For many college students, spring break means kicking back on a slope or on a beach and escaping from the rigors of the academic year for two blissful, relaxing weeks. But for a group of elite alpine racers, nothing could be better than spring break in Sun Valley, competing in the 2014 Western Region Spring Series.
Elite racers show how it's done this week on Baldy's Warm Springs runs
This week, Sun Valley welcomed skiers to the six-day, six-race series presented by Bentley Motors. Recent Olympians, members of the U.S. Ski Team, top college racers and members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) team all got to the starting gate to compete in Super G, slalom and giant slalom all over the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain.
81 men and 54 women are expected to go head-to-head in this SVSEF-hosted International Ski Federation (FIS) competition. It is one of the last chances of the season for skiers to prove their merit and to shave points to advance in the field.
Ruben Macaya, head alpine coach of the SVSEF, said in an interview, “We should have what I would call World Cup conditions – hard, fast – it should be a smooth surface for everyone. The snow density is optimal right now and there is so much moisture in it that it makes for a great surface.”
What better way to spend spring break than racing down beautiful Bald Mountain?
Racing began on Wednesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, the action focused on men’s and women’s super G on Warm Springs. Friday and Saturday, women’s slalom on Cozy and men’s giant slalom on Hemingway. Sunday and Monday the main events are women’s giant slalom on Hemingway and men’s slalom on Cozy.
Spectators are invited to watch all the speed and splendor these athletes bring to the course. According to Mike Lloyd of Sun Valley Ski Patrol, the best viewing for Super G will be at the bottom of the Limelight run. Make your way to Greyhawk to catch giant slalom and for slalom, there is a ribbon line set up on Cozy for fans. Each race will also be announced and broadcast live on the Warm Springs Plaza.
Some of the marquis names expected to compete include 2014 Olympic super G silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht and teammates David Chodounsky, Erik Fisher, Travis Ganong, Jared Goldberg, Steve Nyman, Marco Sullivan and Resi Stiegler.
Come cheer on the skiers this weekend and pick up some pointers
Sun Valley Resort is throwing a post-race party on Saturday, March 29, at the Warm Springs Plaza to celebrate the athletes and their accomplishments. Live music starts at 2:30 p.m. followed by an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Post-race awards will also be staged on Monday, March 31, 2:30 p.m., again at Warm Springs Plaza.
Best of luck to all the racers! Thanks for bringing your skills and commitment to Sun Valley’s slopes this spring break.
There were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd as Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington took a well deserved seat Saturday and waited for the celebration to begin
It is no exaggeration to say that thousands of people came out on Saturday to cheer for Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington. Everyone turned out to welcome home the Snowboard Halfpipe champion and to let her know just how proud of our hometown girl we all are.
On a late winter’s afternoon, the band Freeway Revival played while the enthusiastic crowd enjoyed a tasty barbecue and drink specials provided by Sun Valley on the patio outside Warm Springs Lodge. At 4 p.m., it was showtime as well-wishers, packed tight from the Lodge, across the bridge, and onto the lower slopes of Lower Warm Springs, turned their eyes toward the mountain for the colorful downhill parade that announced Kaitlyn was coming
The huge crowd at Warm Springs on Saturday was enthusiastic and upbeat while waiting for the arrival of Kaitlyn Farrington -- our golden girl
The parade in Kaitlyn's honor was a vertical one. Here, Sun Valley SnowSports insructors provide the first wave of skiers and riders on Lower Warm Springs, leading the way for Kaitlyn who rode down last amid deafening cheers
Kaitlyn hopped onto the stage and surveying the scene (and it was a scene) commented, “Holy cow! I can’t believe the crowd that is here today!” Jody replied, “You earned this crowd,” and from there the celebration began in earnest.
Setting the tone for the procession of luminaries who came to honor Kaitlyn, Idaho state Senator Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum), took to the stage to read a proclamation in her honor from the Office of Governor Butch Otter. The proclamation concluded, “Kaitlyn has achieved her goals with inspiring success. She has been an ambassador for Idaho and taught the world how to cowgirl up.”
Next, Ketchum mayor Nina Jonas said, “Kaitlyn embodies everything we hope and believe and try to be,” and jokingly offered her a necklace in trade for the impressive gold disc that hung around Kaitlyn’s neck.
Chris Koch, mayor Bellevue, Kaitlyn’s hometown in the Wood River Valley, renamed a portion of the bike path in her honor.
