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For the week of Dec 26, 2001 - Jan 1, 2002

  Sports

Sun Valley snowboarders tune up for winter

Board riff, season preview for riders


By JODY ZARKOS
Express Staff Writer

Andy Gilbert is living out the dream snowboarders have when they grow upóhead coach of a great team, the Sun Valley Snowboard Team.

Yancy Caldwell, Sun Valley Snowboard travel team racer, scoots down Baldy on a sunny Friday before Christmas 2001. Express photo by Willy Cook

The 31-year-old Sun Valley native has stepped into the Sun Valley head coaching position vacated by Steve Persons. Persons returned to Whitefish, Mont. to head up his own program for older racers.

Gilbert brings with him the experience of a seventh-year coach, along with the energy and optimism of the head guy.

Gilbert said, "We are going to sit down and talk to the kids. Find out what their long-term and short-term goals are. As the season goes on weíll check in with them.

"There are a million different ways to make snowboarding successful. You donít have to be locked into one thing."

Overseen by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, the local snowboard team has 70 athletes and is divided into four groups; D team, C team, home team and travel team.

Travel team members are Gillian Augustus, Jeremy Black, Kelsey Bunce, Austen Butler, Scarlett Caldwell, Yancy Caldwell, Fraser Donald, Bobby Flanigan, David Kunz, Ryan McCarthy, Kjell Ooms, Houston Shaw and Christina Walsworth.

All the teams travel and train together, although individual racers may focus on different things.

"My team goal is to develop real freestyle-oriented riders. We want good, well-rounded snowboarders," Gilbert said.

 

A terrain park?

Strong, well-rounded riders will pay off if Sun Valley Company ever decides to build a terrain park on Bald Mountain.

Sidney Parkhill was among the first high school riders celebrating Christmas vacation with a few turns down Baldy Friday. Express photo by Willy Cook

Gilbert commented, "In my mind there is not a better mountain set up to build a terrain park in the country. We want to have these kids set up when it does."

Sun Valley general manager Wally Huffman remarked, "We have had a lot of discussions (about building a terrain park.)

"There are some real liability issues that havenít been worked through in the industry. Earl (Holding, owner of Sun Valley) has been a little uncomfortable. If we do build a terrain park it has to be a real marketing event to bring destination business to the resort."

Huffman added, "I know the local ski teams want a terrain park in the worst way, but it canít be based solely on that. It has to be a viable long-term part of the resort."

One spot on Bald Mountain where engineers have determined a terrain park would work is Upper Warm Springs, Huffman said.

He said the engineers indicated it would work there for the following reasons; it is not very steep, it has snowmaking, it is serviced by a lift, it is close to a restaurant and it does not interfere with skier traffic.

With Holdingís Snowbasin Resort in Utah hosting the alpine speed events at the 2001 Winter Olympics, any new projects for Sun Valley "are on the back burner until after the winter season," Huffman said.

Currently, the Sun Valley team travels to other resorts to train for half-pipe.

Gilbert said earlier this season Park City (Utah) comped tickets for 30 racers and coaches at their resort so the Sun Valley team could train.

The coach said, "We focus on stuff we can do. We have been training on trampoline. We sent kids to Mount Hood. We stay positive."

Ready to take off for a great day snowboarding on Baldy last Friday are Sun Valley Snowboard Team members, from left, Reid Welsh, Fraser Donald, Sidney Parkhill, Yancy Caldwell, Brendan Nelson, Scarlet Caldwell, Sarah Betts, head coach Andy Gilbert, assistant coach Jon French and Shane Harrison. Express photo by Willy Cook

Positive optimism is a hallmark of snowboarders, whom Gilbert regards as the most genial of the alpine groups.

"The U.S. Snowboard team is probably the most friendly in the world, but that is how snowboarding is in general. Itís a free spirit kind of thing. Itís nice to go to an event. People welcome you and are happy that you are there.," he said.

The Sun Valley travel team should get plenty of opportunities to rub shoulders with elite racers this year.

Fraser Donald, Yancy Caldwell and David Kunz have qualified for the Chevy Truck Grand Prix Series, which consists of four events around the West.

ĎRiders are trying to secure Olympic spots," Gilbert explained. "So they will ride and watch some of the best riders in the world."

Gilbert said the trio would attend the January Grand Prix series at Mt. Bachelor, Ore.

Once there they will probably run into former teammates Claire Cetera and Graham Watanabe. Both are on the U.S. Snowboard Development team.

"They are living proof that you can do this," Gilbert said.

Helping the kids attain their goals, whether itís making 360s in both directions or making the World Cup, are coaches Hilary Mayberry, A.J. Grabos, Jon French, Nate Galpin, Billy Olson, Dana Monson, Noah Richter, John Lee and Kai Robrahn.

Grabos is a two-time X-Games medalist and Burton rider.

French, Robrahn and Galpin are Sun Valley Snowboard Team alumni. Galpin was a U.S. junior national champion member of the U.S. team. He was brought on to help revitalize the race program.

Gilbert was a regional rider for Joyride Snowboards. He has been back in the valley for nine years, after growing up in the Portland area.

"I came back to spend a winter and now I am gainfully employed," he said. "Itís pretty cool."

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.