But having a world-class ski mountain in their backyard isn’t the only reason Telluride’s skiers and snowboarders consistently earn ski-world acclaim. Those lucky enough to grow up in Telluride have another important advantage: An outstanding youth ski and snowboard program.
The Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club has been priming Telluride’s youth for the big time for decades, consistently sending its progeny to the upper echelons of the competitive ski world. TSSC has seen its students win National Championships, finish among top athletes at World Cup events, and has even sent some of its best to train with the U.S. Ski Team, as well as star in big-name ski movies.
But grooming the next ski or snowboard virtuoso isn’t all TSSC is about.
“TSSC helps cultivate successful, healthy individuals with high self esteem and a strong work ethic, " said TSSC Executive Director Justin Chandler. "We teach dedication and focus, which will serve them well later in life, regardless of whether or not they become a professional skier or rider,” said.
In staying with its mission of providing quality instruction to kids of all levels and backgrounds, TSSC provides scholarships for its students. This year the non-profit organization allocated over $35,000 for financial assistance, awarding four additional scholarships from the recently created Captain Jack Memorial Scholarship Fund (in memory of longtime Telluride resident and TSSC supporter “Captain” Jack Carey). Carter and Gemma Andrew of Team Gravity, freestyle skier Cedar Palmer, and the Alpine race team’s Evan Glenn all received Captain Jack scholarships this season.
TSSC has three main teams – alpine, freestyle, and snowboard – which provide coaching for around 275 students each season ranging in age from six to 20 years.
Snowboard Team on the Up-and-Up
TSSC grad and former National Champion Dylan Cooney will again lead the snowboard team this year, alongside his sister Molly (also a TSSC alumnus). Crowned the United States of America Snowboarding Association (USASA) overall national snowboarding champion last season, Molly Cooney steps up this season to become TSSC assistant snowboard coach.
When most of the world’s best parallel giant slalom and boardercross athletes converged on Telluride last December for the resort’s first-ever World Cup competition, TSSC’s snowboard team got more than just an opportunity to watch the world’s best snowboarders from the sidelines. Some team members had the opportunity to train side-by-side with U.S. Snowboard Team athletes during the event. Whether the star-studded event helped amplify interest in snowboarding locally is anyone’s guess, but this season’s youth snowboard team is bigger than ever – nearly twice as big as last year, with 20 riders.
TSSC members will again have the chance to get up-close and personal with some of snowboarding’s biggest names as Telluride hosts the World Cup again this year, Dec. 15-18. Like last year, Telluride is hosting the only United States-based World Cup Snowboard event.
“Interest in snowboarding has jumped up quite a bit,” Dylan Cooney said. With more contests on the snowboard team’s agenda this year, he’s looking forward to a great winter. “The level of riding on the team is phenomenal this year and the overall spirit is very positive, which is exciting.”
Freestyle Team Continues Reign
TSSC’s freestyle team got its moment in the spotlight last season when TSSC-trained mogul skier and current U.S. Ski Team member Joe Discoe won the U.S. Freestyle National Championship, the country’s preeminent freestyle event.
Meanwhile, back at home his old coach (and Telluride-bred, ex-World Cup mogul skier) Caleb Martin was winning accolades of his own. Martin was named the United States Freestyle Coach of the Year, thanks in part to a flurry of exceptional finishes from his TSSC trained skiers.
Wade Parkinson was named to the U.S. Ski Team Development Group – or “D Team,” while teammate Zak Watkins missed the U.S. Team by .03 points. Other team members Keaton McCargo and Lindsey Cannon won invitations to join Parkinson and Watkins at the U.S. Selection events in Steamboat Springs this December, where each will vie for U.S. Team selection and/or NorAm team selection.
For his part, U.S. National Champion Discoe will join his brother Jimmy on the World Cup circuit this year. Both will attend the World Cup season opener in Ruka, Finland, then will head to Mirabel, France, and then to Beida Lake, China.
Additionally, 2010 Junior Olympic Champion Troy Tulley, originally of New York, will join the TSSC Champ Mogul team this season, making his TSSC debut at the upcoming Selection events.
“We are excited to have an athlete of his caliber choose TSSC, as he had the choice of going anywhere in the country this season,” Martin said of Tulley.
With such luminary idols to look up to (and ski behind on home turf), the junior mogul team is also looking forward to an exciting season, as are the fast-developing free ride and free skiing teams, led by coaches Chason Russell, Dan Plumber and Jake Anderson.
Alpine Team Growing Into Its Own
Last season, longtime TSSC racer Victor Major competed at the U.S. National Alpine Championships – the first time in the organization’s history that one of its members reached the highest level of U.S. ski racing competition.
Major has since graduated to the Team Summit program, but he has left a hefty reputation in his wake among the alpine team’s younger up-and-coming members.
“We’re developing athletes that are staying on the team longer, and deciding they are enjoying competition and getting more involved," said coach Mike Bowman, who was recently named Chairman of the Rocky Mountain Alpine Competition Committee, the group that oversees alpine ski racing competition and development in the entire Rocky Mountain region. "I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the strength of Telluride as a competitive team,” he said.
With Milk Run, one of the country’s best and burliest race courses, as their training grounds, TSSC’s alpine racers are indeed poised for greatness, as evidenced by the team’s steady climbing of the ranks in the ultra-competitive national youth alpine racing world. Local Hayden Fake was recently invited to train at the annual Birds of Prey ski camp, held after the World Cup races in December in Beaver Creek. The camp, of which Bowman is also a lead coach, brings together the nation’s highest-ranked J2 division skiers for specialized training.
Fake isn’t the only skier expected to receive accolades this winter, either. “We really have strength in all the age groups this year, with really good skiers in every group from age seven to 17,” said Bowman.