“Coaching keeps me young.”
That’s what Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Alpine Program Director Ruben Macaya said after being honored Saturday night during the 36th annual SVSEF Fall Game Dinner and Auction in the Sun Valley Inn’s Limelight Room.
As hundreds looked on, 22-year SVSEF coaching fixture Macaya received the seventh annual Jack Simpson Dedicated Coaches Award given to the coach who best exemplifies the values of Sun Valley’s junior ski racing program.
“This is an absolute total surprise. I’m humbled,” said Macaya, after being introduced for the prestigious honor by Michel Rudigoz, who called Macaya “my best friend.”
Macaya, from Barocoche, Argentina, represented his native country in the 1968 Winter Olympics and appeared in five FIS Alpine World Championships from 1966 to 1970, according to his SVSEF biography.
Before coming to Sun Valley, Ruben coached the U.S. Ski Team from 1980-84 and the 1984 U.S. Winter Olympic Team. He returned to the helm of Argentina for 1988 Winter Olympics.
Macaya’s selection for the Simpson award was a highlight of a jam-packed evening of fun, food and bidding. Proceeds benefited the SVSEF alpine, cross country, snowboard and freestyle teams. Over 165 volunteers and 500 contributors teamed up to make the evening become a big success.
Events Director Kate Berman said, “With 320 guests, the evening was alive with energy and generosity. It was a tremendous success.”
Charlie Dunn won the Sun Valley season ski pass in a raffle with the winning ticket drawn by Ali Rathfon, who sold $465 worth of raffle tickets to lead all the young ticket sellers for the second straight year.
New this year was the “Gold Medal Opportunity” that, for a $100 donation, gave buyers a chance to choose any one of the evening’s 14 live auction lots.
The lucky winner in a drawing was Johnny Unser, who selected a six-day, five-night Middle Fork of the Salmon River rafting trip for two that was donated by Steve and Annie Lentz’s Far and Away Adventures.
It was the third year for Fall Game Dinner online bidding, which added to the fundraising.
When the live auction began, a highlight was a short speech by two-time Olympic alpine ski racer and four-time national champion Jonna Mendes from South Lake Tahoe. Mendes is the second-year Recruitment Director of the Sun Valley Ski Academy.
The boisterous crowd hushed still as Mendes spoke movingly of her background with the Heavenly Ski Foundation and how scholarship assistance from generous donors helped her compete for 10 years as a high-achieving member of the U.S. Ski Team.
Mendes offered her services in one of the 14 live auction lots—a Sun Valley ski day for two people with Mendes. When the bidding became close between two potential buyers, each at $5,500, Mendes decided she would ski with both buyers for the same donation.
Other live auction items and their final sale prices were:
Starbucks Ketchum Town Center VIP card for $3,000; party for 12 at the Sagewillow Farms SVSEF Air Barn for $1,000; half-day private training with a SVSEF coach for $2,000; the popular Macaya’s Argentinian lamb asado barbecue for 40 people for $6,500; Vermont Bike Tours bike/hike/ski tour for two people for $5,000; and Sun Valley Heli Ski Day and Swiss après ski party for $6,500
The evening was an initiation-by-fire for the newly appointed SVSEF Events Director Sarah Crowley, who is preparing to take over for Berman.
Berman, the energetic Events Director for 13 years, is wrapping up her positive and productive fundraising stint with Saturday’s Fall Game Dinner and the Janss Pro-Am Classic next April 4-6 at Sun Valley. She is training Crowley to take the ball and run.
SVSEF executive director Don Wiseman honored her many contributions with a tribute that elicited a standing ovation for Berman during Saturday’s Fall Game Dinner.
Meanwhile, Crowley was busy at work with the backstage logistics. “I’ve been shadowing Kate as her assistant, attending the same meetings and meeting the same people. I’m sort of doing two jobs at once, as her assistant and all of the many things the Event Director does,” said Crowley.
Crowley, 23, from Worcester, Mass., graduated from Bancroft School, a coed independent day school in Worcester. There she played field hockey and lacrosse for the Bulldogs and skied with family, friends and the school’s ski team at nearby Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton, Mass.
She graduated from Maine’s Bowdoin College in 2011 with a major in Psychology and minor in Studio Art. Last winter, Sarah joined older sister Kathryn McNeal in the Wood River Valley. A 10-year valley resident, Kathryn is married to Matt McNeal and they live in Hailey.
One of the first things Sarah did in the valley was take part in last April’s Janss Pro-Am Classic on Baldy. “The Janss was my first realization of how much fun Idaho can be,” said Crowley.
She worked for the Sun Valley Center with its wine auction before landing the SVSEF Event Director position.