"Snowboarding is about community as much as it's about the riding—we foster a love for the sport."
This time last year, Andy Gilbert was the proud director and head coach of one of the largest snowboard coaching programs in the United States. A year later, little has changed.
Gilbert is a huge presence in the snowboard and skateboard communities of the Wood River Valley. A finer spokesman for these burgeoning groups could not be found.
And while he is still the same, stoked and pumped soul of the Sun Valley snowboarding world, his team has changed in many ways since last Christmas.
For starters, the team lost vital A Team riders including the Caldwells—Yancy and Scarlet—and David Kunz, all of whom had been major competitors for the past two years.
The other side of those losses, however, is that the team now boasts a "young, hungry group of riders who have been waiting their turn for some of the older guys to move on," said Gilbert.
Additionally, the team has seen a "huge influx of riders between 8 and 12 years old and the C and D teams are growing like crazy." Everybody hopes to have a terrain park sometime in the near future.
To support those teams and hopes, Gilbert shuffled some coaches around in the off-season and is confident that the three-card-monty will work for everyone's benefit.
Major coaching changes were implemented for the B Regional Team and the C Team where Billy Olson and Chatham Baker have taken over. "C Team is an army dressed in black not to be reckoned with," said coach Baker.
These younger coaches "bring young enthusiastic blood into the program, making it fun, but pushing the kids and teaching them along the way," Gilbert said.
At least one Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation snowboard alum, Ciam Parten, is on the staff, as well as one former skier, Jon French.
The total number of riders—90—is slightly increased from last season, but it remains huge, in comparison with most programs. Asked if he thinks it a paradox that Sun Valley, a resort synonymous with alpine skiing, should boast such a large snowboarding program, Gilbert said no.
Gilbert attributed the popularity of his program to a variety of reasons, all of them key to what makes the Wood River Valley a unique community.
"I see the influx of young families who want their kids to be involved in the things that made them move here," he explained.
For Gilbert, his bursting brood represents health, sport, and community all growing logically together.
"Just because it's cold and getting dark early doesn't mean people want their kids sitting around the house," he said of this communal drive to seize the Idaho winter.
Parents seem to be imparting their own active ethics on their children who should be "outside doing something athletic," rather than inside playing video games, the coach said.
And with a new halfpipe, there has never been a better time to be a snowboarder on Baldy.
With a full year of training under their belts, the riders are finding "night and day," differences in their pipe performance, Gilbert said.
He said, "While simple freeriding on Baldy is a big part of what we do—this mountain just makes you better—the pipe is a huge asset."
Having an actual pipe to drop into is a huge advantage for Sun Valley boarders. Rather than figuring out a pipe routine at the events, they are becoming knowledgeable about their repertoires. They are familiarizing themselves and their coaches with the myriad possibilities the pipe holds.
The A and B teams are focusing more on the mental aspect of competition this season. The use of daily training logs help athletes plan their training days and pipe runs.
With crowds, cameras and superstar riders, distractions are rife at large events. Mental preparation cuts back on the overwhelming nature of these venues so that once there, "it's not a big scary thing, it's just another day doing what they do and enjoying what they do," Gilbert said.
Gilbert clearly has his ducks in a row as his 11th season with the SVSEF program gets underway. He said he's ready to "get on the road and in the pipe." The athletes, coaches and parents are excited and prepared.
Meanwhile, Gilbert continues to propel his sport in the valley. "Snowboarding is about community as much as its about the riding—we foster a love for the sport," he said.
Riders to watch
D Team—Young riders Chase Josey and Ryan Roemer are "fired up to be on the mountain every day."
C Team—Mal Prior and Colton Jones "are leaders of a real strong Sun Valley core—there will be strong riders coming out of Sun Valley for a long time because of this group," said head C Team coach Baker, proud to coach many girls new to C team this season.
B Regional Team—Heather Black took a year off and is back with the team. Along with Tara Cappel, Kate Fiaschetti and Kaitlyn Farrington, they make up a "great group of girls who just charge, don't hold back, and do anything the boys do," said Gilbert.
A Travel Team—Bobby Flanigan "lives and breathes snowboarding." Along with talent, "the stoke he has when he comes in, he wants to ride and wants to ride every thing," Gilbert said.
Spencer Cordovano, and Flanigan are focused on winning a Western Regional event this season and qualifying for Junior Worlds in Switzerland.
Jeremy Black is an up-and-comer who had an impressive opening weekend at Breckenridge (Colo.) riding against a stacked field of athletes including Olympic team riders.
2004-05 Sun Valley Snowboard Roster
SUN VALLEY SNOWBOARD TEAM
·Snowboard team director—Andy Gilbert (11th year).
· Coaches, staff—Head coach Andy Gilbert, assistants Jacob Tyler, A.J. Grabos (A Competition team); Head coach Billy Olson and assistant Jon French (B Regional team); head coach Chatham Baker and assistants James Young, Ciam Parten and Dillon Witmer (C team); Head coach Mike Connelly and assistants Dana Monson, Jen Galpin, Vach Venzon ("D" team).
· Travel team—Jeremy Black, Austen Butler, Spencer Cordovano, Cody Edison, Scott Fairfax, Bobby Flanigan, Shane Haile, Patrick Hurley, Michael Kunz, Jens Peterson, Houston Shaw and Nick Shutz. (Tuition $2475 for competitive riders, on-snow Wednesday through Sunday).
· B Regional Team—Kenny Ballou, Heather Black, Wyatt Bunce, Tara Cappel, Peter Driscoll, Kaitlyn Farrington, Katie Fiaschetti, Jared Johnson, JJ Martin, Scott Pike and Bryce Young. (Tuition $1,700, minimal travel, on-snow Wednesday through Sunday).
· "C" team—Gavin Admire, Ross Bird, Kelsey Brennan, Benjamin Broderick, Josie Bunce, Reed Burdge, Hayden Burdge, Kelly Collins, Austin Cruz, Maddie Currie, Ellen Davis, R.J. Forgeon, Mattias Fostvedt, Fynn Funke-Riehle, Bria Gillespie, Nick Howard, Lily Jensen, Colton Jones, Lexi Korobkin, Alexander MacMillan, W. Callahan McCarthy, Mal Prior, Cary Reinemann, Bill Rheinschild, Hailey Rheinschild, Taylor Riviello, Cooper Rogers, Isabel Rumpp, Maggie Shafran, Hannah Stephenson, Britton Stevenson, Anthony Thelen, Danny Veytia, Rusty Williams and Connor Zaft. (Tuition $1,130, introduction to gates and plenty of free riding; on-snow Thursdays, weekends and holidays).
· "D" team—Noelani Garing, Rickie Jeneson, Tyler Spence, Nathan Williamson, Jackson Long, Megan Jones, Max Jones, Taylor Figge, Roger Figge, Chase Josey, Riley Sibbach, Zach Trautwein, Chris Fuller, Hayley Murach, Clayton Downhill, Reid Shafran, Charlie Harder, Nathan Kniffin, Parker Morris, Andy Mallea, Olivia Mason, Ryan Roemer, Michael Nero, Josh Morrell, Harrison Fitch, Lucy Paisley, Emmet Fortuin, John Chrysikopoulos, Tee Pidgeon, Kyle Clark and Ali Appleton. (Tuition $600, for younger riders, on-snow weekends).