Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is it about the kids?

My name is John Sweek, and I am the volunteer board chairman of the Hailey Ski Team. The Hailey Ski Team is a local nonprofit organization. It has been providing a family-based, lower-cost option for valley kids to learn the sport of alpine ski racing for more than 20 years, 15 on Baldy.

I returned last week from a race in Park City, where the team shared condos, and parents took turns with meals. It reminded me of ski trips I took as a kid: low cost, fun and su-pervised. Every kid had at least one parent present. The team is comprised of families that ap-preciate this old-fashioned ap-proach.

The Feb. 21 article in the Idaho Mountain Express de-tailed the intent of the Sun Val-ley Co. not to renew the Hailey Ski Team lease, which allows the kids to train on Baldy. Without some use of Baldy or Dollar, the team would cease to exist. Picabo Street, Lauren Eder, and Carlos Rixon are a few local racers who came up through the Hailey Ski Team.

We don't pretend to appeal to the majority, but I am pas-sionate about the value we pro-vide to those interested in a smaller, family-centered expe-rience. Our smaller size allows the athletes to view video of their training sessions and race runs every week. I think our results prove our approach works. Park City, for example, is home to at least four pro-grams. The two youth pro-grams that train there are dis-tinctly different, and I believe they push each other to be top notch. There are many warn-ings against the tendency to-ward monopolies in economics and politics. They don't work well. The first thing our com-munity loses here is choice. In this respect, though smaller, the Hailey Ski Team provides a service.

The lack of training space was mentioned in the article. Ski racing numbers have been on the decline for some time. In the last two years Dollar Moun-tain has emerged as a training option, thus expanding the ter-rain available. The plan is to continue to develop this excel-lent training venue. That the Hailey Ski Team kids would be forced to sign up and train with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation kids does not change the number training. Coordination seems to be more at issue. According to the mountain management, the Hailey Ski Team has improved its communication and coop-eration with the Sun Valley Co. and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. I pledge to continue in my role, facilitating this communication, if it works for the company.

The Hailey Ski Team wants to move much of its training emphasis to Rotarun near Hai-ley as soon as Rotarun is ready, but we are realistically a cou-ple years off. We will continue to need Baldy for free skiing. We are happy to go through the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation for training times if it is willing. That would al-low the Sun Valley Co. to deal with only one agency. If this is about the kids, this would seem an effective solution. If this is about the kids, then let the Hai-ley Ski Team know how it can best work with the company. If this is about training space, by forcing a disgruntled group to the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, we will have the same number training. We would have an even larger team, with a diluted staff and supervision.

I don't understand how this would help anyone—especially if this is about the kids.

John Sweek


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