Shot of the Week: Flipping over for the Freestyle Spectacular

Don’t miss all the high flying action at this weekend’s Sun Valley Freestyle Spectacular! Friday’s events include the Slopestyle Competition, with  Saturday and Sunday featuring some of  the nation’s best in  mogul and double mogul competitions. For more info call 208.726.4129. Conor Davis photo courtesy of SVSEF.

Divas: What I Learned from Skiing

Jonna Mendes showing off her Olympic form.

A chat with Olympian, National Champion, former US Ski team member, and Sun Valley Ski Academy Director of Recruitment Jonna Mendes.

By Katie Matteson

Two-time Olympian and four-time National Champion, Jonna Mendes knows a thing or two about skiing. Skiing since she was three and a member of the Heavenly Ski Foundation‘s Alpine Team since she was eight-years-old, Jonna worked hard to balance skiing and academics throughout her youth and her career, learning the values of time management, hard work and sacrifice.

Now, as the Recruiting Director for the new Sun Valley Ski Academy  (SVSA), which provides housing, academics and winter sports opportunities in conjunction with the Community School and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), she gets to help young athletes achieve their dreams in a balance, supportive atmosphere in a community where skiing is life. Jonna talked with Lift Line about growing up in a ski town and some of the positive things happening in the Sun Valley ski community.

 "Time management. That was singly the most important thing I learned from skiing," she says. "Balancing elite-level skiing, maintaining good grades and traveling, it is hard not to see how important ski racing can be to kids. Beyond that it was about confidence and travel. All have been things that carried straight through to college and into my professional life."

"My parents wanted me out of their hair," Jonna jokes about her introduction to skiing. "Learning to ski, like so many other kids raised in a ski town, is a form of daycare. I first learned to ski when I was three and as soon as I could, at the age of eight, I joined the Development Team of the Heavenly Ski Foundation. Now, my 17-month-old already walks around the house with his skis on. There are so many life skills to be learned on the mountain, so I do really hope he skis competitively."

 "It’s amazing it didn’t happen sooner," she says of the new ski academy. "So many incredible skiers have come out of and through Sun Valley, it’s amazing there wasn’t already a ski academy. Now that the buzz is just beginning, I can only imagine the places the SVSA will go. Sun Valley has the skiing and the community. The SVSEF has the world class athletics and the Community School has the stellar academics."

"The Cross-Country and the Alpine programs here are so strong.," Jonna  syas. "Everything from the training to the competition opportunities, it is amazing."

"The other day I watched the freestyle kids stay in the park for 4 and half hours straight. The coaches had to make them take a break. The freestyle program is becoming a bigger and bigger reason that kids want to come here," she says. "The new facilities that SVCo has created are a big draw for snowboarders and freestyle skiers.

"The biggest benefit of the SVSA is that there are NO COMPROMISES," Jonna proudly states. "If they came to the SVSA, young athletes wouldn’t have to sacrifice one thing to make another work. Instead, it is just about if you will apply yourself academically and in your training, you’ll succeed. There is no rushing through the school week, getting in a car, driving to the mountain, rushing back. It is all at their fingertips. And they have the support that the need to take advantage of everything the SVSA, the SVSEF, the Community School and the town has to offer."

I may have been on the US Ski Team, competed on the World Cup and raced in the Olympics but before that I was just like the SVSEF kids, a rug rat on the mountain giggling and laughing," Jonna recalls. "All of my achievements have been because of people who supported me, the coaches, the scholarships I received, the teachers…It is important to understand what a difference it made in my life and what a difference it can make in the life of all the athletes at the SVSA."

SHOT OF THE WEEK: Jeremy Black in the Pipe at Dollar

Photograph by Tal Roberts Photography

Jeremy Black hitting the pipe at Dollar Mountain

USA Cycling Nationals – July 15


Sun Valley Ski Club Championships on Cozy!

Sun Valley Ski Club Championship Giant Slalom Race on Cozy begins at 10am. For more information, comntact the Sun Valley Ski Club at (208) 622-3003 or

Musician Dave Mason to perform at River Run on July 21

A Celebration of Mountain Life

a benefit for the family of Tim Michael and in recognition and gratitude to all Wood River Valley First Responders at River Run will take place on Wednesday, July 21.

Dave Mason, Kole Moulton and the Lonely Road and the Disciples of Rock to perform at River Run Wednesday, July 21 from 5-9pm.
Tickets are $20, Kids age 12 and under are $5.

From noon to 4pm there will be emergency rescue equipment demonstrations.

Concert tickets are available at Atkinsons Markets in Ketchum and Hailey. $20 for adults, and $5 for kids 12 & under.

Can you believe it?  Here, in  our little town, the ever popular Dave Mason with the disciples of Rock…That River Run concert venue is proving itself to be a great one for performers and enthusiasts both!  What a great spot though, cooler when the sun gets lower, and beautiful with the mountain at your back and the river just in front as you sit on the grass enjoying the show.  And the acoustics are amazing there, it seems the mountainside captures the music and bounces it right back at you. It will be a memorable evening for everybody.

This one is a benefit, organized by the tireless Julie Gallagher and members of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol for the family of Tim Michael who left us this winter while skiing on Baldy. And it is part of a whole afternoon of activities there at the River Run Plaza.   There will be displays and demonstrations by the Wood River Valley First Responders and the Ski Patrol.   The gondola will be running, and there will be lunch served at the Roundhouse during the day. You’ll see games and fun stuff for everybody, kids included.

