From club program director Justin Chandler's perspective, the typical pre-season commotion has been unusually well orchestrated this year, thanks to the efforts of TSSC's new crop of leaders. Longtime coaches Caleb Martin and Kirk Davis have taken the reins as new program directors for the freestyle and the snowboard programs, respectively, while relative newcomer Mike Bowman is heading up the club's alpine program, and Jamie Wienk will take over leadership of the brand new Nordic team.
"With some new blood coming into the picture, I think the club will really be able to build on our program as a whole," Chandler explains.
In addition to the club's new crew of program directors, TSSC is also unveiling two brand new programs this ski season. The new Nordic team will make its debut early this winter, as will Team Gravity, an age-specific program that will introduce the fundamentals of both alpine and freestyle skiing to kindergarten and first graders.
"Both [Nordic and Team Gravity] programs were self-evolving
things, which speaks to the evolution the club is taking," says Chandler.
This marked growth within the TSSC this season reveals the club's evolution as the largest and fastest growing non-profit kids' organization in the region. Now, meet the club's new program directors, and get a preview of what's to come this winter ski season!
Caleb Martin, Freestyle
If there is one ski coach who has witnessed the TSSC's evolution over the years, it is longtime local Caleb Martin. Martin has not only been a freestyle coach in Telluride for many years, but he is also one of the team's star athletes of yesteryear, spending eight years as a top national and world-ranking mogul skier and World Cup athlete.
Today, Martin embraces the present and future of the TSSC's Freestyle Team as he steps into the position of Freestyle Program Director. He will remain at his post as head coach of the team this season as well.
Martin reports that there will be no significant changes made to the four existing freestyle divisions. The Bumps, Jumps, and Powder program, designed for younger skiers, will continue to offer a good base for the team's newer skiers; the Junior Mogul Team will deliver more competition experience for older kids as they travel to Southwest Tour events around the region throughout the season; the oldest ski group, the Championship Team, will continue to offer the most serious mogul competition. Finally, the Freeride team will give training to those skiers wanting to get involved in the fast-growing disciplines of Pipe and Park and Big Mountain/Extreme.
What will be different this season, Martin says, is the new and bolstered coaching staff. Past Telluride Freestyle Team coach Andrew Sawyer will return to the program as a full-time coach this season, while ex-ski team athletes Jody VandenBranden and Chason Russell will be spending more time devoted to coaching this winter season.
TSSC newcomer Herb Manning will join Russell to spearhead the Big Mountain program, and new coach James Desmond, a former ski coach at Mammoth Mountain in California and Durango Mountain Resort, will step in beside head Pipe and Park coach Dan Plummer to assist with that rapidly growing program. David Cox will also join the freestyle coaching staff this year.
"The main goal across the bar is to teach solid, basic fundamental skills these kids can use for the rest of their lives," Martin explains. "All of our programs are based on the idea that young athletes should learn these ski fundamentals in a safe and fun environment."
Older freestyle team members have already started prepping for the rapidly approaching ski season with four dryland training sessions per week for the last few weeks. The younger skiers will begin dryland training twice a week beginning next week. The Championship Moguls Team and some Pipe and Park skiers will also get the opportunity to sharpen their summer-rusted skills with a few road trips scheduled for mid-November, to train at resorts like Keystone and Wolf Creek before the Telluride Ski Resort opens at Thanksgiving.
Mike Bowman, Alpine
Mike Bowman, a nationally certified, level three alpine ski coach, has had many ski seasons to refine his coaching technique and philosophy. So even though this relative Telluride newcomer has not yet had the chance to get out and coach on the slopes at Telluride, the TSSC's new alpine program director and head coach already has a good idea of what's in store for kids on Telluride's Alpine Race team.
"My goal, and the key for the whole program, is that kids have fun," Bowman says. "I want them to be looking forward to coming back to practice with the ski club every time."
As a coach for Winter Park's alpine team last winter, Bowman visited Telluride various times throughout last season for Telluride-hosted alpine races. Bowman's 12 years of coaching all levels of alpine skiers, from the very youngest gate-bashing tikes to collegiate level racers, has taught him more than a few things about running a successful alpine program.
