Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Ski Train rides again in Sun Valley

Theme of the 2005 Janss Pro Am Classic


By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

Showing the true spirit of the Janss Classic is the Sideways Express team featuring a strong cast of actors like Andy Dancer, Boxcar Bev, Coolie Caboose, G. Olden Spike, Dee Railroad and Susie Cowcatcher. Their real names are, from left, Dawn Matthiesen, Jim Slanetz, Carol Holman, Susie Bauwens, Andy Gilbert and Beverly deChevrieux. Photo by Willy Cook

The allure of Sun Valley's glamorous early years returned this past weekend.

Clad as Hollywood starlets and Austrian ski instructors, a record number of racers gathered on Baldy for the eighth annual Janss Pro Am Classic.

The three days of racing and events, held March 17-19, attracted winter sports enthusiasts as a major benefit for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF).

"(The Janss Pro Am) is becoming one of the biggest gatherings to celebrate foundations like the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, and the idea that we are helping kids and creating athletes," Don Wiseman, executive director of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, said. "It has become a great gathering for all of these people who have a passion for the sport."

This year the gathering played tribute to Averell Harriman, who opened Sun Valley resort in 1936. In honor of Harriman, organizers decided on theme, "Snowball Express," the name of a Union Pacific train that ran from California to Idaho. The theme hearkens back to Sun Valley's glory days when the Union Pacific train brought visitors to the famed winter sports paradise.

Similar to the early years, many notable Olympians, like Sondra Van Ert, Tamara McKinney, Steve Porino and Christin Cooper, arrived to support young athletes.

"All the support you can get helps you get to the top," Resi Stiegler, a current U.S. ski team athlete, said.

This year a record-setting participation indicated a growing regard for young alpine, Nordic, snowboard and freestyle athletes. Early on, organizers added six new teams, bringing 168 participants to the event. Each team, consisting of six athletes, included a pro racer to offer encouragement and support to the other five-team members.

"Growing up in the program, I had no idea of the extent of the race. It is amazing to see all of the people here for all of our athletes," said Piper Loyd, former Sun Valley alpine skier and current alpine coach.

The race honors Bill Janss, who purchased Sun Valley Company from Union Pacific in 1964, and was a strong supporter of ski racing. The race continues in the Janss tradition of assisting young Sun Valley ski racers.

In addition to supporting developing athletes, many former Olympic and World Cup athletes made the trip to see friends.

"This is the biggest reunion—the biggest group of old (U.S. Ski Team) teammates that comes together in one spot," Heidi Voelker, a 12-year U.S. ski team member, said.

The athletes gathered on Baldy's lower Hemingway run for two days of friendly giant slalom competition. The theme encouraged a slew of costumed racers.

Teams clad in snowflake socks, wool knickers and Nordic sweaters swept participants and spectators back to the early years of skiing.

Racers continued to revive the glory days at Saturday's annual dinner, dance and auction. The event held at the Limelight Room in the Sun Valley Inn attracted a glamorous set.

The glamour reached its height with a film depicting the early years in Sun Valley. The movie, "Sun Valley—The Glory Days," produced by David Butterfield of Diamond Sun Productions, detailed the life of founder Harriman and the early years of the resort.

In the film, Sun Valley icons such as Dick Durrance, Bill Janss and Gretchen Fraser, shared their memories.

More recent skiing notables also complemented the evening. During the awards ceremony former and present U.S. ski team athletes, gathered on stage demonstrating their attendance as support for Sun Valley's program.

Support for the program also came in the form of a quick auction. The auction collected bids for an evening at Memory Park in Ketchum. Ten tables sold for $2,800 each.

"This is the most important fundraiser (for the team) because of the exposure it gives to the foundation," Kate Berman, event organizer, said.

According to Berman, the event netted approximately $100,000 that will contribute to seasonal fundraising goals. The funds offset the high cost of participating in winter sports.

One avenue of support comes through the Bill Janss Scholarship Fund, established in 2002. Winning teams donate their buy-in winnings back to the SVSEF for scholarships. This year, instead of selecting one B or C team travel athlete to receive the funds, the organizers gave the $1,525 award to a set of deserving brothers, Connor and Tanner Farrow.

The top four Janss Classic teams and their competitors are, in order of finish:

Loose Caboose—Pro: Skip Merrick (Will Hovey substituted for Merrick on the second day). Racers: Janet Appleton, JR Reagle, Lee Nelson, Chris Jocham and Rip Arenz.

Loco Motion—Pro: Nate Galpin Mikesh. Racers: John Droege, Muffy Ritz, Brenda Zuck, Karoline Droege and John Koth.

Sloe Gin Fizzes—Pro: Steve Porino. Racers: Happy Hawn, Jonathan Monschke, Carrie Monschke, Amanda Black and David Butterfield.

Friends of Janss—Pro: Mike Frost. Racers: Averell Fisk, Brent Hansen, Alan Pennay, Mark Masur and Peder Monsen.

Other awards included:

Fastest Male—Carl Rixon Jr.

Fastest Female—Heidi Voelker.

Most Inspirational Male—Mike Frost.

Most Inspirational Female—Alexandria Black.

Most Improved—Lynn Pritchett.

Best Crash—Happy Hawn.

Best Female Costume—Mo Baker.

Best Male Costume—Kipp Nelson.

Alumni gathering April 3

On Sunday, April 3, the SVSEF will host its first annual Alumni Reunion. The event will start with a group ski on Baldy at 1:30 p.m. (meet at Apple's) and continue with a party at Apple's at 3:30 p.m.

Executive director Wiseman said the main purpose of the event is to have fun and also to start an alumni association—as a build-up to the SVSEF's 40th anniversary celebration set to take place in 2007.

Discounted ski tickets are available to those who register by March 31.




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