Big Lights, Big Air, Big Fun

It was a big show of big air at Dollar Thursday night

It was a big show of big air at Dollar Thursday night

Thursday night, you could smell the party on Dollar way before you could see it. Burgers sizzling by the dozen on outdoor grills enveloped Carol’s Dollar Lodge, right down to the parking lot, in a mouth-watering haze. But it was also hard to miss the sights and sounds of the “Big Air” contest going on beneath the lights on a cold, clear late winter’s night.

Two mammoth klieg lights flooded the awesome jumps beside the Half Dollar lift, spotlighting a “Big Air” contest featuring athletes from this week’s 35th Annual US Collegiate Ski & Snowboard National (USCSA) Championship. Midway through the five-day event, competitors turned up the adrenalin and embraced the opportunity to spend an evening with their fellow athletes.

USCSA athletes worked up appetites as big as the jumps during the week's events

USCSA athletes worked up appetites as big as the jumps during the week's events

The Big Air contest showcased freestyle skiers and snowboarders who qualified for the event by submitting a video to USCSA. Eight daredevils took to the jumps, wowing the crowd with eye-popping tricks and some seriously big air. Many athletes and their families hiked up the hill to catch the action from an in-your-face vantage point. The crowd was three deep from the crest of Half Dollar to the base of the Lodge.

Those not halfway up the hill, enjoyed the action from the outdoor barbecue outside the Lodge’s back doors. Having competed hard for three days, this gathering was the opportunity to gather and relax at a casual athlete reception. The more than 500 competitors from 65 teams visiting Sun Valley were all invited to the event and mixed and mingled with friends new and old. Food, from those succulent burgers to Sun Valley’s famous chocolate chip cookies, was plentiful and conversations were animated. Laughter rebounded from the slopes in every direction.

The athlete reception was a great chance to relax, mix and mingle

The athlete reception was a great chance to relax, mix and mingle

The USCSA Nationals wraps up on Saturday with a full schedule. The Dual Slalom Alpine race kicks into gear at 10:15 a.m. on Baldy’s Greyhawk run. For the many cross-country skiers racing for glory, the final 3 x 5 relays take place at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Snowboarders finish the competition on Greyhawk with a Giant Slalom race at 9:30 a.m. All disciplines will celebrate podiums and great results at the final awards ceremony at 4 p.m. on the Sun Valley Lodge Terrace.

According to Sun Valley Technical/Program Director and Race Department Manager Nick Maricich, the event is ending on a high note (no pun intended). “The Snowboard Giant Slalom will be a rare chance to see this Olympic event live,” he said. “On the Alpine side, the Dual Slalom should prove to be the most exciting Alpine event of the competition.”

A thoroughly unscientific survey of athletes, their families, Sun Valley Resort ambassadors and visitors Thursday night gave the entire week a huge thumbs up. Students said they enjoyed the large field of competitors and felt challenged, in a good way, by Sun Valley’s fast runs and big terrain features. Many also commented that the free-skiing and boarding was “epic.” The schedule permitted time for kids to just be kids and to play in the snow.

All eyes were on the big jumps and the big air

All eyes were on the big jumps and the big air

Nick said, “the athletes on the Alpine side said that the pre-race training was the best they have had all year and that the race venues were world class. The overall feeling was that the surface and pitch were amazing and they can’t wait to come back. I also heard great feedback on the  22-foot Halfpipe, the Terrain Park and the cross-country course. Sun Valley did it right!”

Go out on Saturday and support these athletes from as far away as Massachusetts, South Carolina, Illinois, California and British Columbia. The energy the college students, their coaches, families and friends brought to town and the slopes this week was palpable. We invite all USCSA competitors and their families to come back and see us again soon!

As Nick said, “Sun Valley is ecstatic to have top college athletes here and we feel that events such as these are important to our future. Any time we can introduce Sun Valley to some of the brightest young athletes in the country, we know we have invested in what comes next.”

Athletes relax at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge, a brief respite in a week of strong competition

Athletes relax at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge, a brief respite in a week of strong competition

Next up? The Rev Tour. Stay tuned for more information about this amazing event that is coming to town. There’s no way around it — things are happening in Sun Valley!

