Vonn sets standard for Vail club
VAIL – Just past 6:30 a.m., there is the faintest morning light in the eastern sky as teenagers in Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s alpine race program begin arriving for a morning of training before school.Just inside the clubhouse entrance are two huge pictures of former club racer Lindsey Vonn. One shows her cuddling the World Cup overall trophies she won the past two seasons, and the other shows her tucking a downhill course in full-attack mode. They’re proud of her here, as they should be.”Lindsey is a great ambassador for her hometown of Vail and for our club, where she grew up and honed her skills before she moved to the national team,” said Aldo Radamus, a former U.S. Ski Team coach who is executive director of SSCV. “Lindsey is the Michael Phelps of this Winter Games, in terms of the visibility she’s going to have and the level of awareness around the world of her.”But having an alumna emerge as the world’s best female ski racer is just one of the unique advantages of being a SSCV racer these days.Thanks to a fundraising campaign, SSCV this year was able to invest $3 million in snowmaking machinery at its Golden Peak race arena. By the time Vail opened to the public Friday, club racers already had 16 days of training at Golden Peak. Last year the kids in the club didn’t get to run gates until mid-December.”It’s an absolute game-changer for our club to be able to have our kids begin to ski and train at home as early as the beginning of November,” Radamus said.Club racers also have been able to watch Vonn train for the World Cup season. Sean McCormick, 16, has been studying her work habits for tips that could help him realize his goal of making the U.S. Ski Team.”You can definitely see how hard she’s working at the start, her focus,” McCormick said. “It just makes you want it so much more too. She did it, so why can’t I do it?”A decade ago, Vonn was here training every day, inspired by Picabo Street. Now Vonn is the inspiration.”Being able to see her definitely helps,” said racer Anne Strong, also 16. “It definitely serves as motivation to know she’s in the gym every day and on the bike five to six hours. Kids our age can’t do that because we have school, but it makes us work harder.”On Thursday, the SSCV kids shared their training venue with women from the Swiss and Slovenian World Cup teams. Previously the SSCV kids have gotten to observe the U.S. men’s and women’s speed teams, including Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso.The group, including Strong and McCormick, trained from 7-10 a.m., then nibbled on bag lunches and watched video of their session. After video many got on a school bus to attend the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy from 1:45-5:30 p.m. The school in Min- turn is part of the Eagle County system, with a class schedule that allows for morning ski training.Contrary to those who love to predict the decline and demise of alpine racing, Radamus says about 250 of SSCV’s 450 members are alpine racers, with another 75 or so in nordic racing. There are about 60 in freestyle moguls, maybe 40 in the club’s “free ride” program (halfpipe, terrain park and big-mountain skiing).Ski racing is expensive because of the cost of training, traveling to races and the need for multiple pairs of skis (SSCV fees vary widely, depending on the program and the child’s county of residence). Radamus is determined to make sure lack of financial wherewithal isn’t an impediment to kids who really want to compete.”Our long-term goal is to have a significant endowment to make sure any kid who is growing up here – the son or daughter of a ski instructor, or a waitress in one of the on-mountain restaurants, or a night watchman at one of the hotels – if they want to pursue their dreams in skiing and snowboarding, that not only can we involve them in the club and help coach them, but we can help support them all the way up the pipeline to the top.”
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