1998 Olympian snowboarder Barrett Christy, a friend and mentor to Kaitlyn, put the accomplishment in perspective. “The sport has progressed so much in the past five years with the level of women in snowboarding growing tremendously. Kaitlyn is responsible for that,” she said and continued, “You can’t learn attitude from a coach and that is what Kaitlyn has that sets her apart from the rest. That and her amazing style. That can’t be taught. It’s who she is.”
Kaitlyn was carried through the crowd by members of Sun Valley Ski Patrol
SVSEF snowboard coach Andy Gilbert kept the accolades coming. “Kaitlyn is a true original and always has been,” he enthused. “She has always been willing to work hard. In fact, her work ethic is second to none.” He, too, gave a nod to Kaitlyn’s style, calling her an “innovative rider” and simply saying how very, very proud he is of her.
During the few days Kaitlyn had at home (she left Sunday for her next competition), she made time to ride with local children, giving them the thrill of a lifetime. As Jody Zarkos said, “Kaitlyn’s ability to take obstacles and turn them into stepping stones,” truly inspired up-and-coming riders.Rob Clayton, executive director of the SVSEF, agreed that what Kaitlyn teaches by example is invaluable. Calling her the “gem of the Gem State,” Rob said, “We tell our kids, ‘see that necklace that is hanging around her neck? You can have it around your neck, too, and in the same color if you work really, really hard like Kaitlyn did.’”
Everyone showed their appreciation for Kaitlyn with gifts that included a necklace in the shape of the state of Idaho from Jonas, an engraved golf putter and lessons (evidently she’s working on her game) from Koch and a standup paddle board for the off-season from Clayton.
But the biggest gift and a highlight of the ceremony came when Sun Valley General Manager Tim Silva took to the microphone. After reading a heartfelt letter of congratulations to Kaitlyn from Sun Valley Resort owner Carol Holding, he and Mountain Manager Peter Stearns upped the ante. From Sun Valley, Kaitlyn was awarded a lifetime season’s pass and was presented with a huge rectangular gift wrapped in gold paper. Inside? A new sign reading “Kaitlyn’s Bowl.” The golden girls’ name will now grace the Bowl on Baldy formerly known as Farout Bowl.
Sun Valley General Manager Tim Silva and Mountain Manager Peter Stearns present Kaitlyn with the new trail sign that changes Farout Bowl on Baldy to Kaitlyn's Bowl
Finally, Kaitlyn returned to the podium simply to thank her hometown supporters. “It is my pleasure to be up here today and I am so thankful for it all,” she said. “Thank you for believing in me and thank you for helping me get to the Olympics. I want to share it all with you and share this gold medal with you.”
The crowd went wild.
Kaitlyn, preparing to be celebrated by luminaries, smiles at some of her biggest fans -- the children who she inspires
The celebration continued well into the evening with a street party, more live music, great food and the raffling off of a new GNU snowboard autographed by Kaitlyn.
A great time was had by all.
Congratulations, Kaitlyn. Thank you for letting us share your moment in the sun.
The excitement inside the terminal at Friedman Memorial Airport was palpable, the pride, collective, as the large crowd craned its collective head, hoping to catch a glimpse of the golden girl. Supporters holding signs of congratulation thronged the waiting room and media from all over the state and region were well represented.
Support from every part of the community was on display when Kaitlyn Farrington returned home
Hundreds of local students came to the airport and lined the impromptu parade route, cheering for Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn, who grew up on a ranch in Bellevue and took her first turns on a snowboard in Sun Valley as a member of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), returned to the Wood River Valley wearing the huge gold medal she earned in Sochi, Russia, as queen of the Halfpipe. Pitted against the top women in the sport, three of whom had won Olympic gold themselves, Kaitlyn dominated the event, earning a score of 91.75, and delivering two runs that showcased her style, skills and self-assurance.
She was met inside the terminal not only by supporters, but by the Mayor of Bellevue, Chris Koch. “On behalf of the Wood River Valley, we welcome you home,” Koch announced, and continued, “now the celebration can really begin because you are home with friends and family.” With that, he handed Kaitlyn the Key to the City of Bellevue.
Kaitlyn prepares to accept the Key to the City from Bellevue Mayor Chris Koch
With the Key to the City in one hand, and her medal glinting around her neck, Kaitlyn was modest and understated in her comments. “Thank you for supporting me through the years,” she smiled with her signature dimpled grin, “Thank you for getting my family to the Olympics, as well.” This referenced local fundraising efforts that helped pay for her parents, Suz Locke and Gary Farrington, to be in Sochi cheering their daughter to gold.
