Friday, November 18, 2011

Ski Champion to give talk Saturday

Express Staff Writer

Ski racing great Jonna Mendes will be headlining a meet-and-greet at River Run Lodge on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. Courtesy photo

The Sun Valley Ski Academy will host an evening with Olympian Jonna Mendes on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. at River Run Lodge.

Junior racers and ski enthusiasts are encouraged to join Mendes for a conversation and Q&A about her illustrious career. Refreshments and autograph signings will follow her talk.

The event will take place immediately following a day of Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation's first pre-Thanksgiving J3 training program, which will be held Nov. 19-23.

Skiers from all over the West (Mt. Hood Academy, Bogus Basin, McCall and Kelly Canyon) will have the chance to train on Bald Mountain.

"This is a great opportunity for local kids in Idaho," Mendes said. "To be able to ski at home, they can still enjoy their Thanksgiving."

Mendes' impressive resume includes World Championship medalist in 2003 at St. Moritz, Switzerland, a two-time Olympian at the 1998 Nagano games and the 2002 Salt Lake games, two--time national champion in downhill, two-time national champion in giant slalom, two-time silver medalist in the Junior World Championships and two-time Junior of the Year by Ski Racing magazine.

Mendes, 32, moved to Ketchum in early October and is director of recruitment for the Sun Valley Ski Academy.

Mendes hadn't been to Sun Valley in 17 years, and said she's wondered why she didn't come out here sooner.

Hailing from California and growing up skiing Heavenly at South Lake Tahoe, Mendes spent the past 10 years living in New York City with her husband, Will O'Toole. She also has a 16-month-old baby boy named Declan. She said he'll be ready any day to stick ski boots on.

With Mendes' experience and racing trophies, she said she hopes to guide teenagers and young adult skiers as apart of the academy.

"I hope to be a full-time mentor to the kids in the valley," she said. "I've been through the challenges of school and being a teen all while being on a ski team."

She said racing can take up such a big chunk of a young skier's life.

"For kids to come here and get a great education and have a semi-normal high school experience, it's huge," Mendes said. "The Community School has a great education system and the SVSEF is incredible. Hopefully, more kids will be flocking to Sun Valley. Everything is here."

Jessica Wasilewski, the academy's director of residential life and marketing, said Mendes' participation could be "a big deal for the entire valley."

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