A program can have broad appeal if it attracts the two kinds of athletes—those who enjoy individual pursuits and those who take pleasure from team sports and interaction.
The Sun Valley Cross Country team, one of four winter programs overseen by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), offers something for both kinds of athletes.
Based at Lake Creek trail system north of Ketchum, the Sun Valley Nordic team nurtures the solitary pursuit of an endurance athlete and all that it encompasses. It also encourages fun, togetherness and the shared passions of teammates striving toward a common goal.
Rick Kapala of Hailey, head coach and program director of the Sun Valley cross country ski team for the last 18 years, has welcomed 150 skiers to this year's program, the largest in the team's 34-year history.
"We are 20 kids over our high water mark which I think was 2003," Kapala remarked. "Now we have kids walking around who belong to old-time families who used to be on the first ski teams."
Many of those kids are on the growing developmental programs.
In its fourth year, the Quigley Canyon Development program based in Hailey has 33 grade-school aged athletes. The complementary team at Lake Creek features 55 youngsters ages 7-11. Dave Bingham is the head coach with assistants Laurie Leman, Rob Landis, Mollie Holt, Kelley Sinnott, Chris Mallory and Will Resko.
First-year coaches Jenny Bressler of Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Mike Stemp of the University of New Hampshire head up the Prep team and its 23 middle-school racers.
The Competition team has 34 high-school aged racers and is coached by Kapala, Chris Grover and Abi Holt.
Kapala attributes the increased enrollment to a growing population base, excellent facilities and coaching, competitive success, positive recognition in the media and a fine reputation within the community, which results in good word of mouth.
"I sort of feel like we are supposed to have a good ski program in Sun Valley, Idaho. If we don't, there is something wrong," Kapala said.
"Our snow, tradition and history of skiing—as one of the first ski resorts—all those things add up."
Judging by the majority of returning athletes, Kapala and his coaches have a winning formula.
He said, "With the younger kids we say put on your skis, go outside and have a hell of a good time. Go home and be dog-tired. At some point in early adolescence that is replaced by working hard and getting better at something. And then it is replaced by applying yourself to a challenge and improving yourself beyond what you ever thought your limitations were. How does that change happen? It just does."
The success of the Sun Valley program and its coaches hasn't gone unnoticed by the Nordic community.
Sun Valley was named "Club of the Year" in 1982 and 1999. The high school boys' team is a three-time national champion, and Kapala is a three-time recipient of the USSA "Coach of the Year" award.
Effort and success go hand in hand.
"Our philosophy, in the immortal words of Bob Shay, is all we want is your best effort," said Kapala. "You may win at Junior Nationals or you may not even go to Junior Nationals, but you show up every day and train and endure heinously hard workouts. You prepare to win. Races are the easy days."
J2 Comp Team outlook
The 2005-06 winter season looks promising in many respects.
"I think it's possible to have a really good year. Last year we had one of the best years ever in terms of success of the kids," Kapala said.
He added, "We had 18 kids qualify for Junior Nationals. We also had Mikey Sinnott and Morgan Arritola qualify for the national team and Mali Noyes and Reid Pletcher qualify for the Scandinavian Series. At every level we had a pretty good year."
While some of the age groups may not have the experience of past team members, Kapala said there is an excellent work ethic among them.
"I think we have a group of kids who are working very hard. We have a bunch of new kids who have the ability to start the really hard process of training day in and day out and developing as ski racers," he said.
Something a bit of an anomaly is that there are 18 J2 (ages 14-15) racers on the Comp Team but none competed for the Intermountain Division at Junior Nationals last year.
Kapala remarked, "It is the first time that has ever happened. It's a bit of a quirk the way it worked out last year in that we had so many second-year J2s that they all went. Not one first-year J2 qualified for JNs in the whole Intermountain Division.
"So it's a little bit hard to know how they're going to do. There is no benchmark. We'll go to these qualifying races in January and February and see what the real challenge is."
J2 Comp Team members include second-year boys Sam Farnham, Lukas Anderson and Connor Brown, as well as those making the jump to the J2 ranks this season Sean Dumke, Max Durtschi, Travis Job, John Leavell and Scotty Phelan.
More questions face the group of J2 girls. Last winter all were on the Prep Team, which is mostly the J3 level (ages 12-13), and now they are in their first year of J2 competition.
"The great thing is the group is trying hard in practice, but we won't know how they will do until we get into races," said Kapala.
Julia Bowman, Amy Buchanan, Makayla Cappel, Marissa Dreyer, Keller Gibson, Rosie Gilchrist, Courtney Hamilton, Elsa Sweek, Jen Tormey and Bronwen Raff make up the new group of comp team girls.