Next stop for Kaitlyn? She, her parents, and SVSEF snowboard coach Andy Gilbert will be driven in a convertible through Bellevue. The champion will then ride a ladder truck with local firefighters through Hailey and Ketchum to the SVSEF headquarters located at the base of Warm Springs at Bald Mountain. Hundreds of well-wishers are expected to line the streets and cheer for our golden girl.
Kaitlyn shows off that amazing medal next to Jason Carter, sports director at KMVT
A party is also in the works for Saturday, March 1, at the base of Warm Springs. Festivities begin at 2:30 p.m. at Warm Springs Lodge with live music and food and beverage specials from the Sun Valley Resort. At 4 p.m., an official ceremony honoring Kaitlyn will be held on the Warm Springs Deck, followed by a street party on Picabo Street between Jane Lane and Lloyd Court. Old Death Whisper will play, Apple’s Bar & Grill will provide food and libations, and everyone is invited.
For more on all the events, stay tuned to this blog.
Congratulations, Kaitlyn Farrington on your enormous accomplishment and for making this entire valley proud. Welcome home!
It’s all anyone is talking about. From the coffee shop, to the grocery store, to the chairlift, there is one name on everyone’s lips: Kaitlyn Farrington. Earlier this week, Sun Valley’s golden girl won a gold medal in snowboard Halfpipe and this community could not be more proud!
It's gold for Sun Valley's Kaitlyn Farrington in Olympic snowboard Halfpipe! (photo Mark Sullivan)
Kaitlyn, a Bellevue native who took her first turns on a snowboard with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), dominated the Halfpipe event, earning a score of 91.75. Though new to the Olympic team this year, she delivered two no-holds-barred runs, besting more seasoned competitors. Her winning run included a 900 spin, a corked back flip and style to spare. She took the top step of the podium in Sochi, Russia, after the ride of her life, topping three previous Olympic champions, Torah Bright of Australia who scored 91.50 points and Kaitlyn’s teammate Kelly Clark who garnered 90.75 points.
Kaitlyn, a member of the SVSEF Gold Team, told the press following her win, “I can’t believe it. I come out to each contest and I try and do a different run and that’s my approach to it. Sitting at the bottom, I was stoked I landed my run and once I knew I was going to be on the podium I was happy. I was hoping to make it to the finals, that was my main goal and then during the finals I thought if I land a good run I might be on the podium. So to come out on top – I just can’t believe it.”
The big show in Sochi didn't intimidate Kaitlyn in her run for the gold (photo Mark Sullivan)
Andy Gilbert, head snowboard coach at the SVSEF, was equally stunned and thrilled. In an interview, he said, “I am in shock. I am in complete and utter shock. I can’t describe how it feels. Kaitlyn first started with us as a fifth grader and obviously it takes a village.”
“I do feel like she looked confident throughout,” Gilbert continued. “I was a little worried looking at the semis because it makes for a long day to push it in not get tired, but she came out swinging.”
Kaitlyn's incredibly proud (and nervous) parents watched her gold medal run in Sochi (photo Mark Sullivan)
Kaitlyn’s incredibly proud parents Gary and Suz, watched their daughter’s runs slope side, holding a small sign that read, “Kaitlyn Farrington, Cowgirl Up” — a saying coined by her former swim coach that had become a family joke. Cowgirl up, she did.
Sun Valley could not be more proud of this self-described Idaho cowgirl. “The Sun Valley community couldn’t be more thrilled for Kaitlyn as she stands on top of the podium with Olympic gold,” said Tim Silva, Sun Valley Resort, Vice President and General Manager. “She has worked incredibly hard to get where she is, and we can’t wait to welcome her home and celebrate this historic win with her!”
Kaitlyn, with her coach Elijah Teeter, inspires us all (photo Mark Sullivan)
Preparations are already well underway to give Kaitlyn a hero’s welcome upon her return to Sun Valley. Huge banners that will hang across the main streets are already in production and plans are in the works to celebrate Kaitlyn and her victory in a way only Sun Valley can. Please stay tuned to this blog for more information on plans to celebrate her amazing win.
Kaitlyn continues a long Olympic heritage in Sun Valley but is the first Olympic medalist since Picabo Street brought home gold in alpine skiing from Nagano in 1998.
Olympic alpine racer Hailey Duke isn’t hard to pick out from the crowd leaving Warm Springs after a great day spent on the slopes. Most recreational skiers don’t look this comfortable with a pair of racing skis slung over each shoulder. She also carries a huge backpack and juggles the rest of the equipment she needs to train for what will be some of the most important six weeks of her life. And that doesn’t even take into account the Team USA race suit she is wearing beneath her jacket; the same one she wore in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, except now the cuffs are a bit frayed and are rolled up to her knees. She has a second one she races in.
