VAIL, Colo. — In a continuing effort to make high-performance alpine ski racing more accessible to athletes and their families, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) recently announced a new initiative to help lower the cost of preseason training while keeping athletes closer to home.
The Youth Alpine Preseason Training Initiative, coupled with SSCV’s full-time programming, will provide 65 days of training within a day’s drive of the Vail Valley for Age Class racers (U14s and younger) prior to their first race. SSCV will utilize neighboring resorts, Loveland Ski Area and Keystone Resort, as well as potentially expanded terrain on Vail Mountain, to fulfill these training days.
Studies, including a 2016 survey by Dan Leever, have concluded that training volume at an early age is critical to reaching and thriving at elite levels of the sport, including the World Cup. A significant number of training days outside the sport’s regular competition season is essential in developing these athletes. The Leever study also emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of “ski days when snow is on the ground,” rather than traveling to distant locations to chase snow throughout the summer.
In the past, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has encouraged Age Class athletes to travel out of state and internationally to distant training sites, such as Mount Bachelor, Mount Hood, Europe and New Zealand. Under this new initiative, SSCV will achieve the same volume of preseason training entirely from home, greatly reducing travel costs, boarding costs and other expenses associated with these more distant camps.
“SSCV’s goal is to utilize Colorado’s spring and fall snow, thus eliminating a need for summer camps,” said SSCV Chief Operating Officer John Hale, who oversees the club’s youth alpine development. “We have gone through extensive efforts to create a calendar for our upcoming prep period that provides 65 days of on-snow training — all from home and at significantly reduced cost to our families. We understand that ski racing can be expensive, but with advanced planning, it is possible to take advantage of the resources we have right here in Colorado, to maximize performance and minimize cost.”
SSCV will offer this preseason program to its youth alpine athletes ahead of the 2019-20 season for a flat rate of $1,995. With a total of 44 training days included in the preseason package, this amounts to an aggregate cost of roughly $45 per day working with some of the best coaches in the country. Compared to out-of-state camps, which routinely cost upwards of $300 per day, plus travel expenses, this flat-rate, home-based preseason training program represents one of SSCV’s most significant efforts to reduce the cost of high-performance alpine ski racing without sacrificing quality.
The Youth Alpine Preseason Training Initiative coincides with a recent effort to beef up the youth alpine development staff at SSCV in advance of the 2018-19 season. On the U14-and-younger roster this season, the club has enlisted World Cup veterans, former U.S. Ski Team personnel, a USSA Coach of Year, and a PSIA Demo Team captain, among others, to bolster the quality of coaching within the youth alpine ranks.
Additional cost-saving measures have included partnering with Red Sandstone Elementary School to provide a customized academic program that caters to the unique schedules of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who ski race on a full-time basis. Modeled after the popular Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, the Red Sandstone partnership provides a public-school option, making the ski-racing lifestyle more accessible to more families.
As a club, SSCV believes no athlete should be restricted from participating in its programs for financial reasons. Therefore, SSCV has augmented its efforts to provide financial aid up to 75 percent of program fees through the club’s scholarship fund.
SSCV’s youth alpine prep period, which previously began at Mount Bachelor in June, will now commence in April by taking advantage of high-elevation snowpack in Colorado throughout the spring. SSCV is also hopeful that the Golden Peak Improvement Project will be confirmed by the U.S. Forest Service with construction beginning during the summer of 2019, which would open more possibilities for the program to remain on its home mountain during the fall of 2019.
“If you look at all the greats in snowsport competition, all of them have one thing in common: a lot of time on snow during the golden age of skill development, which is generally begins at age eight for girls and age nine for boys,” says SSCV Executive Director Kirk Dwyer, who oversaw the development of Mikaela Shiffrin during her high-school years. “Children as young as age six can benefit from higher frequency on snow, as this is the early phase of skill development. This new youth alpine initiative will provide the necessary training volume to our youth athletes at a significantly reduced cost.”