–RES

Sun Valley University

On Tuesday, it was off the races for USCSA competitors

On Tuesday, it was off the races for USCSA competitors

If it seems like there is a lot of youthful energy and exuberance on Dollar and Baldy, at the Nordic Center and in town right now, there is. More than 500 competitors from 65 colleges and universities across the nation are in town competing in the 35th Annual US Collegiate Ski & Snowboard National (USCSA) Championship. Returning for the second year to the slopes of Sun Valley, this five-day competition is kicking it into high gear from Greyhawk, to the Terrain Park, to Sun Valley’s mammoth 22-foot halfpipe.

The big jump contest will happen under the lights on Dollar on Thursday night

The big jump contest will happen under the lights on Dollar on Thursday night

Athletes across all four disciplines of Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding are here to lay claim to the title of the top collegiate team in the country. Competition is fierce. Today, the USCSA is hosting events in Alpine racing, Cross-Country, Snowboarding and Ski Cross. This morning’s fresh cover of snow provided a few new inches of powder, and an inspiring wintry feel.

Yesterday, two skiers from Sierra Nevada College took first and second in the women’s alpine giant slalom on opening day. By all accounts, the lightning fast snow was big fun for the racers on Baldy’s Greyhawk run.

And according to Laura Sullivan, Executive Director for the USCSA national organization, in general, the kids are “ecstatic.” She said, “many would not have come to Sun Valley without this event and they didn’t know what to expect. When they got here and saw the Terrain Park, the halfpipe, the great runs, they were beyond excited. The kids who came last year were very positive about their experience and got the word out – Sun Valley is awesome!” We may have a few soon-to-be-locals in the group as Laura said a mem, inviting students to learn about summer job opportunities at Sun Valley has been met with a great response.

Thursday, everyone is invited to Dollar Mountain for a “big air” contest under the lights. Athletes will be showing off their most impressive Slopestyle tricks, all under huge klieg lights. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. and everyone is invited to come to Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge to check it out.

On Saturday, the USCSA is bringing back team Dual Slalom, something Laura said they are very excited about. “The event starts at 9 a.m. and it’s a team event with qualifying races to finals. It should be terrific.”

College Cross-country racers are loving the Nordic Center and Sun Valley's amazing grooming

College Cross-country racers are loving the Nordic Center and Sun Valley's amazing grooming

Off the snow, the visiting athletes are having nearly as much fun as on the slopes. “Many of the kids are impressed with the tradition of the Sun Valley Lodge,” Laura said. “They like downtown Ketchum and appreciate that it’s a walking town. Many of the cross-country athletes have never seen a Nordic Center as nice as this one.”

Laura said USCSA is also appreciative of the 180 local volunteers that have come out to help the 45 people who came to Sun Valley to help with events.

To check out the action for yourself, and to cheer on the athletes, look no further than the base of the runs off the Greyhawk chair, the jumps and halfpipe on Dollar, or the Ski Cross course wending down skier’s right of that mountain. You can also catch a live video feed of the events HERE.

–RES

Greyhawk was running fast on Tuesday

Greyhawk was running fast on Tuesday

A full list of participating schools follows:

Appalachian State University, Babson College, Boston College, Brown University, Cal State Fresno, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Sacramento, Castleton State College, Clarkson University, Colorado Mesa University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University, Hobart College, James Madison University, Lafayette College, Liberty University, Loyola Marymount University, Marquette University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, Northern Michigan University, Northwestern University, Oregon State University – Cascades, Pennsylvania State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rocky Mountain College, Rutgers University, Saint Anselm College, Sierra Nevada College, Skidmore College, Smith College, St. Olaf College, Stanford University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, The College of Idaho, The Ohio State University, United States Air Force Academy, United States Naval Academy, University of British Columbia, UCLA, UC Berkley, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, University of Colorado – Boulder, University of Idaho, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota – Duluth, University of Nevada, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wyoming, Virginia Tech, Viterbo University and Western Michigan University.