A group of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail U14 alpine skiers recently returned from an exchange program with St. Anton Ski Club Arlberg. The program, which is in its inaugural season, brought athletes from the Arlberg to Vail in November. Then, earlier this month, SSCV racers were able to take advantage of the reciprocal relationship to experience one of the world’s most legendary resorts.

On both occasions, athletes were housed in participating families’ homes, which not only cuts down on the expense, but also provides a true, immersive cultural experience. Thanks to the reciprocal relationship with Ski Club Arlberg, all costs associated with training in Lech and St. Anton, including housing, meals, lift tickets, and training, were complementary for SSCV families.

“This is an amazing program that is going to benefit both clubs for years to come,” said SSCV Chief Operating Officer John Hale, who was on the trip. “We want to thank in particular Ludwig Kurz, former mayor of Vail, and David Viele for bringing the idea to us, as well as Daniel Huber and the staff and members at Ski Club Arlberg for rolling out the red carpet and making us feel more than at home. Also a huge thanks to coaches Pat Duran and Andrew Jensen for facilitating a magical experience for our athletes.”

When Arlberg athletes came to the U.S. in November, they were, not only, able to train all week on Golden Peak, but also, visited Breckenridge for the day and took in the sights and sounds of World Cup racing in Beaver Creek. November in Colorado is like the center of the ski racing universe with elite athletes from all over the world coming to the High Rockies for training and racing, so it was a perfect time to make that exchange.

“They were able to catch the Birds of Prey, which was really cool,” said SSCV U14 coach Pat Duran, who was part of the exchange trip. “(Arlberg) had a couple alumni racing in Beaver Creek, so that was cool to see. … They did a free ski day at Breckenridge, got some good early season training in and watched the World Cup, so it was a really fun experience.

“When they come to Vail during that time of year, the whole world of ski racing is here. They’ve seen the Austrians, but they haven’t seen everyone all together, like it is in Colorado in November and December. They come from one of the most well-known resorts in Austria and then they come over here to see one of the best-known resorts in America.”

On SSCV’s trip over to the Arlberg, half of the athletes stayed in St. Anton, and the other half stayed in Lech — easily connected by van, but more fun to ski between the two villages.

“When we went over there, for our kids, the ski club just runs so deep, which was cool to see,” said Duran. “Every day, we were invited to go to lunch at one of these restaurants on the mountain, the owners were always supporters of Ski Club Arlberg.”

The group enjoyed free skiing in the mornings and training in the afternoons. It was mostly bluebird conditions, which made for a productive week. The team was also able to train at night under the lights on the World Championship venue at St. Anton, which continues to host women’s races at the World Cup level.

“One day, we started free skiing at 8:30, finished at 5, and then had an under-the-light session in St. Anton on the World Championship hill from 6 to 8, so it was a long day,” said Duran.

The team finished up the trip with a stop off at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee and caught the recent women’s World Cup race that took place there a couple weeks ago.

“A lot of the girls on our team had never seen a women’s World Cup,” said Duran. “We were staying right in a hotel with all the World Cup ladies and had good interaction with all the U.S. Ski Team athletes, so that was a really good team-building experience for the Vail crew. And it was especially cool for a lot of the girls to see how pro the women’s tour is, a really good eye-opener for everyone in the group.”