Of the daunting task of making the step up to a different level of competition, Kapala said he is not even thinking about it yet.
"We don't care about results. We care about you training harder than you have done before, for 30 days in a row. You can't worry about the results until you have done the work," he said.
J1 Comp Team
If you need any heavy furniture moved you might give Alexa Turzian a call. The 17-year-old is also pretty adept at moving her skis.
Last year at Junior Nationals she won a medal of every color, gold, silver and bronze. Kapala said more hardware could be in her future.
"She's not slowing down," he remarked about Turzian.
"I expect that she will do rather well, along with Mali (Noyes), Reid (Pletcher) and Taylor (Sundali)," Kapala said. "Alexa is the type of kid who roller skis to school every morning and bikes home after soccer practice. Training is a year-round endeavor for her."
That's just how it is when you are a member of the Competition Team.
"Our message is it doesn't matter what sport you are in, but you have to embrace year-round fitness and preparation by the time you are 16 or 17 years old," Kapala said. "You want to get so fit that an average race is a pretty good one."
J1 Comp Team boys include Reid Pletcher, Mike Matteson, Artie Livingston, Max Danielson, Conor Davis, Christopher Holmquist, Taylor Sundali, Scott Krankkala, and Robbie Hamlin.
"Reid is one of our top guys. At practice if the other kids are keeping up with and pushing Reid they are probably going to do okay. Mike and Artie are training really well, too," Kapala said.
Mali Noyes, named to the 12-member Scandinavian Cup team as one of the top teenagers in the country last season, is a first-year J1.
"It is my expectation Mali will do really well, especially moving up to the longer distances," Kapala said. "We also have a host of other kids who are a year older and stronger."
These include J1 girls Tess Dahlgren, Devyn Parnes, Chelsea Vanderpool, Margii Driscoll and Hannah Richards.
Olympic Development Team
The Sun Valley Olympic Development Team has been incorporated into the SVSEF cross-country program to provide training and a support system for talented Older Junior racers, including Sun Valley alumni.
These include Morgan Arritola, Jack Harris and Luke Pletcher, as well as Olympic hopeful Chris Cook, a past NCAA champion who finished 12th in a World Cup skate sprint earlier this month, the third-best U.S. result in the history of the event.
The team also features Super Tour sprint champion Zach Simons.
Coached by assistant program director Chris Grover, the Olympic Development Team helps older racers make the difficult transition from successful junior competitor to successful senior racer, Kapala said.
He added, "We brought in a couple of older guys, Chris Cook and Zach Simons as role models. They push our own guys in training because they have high standards."
Kapala said the extra push is needed because in sports, the better you get the harder it is to get better.
"Trying to compete at the national level takes bigger and bigger investments in training and practice with smaller and smaller payoffs. Tough only carries you so far. You have to make a complete dedicated effort to the sport," he said.
Hopes are high for Arritola, a natural athlete and consummate worker who won three gold medals at the 2005 Junior Nationals and finished fourth in the 15-kilometer freestyle event at the 2005 Chevrolet U.S. Nordic Nationals.
"We would like to see her have some results during the season that place her among the best young women in distance races, both freestyle and classic," Kapala said. "Morgan is in the sport for the long haul and we view each season as a whole. Can she go to nationals and be on the podium? Can she have a few more results like at Soldier Hollow?"
Harris, who deferred the fall semester at Montana State, and Pletcher, who will attend Michigan Tech in the fall of 2006, both hope to qualify to compete in the World Junior Championships in Slovenia.
Pletcher won the 10k classic at the Junior World Championships in Truckee, Ca. last season and Harris, also a medalist at the 2005 Junior Nationals, has always posted consistently great results for the ski team.
A skier learns perspective, too.
"If you are an incredibly successful cross country skier you win 25 percent of your races. What about the other 75 percent? It has to be about more than winning," Kapala said.
He explained, "It is the process of being an endurance athlete. Sports are something we do to enrich our lives. So much in our society is cheap, free and easy. You can't get around a 15k course on charm.
"You have to earn it."
2005-06 Local Nordic and Junior Team Schedule
For the 2005-06 ski racing season. In some cases local and regional races are used as training for Sun Valley Junior Nordic ski team members. Intermountain Division qualifying races for Junior Olympics are denoted with an asterisk (*). Age classes (as of Jan. 1) are OJ (Older Junior) ages 18-19; J1 ages 16-17; J2 ages 14-15; J3 ages 12-13; J4 ages 10-11; J5 ages 8-9; and J6 ages 6-7. ASMS refers to 2006 American Ski Marathon Series. Major local events in bold.
