Grounded in Glory
Grounded in GloryTwisting, jumping and grabbing fullspeed through another season of competition, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Snowboarding Team continues to rack up honors. Rather than exploding onto the scene at its 1989 inception, the program slid quietlyinto its place at the existing club. Now, more than a decade later, the team possesses an unbeatable recipe of talent, perseverance and good-hearted chutzpah preceded by a reputation for consistent top finishes wherever it rides. Repeatedly stellar performances have shown more than a glimmer that the best isyet to come as both the team and snowboarding come of age. And what better place to mature than the hamlet of Steamboat Springs, which was dubbed �Ski Town USA'� in 1947 and has produced approximately 50 Olympic athletes to date? "As far as Steamboat and competitions, what we've seen over the years in skiing ishappening in snowboarding," says Marty Carrigan, national sales manager for Palmer Snowboards and parent of two teenage riders on the team. "The team is on the verge of greatness." In 12 years, the snowboard program has grown from ten members to 80. Forty-fiveathletes fall into the development category, those learning technical skills but not competing. The remaining 35 are freestyle competitors (halfpipe and big air) or alpine racers (slalom, GS and boardercross). Last year's program director and head alpine coach Mike Mallon, plus head freestylecoach Spencer Tamblyn and the club's 12 other snowboard coaches, see unlimited potential as the team develops. Portions of the 2002 Olympic snowboard team will be assembled based on five qualifying events that wrap up on Jan. 12. Mike estimates that ten Steamboat riders will be invited to participatein the qualifiers, with several making a good run at the Olympic team. "It's hard to say right now, but we have a couple of riders in the hunt," Mike says. Though the idea of another Olympic flag hanging high at Olympian Hall is the stuff of daydreams, program leaders and coaches emphasize that the objectives lie not in gold medals, but in maintaining the healthy philosophies that the snowboard team adopted from existing Winter Sports Club values. "It's about more than Olympic hopefuls. We want to emphasize the opportunitiesthat our program provides youth. We're providing opportunities for athletes to set goals, reach those goals and be successful," Mike says. "It's never about winning or losing, just being your best. We never ask during a competition, �What place are you in?' It's always �Howas your run?'" "The club emphasizes building self confidence, sportsmanship and self esteem," says Winter Sports Club Director Rick DeVos. "Our mission is to provide an opportunity for young athletes to become successful individuals and achieve their personal goals through participation in winter sports." Members agree that as far as snowboarding goes, Steamboat offers the full package. Keenan Rice recently graduated from high school and retired from the club after competingwith the team for four years. "It's a great experience," he says. "The coaches have a snowboarding background. They give you a great foundation for learning hoto compete. It's all about just having fun and snowboarding. If you're doing well and progressing, the emphasis is still just �have fun.'" The team was born at a time when the snowsports industry didn't quite knowhatto make of a nesport that, mimicking the California skate scene, came accompanied by a brash and rebellious reputation. "It was a sloevolution. Snowboarders were a minority then," says Tom Barr, a past coach who co-founded the team with longtime local Randy Havens. "But adding snowboarding to the Winter Sports Club was a natural progression. A lot of learning had to go on at first. A lot of coaches in other clubs were skiers, not riders. The industry in general had to get experience with snowboarding;a lot of experimentation by athletes and coaches had to take place." Early club members traveled the state participating in small events. "We weren't asdeep then. There wasn't a lot of dryland and off-season training. Noat a race, Steamboat has five or six in the top 10," Tom says. Steamboat is known for top placement at major competitions nationwide. At the U.S. Amateur Snowboard Association Nationals hosted by Mammoth Mountain last year, Steamboat qualified 25 athletes out of a field of 2,500 competitors. Of those, local riders posted 30 podium results. The club gave each of the local competitors at nationals a bright yellojacket. "Itwas like there was bright yelloall over the podium, every time," Mike recalls. In the tight-knit snowboarding community, Steamboat's team has distinguished itself from 30 similar programs nationwide. It was named Program of the Year by the U.S. Snowboarding Association after the 2000/2001 season. Mike was also honored as Coach of the Year at the awards ceremonynin Park City. This came on the heels of the Winter Sports Club earning the distinction asU.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Club of the Year for the 1998/1999 season. The support of the Steamboat Springs community has been as unwavering forsnowboarding as it has been for its first love, skiing. "It goes back to the whole history of Steamboat," Marty says. "The whole community supports athletics. The whole atmosphere is positive for athletes training." Marty is also quick to note that the can-do attitudes of the coaches have exceeded expectations. "Mike Mallon did this crazy schedule one time. He took the kids to the East Coast for a Sunday River event. Then he fleinto Reno and caught two days of the Mammoth Nationals, then hopped a plane to Italy for Junior Worlds," Marty says. "I hope he gets to enjoy the frequent flyer miles." Rick credits the local school systems for providing flexible hours for all of the club's600 kids. "The club is tied in strongly with the school systems. Kids are on skier schedules. They go in earlier and get breaks. They can travel and make up work. But grades play a big role. If kids don't keep their grades up, they're not on the teams." Olympic breezes are blowing through town, and locals are betting that someonecatches a ride on one. Yet, while reaching for the stars, snowboard team members and coaches have been able to cultivate the stuff of real champions: a grounded, wellrounded attitude that indicates that there are no losses.