Alpine Olympic racer Hailey Duke is all smiles at the base of Warm Springs following a morning of training
Duke is beaming as she comes off the hill, thrilled to be back in Sun Valley, thrilled to be training on Baldy. Her bright blue eyes sparkle with delight as this native daughter (she was born in Sun Valley and lived here until she was five) explains how happy she is to be home. “My parents were both Sun Valley Ski Instructors when I was little,” she said, “I learned to ski on Dollar. This winter, I had to figure out where my support system was, where I could train most effectively and be most comfortable. Sun Valley is it. Baldy is an awesome hill. It provides everything I am looking for at the top level – the best surface, great courses. It just doesn’t get much better than this.”
Effective training is critical to the 28-year-old at this juncture in her racing career as she is taking a run at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games that begin in less than 40 days in Russia. She explains, for slalom skiers, the meat of the season starts now and she plans on soon traveling to Utah and then on to Europe to try to secure one of four women’s spots for slalom racers on Team USA. Making this happen as an independent athlete requires raw determination, outstanding organization and laser-like focus. Thankfully Hailey possesses all these traits.
Duke makes running slalom look easy (photo haileyduke.com)
Part of her motivation stems from now feeling strong, fast and healthy following brain surgery last February. Yes, brain surgery. After years of fighting overwhelming fatigue, Hailey was finally diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that was attached to her pituitary gland. A successful surgery left Hailey feeling much better quickly and by spring, she was back on her skis, pursuing her Olympic dreams. Due to her health concerns and subsequent declining results, she was cut as a member of the U.S. Ski Team and suddenly needed to learn to negotiate the tricky world of competing as an independent athlete. That means not only training at an elite level, but fundraising, securing sponsorship, planning complex itineraries and literally chasing the dream.
Since the surgery, Hailey says she feels great – invigorated, energetic and ready to take on everything that this next chapter entails. She is also slightly amazed that she was able to accomplish everything she did – great World Cup finishes and a spot on Team USA in 2010 – while the tumor unknowingly grew. Just imagine what she is capable of totally healthy and healed.
Following successful surgery for a brain tumor, Hailey is focused on the road to Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics in February (photo haileyduke.com)
Hailey is ready to see just what she is capable of and to that end, spent the morning with the Sun Valley Ski Education FoundationGold and FIS teams running slalom gates on Lower Warm Springs. She is living with coach Erika Hogan who she knew from her younger years in Sun Valley. “I’m living a few blocks from where I was born,” Hailey said. “I love the healthy vibe here. I love the people. It’s the best place to home base during this critical time for me.”
For the SVSEF athletes running gates alongside Hailey, having an Olympian among them is also incredibly inspiring. “I tell the younger kids that we are all skiing the same course,” she said. The FIS racers are those 16 and older who have qualified by criteria or been invited by the coaches to ski at the FIS (international) racing level. “It’s not that far away from where they are to where I am. We are working on the same things,” Hailey said.
Hailey will be training on Baldy 2 -3 hours each day before she leaves for her upcoming races that include two Europa Cups. To get to Sochi, she will need to podium in at least one Europa Cup race, get to the final World Cup race before the Olympics and from there, hopefully, it’s on to Russia.
“I really don’t believe you’re only as good as your last race,” she smiled. “I bring depth and experience to the sport and plan to work as hard as I can to represent America in Sochi.”
Duke is chasing the dream from the back of her truck filled with all her dreams, goals and equipment
To support Hailey in her quest for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and to follow her progress, please log onto haileyduke.com or follow her on social media. If you see a smiling woman with a frayed Olympic race suit encouraging local athletes before dropping into the course herself, be sure to say hello and give her your best wishes. Hailey Duke is an excellent ambassador for alpine racing and for Sun Valley and is sure to inspire the New Year’s resolutions to anyone with snow sports dreams.
Hailey Duke’s spirit, grit and optimism are a great example to us all.
The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is thrilled to announce our new event, the Winter Lift-Off Party! The Winter Lift-Off will take place Friday, December 6, 2013, at two new venues, Sun Valley Company’s Roundhouse and River Run Lodge at the base of Bald Mountain in Ketchum.
In the spirit of renewal inspired by the remodeling of the Greyhawk Training Center, the annual Wild Game Dinner will be revamped into the Winter Lift-Off and infused with the energy and anticipation of the SVSEF’s 47th winter season. We have chosen to retire the much-loved geese, and replace them with a winter-themed celebration featuring snowflakes, skis and don’t-stop-til-you-drop dancing.
