Last week, the Sun Valley Snowboard Team gathered at Ketchum's NexStage Theatre for its season-ending banquet.
Awards were dispersed Wednesday as coaches, riders, parents and friends of the program looked back on a yet another successful season.
Team director Andy Gilbert said there was one particular moment from the 2005-2006 winter that stood out.
He had just arrived at Northstar in Lake Tahoe, Ca. for the USASA National Snowboarding Championships with 23 qualifying riders from his Sun Valley Snowboard Team. Upon registering, event officials raised their eyebrows, incredulous at the size of the Sun Valley contingent.
"Some programs around the country only have 20 or 30 riders total, so to bring that many to nationals blew people away," Gilbert said. Sun Valley has 90 riders, so the nationals group was nearly a third of the team.
Success is paying off.
The 2006 Winter Olympics at Torino, Italy boasted two Sun Valley boarder alums (Graham Watanabe and Aprilia Hagglof). So the team has groomed the first locally-raised Olympians since alpiner Picabo Street.
The snowboard season is an especially grueling one. Gilbert said he realized that Austen Butler, the breakout A-Team rider (qualifying for finals at the Mt. Bachelor Olympic trial Grand Prix, competing in Junior World Championships in South Korea) was home 35 days between Dec. 1 and April 1.
Gilbert said he is grateful for the commitment of his coaches, in fact, he is amazed. "I don't know these guys do it. They are on the road all season long, pushing the kids and having a good time along the way."
Training trips are planned for this summer. Team riders are heading to a Mt. Hood camp with a Revolution Tour stop June 13-22. Toward late July, 11 riders travel to Snowpark, New Zealand for training and the New Zealand Open on Aug. 1.
After twelve years with the program, Gilbert has never felt better. "This was one of the most successful years we have ever had," he said. Awards:
C-Team (45 riders): Coaches Chatham Baker, Ciam Parten and Josh Keefer. MVP—Ali Appleton and Ross Bird. Most Improved—Noe Garing and Britton Stevenson. Most Stoked—Jackson Long. Worst Crash—Hailey Rheinschild, for breaking her arm in Jackson Hole and declining pain killers. "She was tough as nails," said Gilbert.
B-Team (16 riders): Coaches Jon French and Billy Olson. Most Improved—Peter Driscoll. Most Inspirational—Scott Pike. MVP—Kaitlyn Farrington. "She's the real deal," said Gilbert. "She is immensely talented on a snowboard. This season, she basically established herself as a force to be reckoned with."
Among Farrington's highlights were a fourth place in the halfpipe at national championships in Northstar, a third place in slopestyle at Jackson Hole's Evolution Tour and a win on the Smith Rail Jam, also in Jackson.
Equally impressive was Farrington's regional dominance. In over a dozen intermountain halfpipe and slopestyle competitions, she never finished lower than second place and racked up an unmatched 11 first place finishes. On the vast majority of these podiums, teammate Katie Fiaschetti was right behind her at second, establishing the two as a season long Sun Valley powerhouse.
A-Team (7 riders): Coaches A.J. Grabos and Jacob Tyler. Road Warrior—Austen Butler, for his weeks in planes, trains and automobiles on various continents.
Platinum Egg Beater Award—Michael Kunz for breaking his collarbone two days before his first trip to nationals during his final year with the team.
MVP—Jeremy Black. "He's the first guy in the locker room, with a great attitude that always brings the team's mood up," said Gilbert.
Graduates—Michael Kunz and Jens Peterson.
Gilbert said his A-Team was an experiment that worked this season, establishing it as a traveling band of elite riders. "That group really set a tone for the rest of the team and gave them something to look up to," he said.