpine competitions this season, including the U16 Rocky/Central Region Championships for the top 14- and 15-year-olds in the region, the NorAm Cup finals in slalom and giant slalom for the top U.S. and Canadian racers competing just below the World Cup level, numerous age class and YSL races and the complimentary Steadman Clinic Vail Cup series for the youngest of local and visiting athletes. It is great to provide our athletes a hometown venue and the opportunity to watch top-level athletes from around the world.
Alexandra Gonzales is a first year full-time U14 athlete from Mexico in seventh grade at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail academic partner Vail Mountain School. Her commitment to improving the past off-season was impressive, putting in 21 days of training on snow with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail in April, May and June.
After spending the rest of the summer in Mexico, Alexandra arrived back in Vail, where she dove into her SSCV conditioning sessions with passion and a strong work ethic. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail runs a battery of fitness assessments at the start of fall conditioning and a second time just before athletes get back on snow. Alexandra’s 39 percent improvement in a test measuring aerobic fitness was by far the largest jump seen among her peer group, reflecting her commitment and hard work. Alexandra leads the culture SSCV promotes, skiing until last chair, putting in the extra effort and always being eager, attentive and hard working.
Tucker Thomas, a first-year U16 alpine racer, is an eighth-grader at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail academic partner Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. New to the team, having moved here from Aspen this past summer, Tucker dove head first into all that being a Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete entails. Although being the “new kid” is not always easy, Tucker approached becoming part of this team with courage and humility. He attended nearly every dry-land session this summer and fall even doing double strength training sessions on his own, being extremely committed to getting physically stronger in order to be the best skier he can be. Tucker has a positive impact on everyone he encounters, coaches and fellow athletes alike. Tucker appreciates and takes full advantage of all the resources available to him at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, showing a level of maturity, commitment and individualism beyond his years.
It is a privilege to watch our alpine athletes grow as athletes and young men and women while exhibiting our core values of character, courage and commitment.