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SVSEF earns top honors from United States Ski & Snowboard Association

April 23, 2013

The Sun Valley Ski Education recently earned two very prestigious awards from the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, the national governing body of winter sports in America.

For the second time since 1999, the SVSEF was named USSA Club of the Year. In addition, under the guidance of Director Andy Gilbert, SVSEF garnered 2013 USSA Snowboarding Club of the Year.

According to Bill Marolt, President and CEO of USSA, the Gold Awards represent the single highest honors in the organization with the recipients – an athlete, volunteer, coach, program and club – representing the vision, mission and core values of the USSA.

"It's important for us to recognize clubs and academies around the country that provide an outstanding experience for the youngsters in their programs and for the benefit of the local community," Marolt said. (The SVSEF) consistently produces talented athletes in alpine, snowboarding, cross country, freestyle and freeskiing." 

Former SVSEF Executive Director Don Wiseman remarked, “I think the award is a verification of all the hard work by the coaches and community to revise and revamp the SVSEF to make it into one of the best clubs in the nation. It verifies the efforts of our supporters, donors, volunteers and partners and we could not accept this award without acknowledging the effort and vision of all involved.”

The awards will be presented to SVSEF representatives during the 2013 USSA Congress at the Chairman’s Awards Dinner, May 17 at the Park City Marriot.

A nonprofit organization founded in 1966, the Sun Valley Ski Education has grown from a grassroots ski team featuring neighborhood kids (albeit very talented ones) to a four-discipline organization with nearly 500 athletes and ninety coaches comprising its alpine, cross country, snowboard and freestyle teams. Current program directors are Andy Gilbert--Snowboarding, Andy Ware--Freestyle, Rick Kapala--Cross Country and Ruben Macaya--Alpine. 

Marolt expanded on why the SVSEF was picked for Club of the Year: 

  • The snowboard program spans the gamut from new riders to the sport to those who have stood on podiums around the world, like Kaitlyn Farrington and Chase Josey. Rider Ryan Roemer qualified for Junior World in snowboardcross, highlighting the full spectrum of competitive programs that you offer.
  • Your alpine program is one of the top performing programs in the nation with multiple top-ten finishers at U18 and U14 championship events. SVSEF's alpine coaching staff is fully vested in professional development, attending coaching clinics and academies on a regular basis to ensure that proper skills are being taught and developed.
  • Sun Valley freestyle shines both in its large and high-quality development programs and in its support of elite team athletes like Shane Cordeau. In addition, you consistently host high-quality regional events that make a difference in the development pipeline.
  • The cross country program is nationally recognized and Rick Kapala's leadership has given athletes like Simi Hamilton opportunities that result in his being named to the national team.

SVSEF Board President Jonathan Neeley said his initial reaction upon hearing the news was, “Wow! What an amazing bunch of kids and coaches.”

Wiseman concurred, “The coaches and staff always go way beyond what is asked. I think we have become part of a lot of conversations because we are very successful and progressive. Look at Andy Gilbert and what he has done with Kaitlyn Farrington and now Chase Josey.”

Part of the SVSEF coaching staff since 1993 and program director since 2000, Gilbert has trained and cultivated snowboarders who went on to compete in Olympic, World Cup and X-Game events, including Graham Watanabe, Kaitlyn Farrington, and most recently Chase Josey. (Although Gilbert is quick to point out that Watanabe spent more time with SVSEF coach Jon French.)

“The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation consistently produces talented athletes. You can count on one athlete moving onto the U.S. Snowboarding team from the SVSEF club program," Marolt said. 

"Honestly, I would say we are very honored to get this recognition. It is nice to be counted among your peers and be recognized in this way," Gilbert said. "This type of recognition says a lot about the staff we have including Jon French, Jacob Tyler, Josh Keefer, Heather Black, Edward Sawicz, Jim Slanetz and JaNessa Gilbert. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with and this is an award we all share."  

With snowboarding garnering the program award, SVSEF brings its total Club of the Year awards to five, with Rick Kapala’s cross country program collecting the accolade three times, most recently in 2009.

Wiseman, who retired earlier this month, said he feels very good about the recent honors and they verify that it was the right time to step down and “pass the baton” to incoming Executive Director Rob Clayton.

“It makes me feel very proud and satisfied in passing the baton when it is ready to be passed, when the organization is strong and healthy,” Wiseman said. “In the last five years we have moved into the top tier of teams in the country. I know Rob has the skills, experience and energy to take the SVSEF to the next level and fulfill the SVSEF’s vision to create the best junior snowsports development program in the nation.” 

Marolt wrapped up his remarks by commenting on the tenure of Don Wiseman. 

"Finally, 2012-2013 marks the final year for Don Wiseman as executive director. Over the past eleven years, Don has cultivated a strong team of program directors, seen the integration of the Sun Valley Ski Academy to offer an established college-preparatory academic program catering to promising athletes, and the creation of SVSEF Gold Team, a program to provide the necessary financial and training support for its athletes to compete and succeed in international competitions. SVSEF is an outstanding organization and (it is) a well-deserved honor."