DATES EVENT LOCATION
Saturday, Dec. 10 Winterstart Galena Lodge
Saturday, Dec. 17 Christmas Ski-athlon Lake Creek, 11 a.m.
Sunday, Dec. 18 Holiday Skate Sprint Relays Lake Creek, 11 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 23 Christmas Bonfire Party for SVSEF kids, families Lake Creek, 5-7 p.m.
Tuesday-Sunday, Jan. 3-8 World Jr./Scandinavian Cup Team Trials Soldier Hollow, Utah
Tuesday-Tuesday, Jan. 3-10 2006 U.S. Cross Country Championships Soldier Hollow, Utah
Saturday, Jan. 7 Prairie Creek Snowmaker Classic Prairie Creek trails, 11 a.m.
Saturday, Jan. 14 Jackson Hole JN qualifier (15k/10k/5k skate)* Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Sunday, Jan. 15 Jackson Hole JN qualifier (5k classic)* Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Saturday, Jan. 14 Idaho Nordic Series Tamarack Loppet Tamarack Resort (Idahonordic.com)
Saturday, Jan. 21 Billy Goat Loppet SVSC Championship Race Billy's Bridge
Saturday, Jan. 21 Idaho Nordic Series Teton Ridge Classic Driggs (Idahonordic.com)
Saturday, Jan. 27 Soldier Hollow JN qualifier (skate sprints)* Soldier Hollow, Utah
Sunday, Jan. 28 Soldier Hollow JN qualifier (15k/10k/5k classic)* Soldier Hollow, Utah
Saturday, Jan. 28 Ski the Rails Wood River trail system
Tuesday-Sunday, Jan. 31-Feb. 5 FIS Nordic Junior World Championships Kranj, Slovenia
Saturday, Feb. 4 31st ASMS Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Ski Tour Galena Lodge
Sunday, Feb. 5 11th annual Wells Fargo Cross-Country Festival Galena Lodge
Friday-Sunday, Feb. 10-26 2006 Olympic Winter Games Torino, Italy
Saturday, Feb. 11 SVSC Leif's Combined Race Sun Valley Nordic Center
Saturday, Feb. 11 Bozeman JN qualifier (classic sprints)* Bohart Ranch, Bozeman, Mt.
Sunday, Feb. 12 Bozeman JN qualifier (10k/5k skate)* Bohart Ranch, Bozeman, Mt.
Sunday, Feb. 12 Intermountain JN team named After Bozeman JN qualifying races
Saturday, Feb. 18 Idaho Nordic Series Potato Cup Pocatello (Idahonordic.com)
Friday-Sunday, Feb. 24-26 Western States J3/J4/J5 Youth Ski Festival McCall
Saturday, Feb. 25 ASMS American Birkebeiner XXXIV Hayward, Wisc., 52k
Friday-Sunday, March 3-12 Chevy Truck U.S. Junior Nationals Houghton, Mich.
Saturday, March 4 25th Payette Lakes Ski Marathon McCall (634-5691)
Wednesday-Saturday, March 8-11 NCAA Nordic Ski Championships Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Saturday-Sunday, March 11-12 Western Regional Junior Championships West Yellowstone, Mt.
Saturday, March 11 14th Gourmet Ski Tour North Valley Trails System
Saturday, March 11 ASMS Yellowstone Rendezvous West Yellowstone, Mt. (406-646-9379)
Thursday-Saturday, March 16-18 Bill Janss Pro-Am Sun Valley
Friday, March 17 Annual X-C Team Awards Banquet Wood River High, Hailey, 5-7
Sunday, March 19 ASMS California Gold Rush Royal Gorge, Ca.
NOTE—The schedule for the 2006 Chevy Truck U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow: On Tuesday, Jan. 3, mass start women's 15k and men's 30k freestyle; on Thursday, Jan. 5, sprint qualifications and sprint heats; on Saturday, Jan. 7, women's 10k and men's 15k classic; on Sunday, Jan. 8, women's 5k free and men's 10k free; and on Tuesday, Jan. 10, women's 10k plus 10k pursuit and men's 15k plus 15k pursuit.....This is the seventh season for the Bend (Ore.)-based American Ski Marathon Series (541-382-3503)....For a Payette Lakes Marathon entry form, write Little Ski Hill, P.O. Box 442, McCall, Idaho 83638.
2005-06 Nordic Ski Team Roster
SUN VALLEY JUNIOR NORDIC
Program director and head coach—Rick Kapala (19th year). Assistant program director—Chris Grover (4th year). Competition team coaches—Chris Grover and Abi Holt (3rd year). Groomers extraordinaire—Greg Wilson and Nate Scales.