There will be BBQ, a no-host bar, a silent auction and a raffle for 2 season ski passes on Baldy. The whole Ski Patrol will be out, enjoying the event, and offering the latest version of the Ski Patrol t-shirts and hats for sale. It all goes to a good cause. And a good time for everybody.

Bring the kids and bring your own picnics if you prefer, but be sure to come help out, you won’t regret it.

See you there

Local Olympic Athletes Continue to Make the Valley Proud!

The Vancouver Games are in full swing this week as curling fills daytime TV, Shaun White and Shani Davis defend their gold medals, figure skating draws millions of TV viewers each prime time, Gold medalist Hannah Kearney sets the stage in the moguls, and stars like Apolo Anton Ohno, Lindsey Jacobellis, Jeret Peterson, Kikkan Randall, Kelly Clark, Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn continue to display the Olympic spirit.

And in this valley, we have our very own Olympic heroes. Graham Wantanabe, Morgan Arritola, and Simi Hamilton continue to represent the Olympic spirit that is so alive in this country and this community.

Two-time Olympian Graham Wantanabe, who hails from Hailey, is one the brightest, friendliest faces of the games. Always with a kind smile and with anecdotes to make you laugh (telling reporters in Vancouver, "Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn. And the offspring . . . I’d somehow tame it and ride it into the clouds, the sunshine and rainbows. That’s how I feel."), Graham is a role model to snowboarders, athletes, and fans all over the world. During the Men’s BoarderCross comp on Tuesday, Graham made it out of the qualifying rounds as the fastest American, with the second fastest time overall. Unfortunately, a small bobble in the finals eliminated his chance in the medal round, while defending gold medalist, American Seth Wescott went on to win his second gold medal. These games may not have ended as Graham had hoped, the valley and local community continues to be incredibly proud of our Olympic Champion and can’t wait to see him back on the slopes of Bald Mountain sometime soon. Congrats, Graham!

Nordic skiers and SVSEF Olympic Development Team athletes, Morgan Arritola and Simi Hamilton made their Olympic debuts this week. Arritola, who only began skiing seven years ago, finished as the second fastest American female in the 10K sprint race. Her finish at the middle of the pack, in 34th place, serves as a successful beginning to what we can only hope is a long and successful Olympic career for Morgan. Simi Hamilton, too, had an incredibly successful beginning to his Olympic story. Simi made it past the qualification round in Wednesday’s Individual Sprint and finished as the fastest American man in 29th place.

Both Morgan and Simi are expected to race in the coming pursuits so don’t miss your chance to cheer on more local heroes! Morgan will compete again Friday in the 15K Pursuit, starting at 12 pm (Mountain Time Zone) and Simi will race in Saturday’s 30K Pursuit, beginning at 12:30 pm (Mountain Time Zone).

A Successful First Olympic Race for Morgan Arritola!

Morgan Arritola, a Sun Valley local and a Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team member, finished her very first Olympic race today in Whistler.

Arritola was the second fastest American female in today’s 10-Kilometer individual freestyle. She finished 34th overall in a strong field of 78 women. With her coaches, US Ski Team Teammates, parents, and SVSEF Nordic Coach Rick Kapala all there to cheer her on, Morgan raced a great race today. Congrats to our little speed racer! Watch for more from Morgan as the week continues!

Photo from

Graham Wantanabe to compete today!

Months and years of preparation, training, studying, learning, and racing is coming to a head for local Snowboarder, Olympian, and US Snowboard Team-member Graham Wantanabe. The race is on today.

Graham will compete in today’s Olympic BoarderCross in Whistler. He will be racing against teammate Seth Wescott, the reigning Olympic Champion as well as current World Cup Champion, Austrian Markus Schairer. Wantanabe, who finished sixth at the 2009 World Championships, will strap on his board this morning at 10:30 am for the Qualifying Round and again at 2 pm for the Medal Round.

About his second Olympic appearance Wantanabe told reporters last Wednesday it was like a “Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth, I somehow tame it and ride it to the sky and clouds and sunshine and rainbows.” There is no doubt that Wantanabe is excited for today’s races.

Watch Graham on your local NBC station or pick it up at And make sure to send Graham all the good vibes, support and luck that our community can!

Good luck to the Valley’s very favorite Pegasus! Go Graham!

Wantanabe taming the Pegasus.

Photo by Adam Finkle,

Graham Wantanabe headed to the Olympics!

Local snowboarder and Boardercross competitor, Graham Wantanabe, has officially nabbed a spot in the Vancouver Games! Wantanabe, another SVSEF Olympic Development athlete, Wood River High School graduate, and lifelong Sun Valley resident, will compete in his second Olympic Games in February.

After he did not qualify for the 2006 Winter Games, Graham attended as a Wax Tech for the US Snowboard Team. But when a teammate was unfortunately injured during training, Graham was in the right place at the right time and filled the vacancy on the Olympic squad. But this year, Graham has taken a more traditional route and qualified at last week’s snowboardcross World Cup in Stoneham. Graham’s second place finish concretes his spot on the Olympic Team. Read the entire story: click here.

Don’t miss Graham next month and send him tons of Sun Valley love!