"I have three main goals for the program; that our coaches develop good, responsible people, that they foster an environment where athletes are able to reach their full athletic potential, and that they help instill a lifelong enjoyment of the sport," he explains. "Beyond that, I want the experiences our skiers have to be fun and challenging. Teamwork is a big thing for me, too, as well as keeping younger kids interested and involved in racing."
A few new faces will join the ranks of veteran alpine coaches this winter. Aaron Strubel and Garrett Bishop will be heading up the under-14 age class program, while Tim Hackett, Rod Smith, Sarah Baskins, Kathryn Baskins, Pat Drew, and others will jump in to lend a hand. New coach Melissa Pressluber will be coming in from Austria to coach with TSSC in November, and in January Hanni and Forrest Coots will join the Telluride alpine coaching staff.
Kirk Davis, Snowboard
For more than five years, Kirk Davis has watched the TSSC's snowboard program blossom. But as a coach for the last five years, Davis has done more than idly watch the program's growth; Davis has had a hand in the evolution of TSSC's rapidly growing snowboard program.
Davis' dedication and commitment to the snowboard program over the past years as the team's head coach carved the path to his promotion this year to director. Davis has already taken his first step as director by hiring a crew of brand new snowboard coaches.
"One of the best tools I can have is a top-notch staff, and my focus this summer has been to assemble that group. It's important to me that the coaches have a good sense of fun and have a good working knowledge of fundamentals and the patience to teach them," Davis says.
This year's top-notch staff includes Wyatt Glenn and Claire Nash. Native Telluride snowboarder Glenn has spent the last four years as a professional rider based out of Breckenridge. Nash will be coming to Telluride from New Zealand.
"This winter, I'd like the focus to be on the coaches really working with the kids, but in an environment that's not too serious and always fun," Davis says.
Six local snowboard competitions have been scheduled for the 2005-06 season as a part of the USASA's Southwest Series. Davis anticipates his riders to have more travel opportunities this year as well, which he sees as a vital tool in their training process.
"There has been a competition field bubble in Telluride for a while, so my goal is to get our competitors exposed to different levels of competition at other resorts. Travel can be a real eye opener for kids living here, plus it gives them opportunities to compete against other athletes and make new friends," he says.
Davis has already arranged at trip to Jackson Hole in February, and anticipates that some of the team's riders will get qualified to compete in the season-ending National Championships, which will be held in California's North Star at Tahoe ski area. He reports that the snowboard team is already boasting their biggest number ever in dryland training participation.
Jamie Wienk, Nordic
A kind of magnetism has recently materialized around the sport of Nordic skiing in circles of young local athletes. That draw may very well have been instigated by Nordic skier and coach Jamie Wienk.
After relocating to Telluride from Durango last winter, Wienk began her local coaching career with the Telluride Schools Ski P.E. program and as a coach for the Telluride Nordic Association. This winter, Wienk will help debut the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club's new competitive Nordic skiing branch as program director and head coach.
"I think that [the new Nordic program] grew out of an increase in overall interest in the sport in the community," Wienk explains. "Nordic skiing is a great test of athleticism, and since there are so many athletic kids in this valley already I believe a lot of them could benefit from it in all their other sports."
Wienk's coaching philosophy and passion for Nordic converge at the very origin of skiing. She notes that, as the foundation style of skiing from which all other types evolved, Nordic skiing is a technique-driven sport whose benefits spill over into all other activities.
"My philosophy for kids who have never been Nordic skiing is to let them figure it out and see what they can do. Then we start teaching classic techniques and progress on to skating. The two techniques require a lot of balance, skill and concentration, but if you take them through the progression properly, they just take off on their own," Wienk explains.
Although this winter marks the inaugural year for the Nordic program, Wienk plans to see the Nordic team's competitive side take off in the future. Among the races she hopes the new team will attend are the Coke Series races in Durango, which is a local fun-oriented series. She hopes the team may be able to attend other Intermountain and Rocky Mountain division races as the season progresses as well.
Ultimately, however, Wienk feels that simply having a Nordic team under the TSSC umbrella is a great boost to the future of Nordic skiing the community as a whole. "This is a sport that will grow throughout the community through the kids," she says. "If the kids get involved, then the adults will get involved, and then we'll see an even greater interest in Nordic locally and Telluride could even become a great destination for Nordic skiers from other places."
To register for a TSSC program, or for more information, visit www.tssc.org or call 728-6163.