J3/J4 Prep team coaches—Head coach Jenny Bressler (1st year) and Mike Stemp (1st year). Development team coaches—Head coach Dave Bingham (12th year). Assistant coaches—Laurie Leman (15th year), Rob Landis (7th year), Mollie Holt (3rd year), Kelley Sinnott (1st year), Chris Mallory (1st year) and Will Resko (1st year).
Olympic Development Team—Morgan Arritola (2005 Junior National triple gold medalist and USA World Junior team member); Jack Harris (Montana State University cross-country ski racer); Luke Pletcher (2005 Junior National 10k classic OJ boys champion, deferred to Michigan Tech in Houghton, Mich.); Chris Cook of Rhinelander, Wisc. (former NCAA champion and USST National Devo Team member); and Zach Simons of Park City, Utah (former Super Tour sprint winner).
Competition team racers (34 skiers)—Lukas Anderson, Julia Bowman, Connor Brown, Amy Buchanan, Makayla Cappel, Tess Dahlgren, Max Danielson, Conor Davis, Marissa Dreyer, Margii Driscoll, Sean Dumke, Maxwell Durtschi, Sam Farnham, Keller Gibson, Rosie Gilchrist, Courtney Hamilton, Robbie Hamlin, Christopher Holmquist, Travis Job, Scott Krankkala, John Leavell, Artie Livingston, Mikey Matteson, Mali Noyes, Devyn Parnes, Scotty Phelan, Reid Pletcher, Bronwen Raff, Hannah Richards, Taylor Sundali, Elsa Sweek, Jennifer Tormey, Alexa Turzian and Chelsea Vanderpool. (Tuition $3,100, ages 14-and-over, year-round training, on-snow 5-6 days a week, plus $100 wax charge).
J3/J4 Prep team racers (23 skiers)—Jake Anderson, Morgan Atkinson, Dakota Barnes, Camille Bourret, Claire Bowman, Nelligan Brown, Harlan Collins, Everett Ford, Jessica Hamilton, Tim Kanellitsas, Lina Klumpp, Laura Kunz, Ali Levy, Alexander MacMillan, Christopher Nalen, Kate Nero, Andrew Pfeiffer, Lucas Poster, Megan Reidy, Sloan Storey, Grace Weaver, Nicol Wheeler and Emily Williams. (Tuition $1,030, ages 10-13, on-snow 3 days a week, plus $30 wax charge).
Lake Creek and Quigley Development team members—Lake Creek (55 skiers): Jake Adicoff, Angelica Black, Samantha Busby, Grace Carroll, Chloe Chrysikopoulos, Hannah Conn, Doug DuFur, Whitney Engelmann, George Everitt, Henry Everitt, Katie Feldman, Alex Feldman, Jonathan Fitzgerald, Grace Gorham, Jamie Graninger, Sydney Hagenbuch, Syringa Hansen, Galena Hansen, Charlie Harder, Will Harder, Mateja Heinrich, Samantha Hepworth, Alysha Herich, Serena Hertel, Marie Hoopes, Elana King-Nakaoka, Nick Krekow, Zachary Lindahl, Gavin McDonald, Madigan Miller, Carter Miller, Haley Montgomery, Josh Morrell, Tatum Morell, Walker Nosworthy, Jackie O'Reilly, Ty Reinemann, Miles Remington, Riley Kilmartin Schmidt, Emily Seiller, Jack Seiller, Riley Sennes, Emily Siegel, H. Mitchell Steinman, Spencer Thomas, Averell Tian, Moyo Tian, Loni Unser, Amy Jo Weaver, River Whittier, Poppy Whittier, Maggie Williams, Sarah Williams, Kailey Wilt and Ketchum Wilt. Quigley Canyon (33 skiers): Annie Ashfield, William Ashfield, Micah Barker, Tara Bingham, Cameron Bingham, Haley Cooper, Bobby Corker, Megan Downey, Allison Fluetsch, Chandler Gifford, Andrew Graves, Danny Graves, Xavier Haemmerle, Catherine Henry, Logan Johnston, Shyla Jones, Allison Jones, Kaitlyn Landis, Annika Landis, Brooke Lawrence, Matthew Minford, Michael Niedrich, Ciceley Peavey, Joel Rinckwald, Carter Ros, Maranda Stopol, Cheyanne Stopol, Olivia Thornton, Jacob Truxal, Sarah Verst, Luke Verst, Everett Wiethorn and Galen Barker. (Tuition $350, for 2 days a week, on-snow December through February, training Mondays and Wednesdays for Lake Creek, and Tuesdays and Thursdays for Quigley, after school)