Despite a lack of our feathered friends, favorites from the Wild Game Dinner will still be present, including mystery balloons, live music, silent and online auctions and all the friends you want to catch up with. The night will begin with an intimate supper at Roundhouse for the SVSEF’s Champions of the Foundation, and festivities continue with a party at the base the mountain for all who would like to join in the fun.
Through the Winter Lift-Off, the SVSEF hopes to raise one-third of the annual budget necessary to produce the quality on-snow programs the community has come to expect. Through fundraising efforts, the SVSEF provides financial aid for both tuition and travel, academic assistance, training facilities, and racing opportunities.
Stay tuned for more information on the SVSEF’s Winter Lift-Off Party, but please save the date for Friday, December 6!
The 35th Annual 2013 Baldy Hill Climb will include hiking and mountain biking events on Saturday, October 12th. The “Cheeso Baldy Double”, named in honor of late coach Craig “Cheeso” Kjesbo, features a mountain bike race to the top followed by a hiking race to the top! You must finish the mountain bike race by 10:30 a.m. if you are signed up for the Double! Read the full SVSEF press release here!
Part reunion, part party, part ski race, the Janss Pro Am puts the fun in fundraiser (photos courtesy of SVSEF)
Warm Springs is about to turn into a giant costume party as the annual Janss Pro-Am Classic rolls into town. This fundraiser for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) signifies spring in these parts like nothing else, bringing together teams of pros and amateurs for some good-natured gate running, a lot of partying and some pretty elaborate costumes, on the slopes and off. This year, the event will grace Warm Springs and the Sun Valley Resort from April 4 – 6.
Doing good by having fun
Named for Bill Janss, the beloved former owner of the Sun Valley Company, this year’s event is expected to host nearly 500 enthusiastic participants for Giant Slalom racing and free skiing, cocktail parties, an awards banquet in the Limelight Room, hosted breakfasts and lunches, and of course, costumes!
One very coordinated Janss team stands at the ready atop the Greyhawk Chair
The 2013 theme, “Let the Games Begin,” is a nod to both the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia (where SVSEF hopes to be represented), as well as an invitation to play in the spring sunshine.
“While the theme is inspired by the Winter Games, everyone is invited to make it their own,” explained SVSEF Events Director Kate Berman. “For instance, Dr. Tom West, a chiropractor, is part of team “Operation” after the board game. A group of freestyle skiers are dressing as the “Sorry!” game – as in “Sorry! We’re freestylers! Our teams are always so creative and I love seeing what they come up with.”
Everyone is invited to watch the 32 teams race on Lower Warm Springs on Friday and Saturday, April 5 & 6 at 10:30 a.m. Speed isn’t the ultimate goal for the amateurs (consistency is king), but the pros on board usually can’t help but go fast. Among this year’s impressive names are locals including: Ski Cross champ Langely McNeal, former Olympian Jonna Mendes, X-Games star Zach Crist and SVSEF’s very own Doran Key.
“Christin Cooper once said the Janss is the biggest reunion for former US Ski Team members around,” laughed Kate. “Everyone looks forward to getting together on Baldy’s amazing runs with old friends and new for such a terrific cause. It’s very popular, one of the most fun events of the year in the Valley.”
The hottest team on snow -- Karen Holzman (far right) and pro Langely McNeal and team celebrate some fast times at the Janss (photo courtesy Langely McNeal)
And it’s just as much fun for the amateurs. Karen Holzman who is organizing team “Greek Goddess” this year with Langely as her pro, always looks forward to this event. “We support the Janss because SVSEF is at the core of what’s special about our community. They contribute and have contributed so much to training local past and future Olympians, as well as some pretty amazing lifelong recreational skiers,” she explained. “It’s a great weekend because of the costumes, spirit of competition (who in Sun Valley isn’t competitive?), you can have family and friends on your team and just generally, a lot of laughs!”
At this race, it's less about speed and more about impact
This, the 16th Janss Pro-Am Classic marks Kate’s final party as the woman who makes it all happen. After 13 years as Events Director (and before that volunteer mom and board member for SVSEF), Kate is turning over the reigns to the very capable Sarah Crowley on April 7. After committing literally thousands of hours to the health well being of the organization, she said she feels she is leaving SVSEF when it is in a very strong position. “This is the biggest Janss we have seen in years,” she smiled. “SVSEF is doing amazing things. I’m really proud of all the work we have done and excited to see what comes next.”
Her only request? That no one makes a big fuss over her at the Janss’ events. Speaking on behalf of the rest of the community, I hope they do.