Friday, January 4, 2013

King of Baldy’s climb, Miles looks for new vistas

Express Athlete of the Year is Miles Fink-Debray

Express Staff Writer

Miles Fink-Debray gets a feel for early-season snow on Lower River Run during the 2012 Baldy Thanksgiving ski camp. Courtesy photo by Heather Black, Heather Black Photography

The Sports Illustrated magazine lavishly praised Miami Heat basketball player LeBron James, 28, in December as its 2012 Sportsman of the Year—citing the triple-threat abilities of last year’s NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist.

Miles Fink-Debray of little Ketchum, Idaho isn’t quite the scoring, rebounding and passing threat of “King LeBron.” But six-time Baldy Hill Climb king Fink-Debray, 24, had James beat on one key statistic in 2012. Miles was a quadruple threat and also a top athlete.

The 2012 Idaho Mountain Express Athlete of the Year, Fink-Debray excelled at alpine ski racing, mountain biking, hill climbing and, oh yes, figure skating. Let’s see LeBron climb Baldy or take a few twirls around Sun Valley Ice Rink in front of thousands of fans.

Fink-Debray finished up a nine-year international ski racing career in April with three FIS victories. He won a national cross-country mountain bike championship in July at Sun Valley. In a three-week stretch of September, he not only won the Baldy Hill Climb, but also won the Battle of the Blades figure skating contest.

Best of all, Fink-Debray is a winner at loving where he lives. Just two days after Christmas, he celebrated the holiday and his outstanding athletic year with a fun day of helicopter skiing above Boulder City with four other guys.

“I love skiing,” he said afterward. “I’ve already skied 30 days this season. I just love living here and never want to leave. I like the small town atmosphere, and knowing everyone in town. It’s a big playground if you’re athletic.”

Born in Los Angeles, Fink-Debray moved to the Wood River Valley permanently when he was eight. He had started skiing at the age of two with his father, retired architect Byron Debray. He has lived in Ketchum with his mother, Theodore clothing store owner Tracy Fink, and his younger sister Lily Fink-Debray, 22.

Miles and Lily have been home-schooled. Much of the time during his nine-year career of competing in International Ski Federation races, a career that began in 2003 when he was 15, Miles has raced independently. He has also competed for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.

He figures he has skied at 95 ski resorts. He said he has made friends for life through his skiing. During his best year of competition, 2010, Fink-Debray was ranked 75th in the world. In the last three years he has been very close to making the U.S. Ski Team, but that dream was never realized.

Last Jan. 20-21, Fink-Debray won the Allan Patterson Memorial giant slalom and Laura Flood Memorial GS on back-to-back days on Baldy. He was an FIS runner-up in GS at Snow King, Wyo. in February. He placed 10th in super giant slalom at U.S. Nationals in Winter Park, Colo. March 30. He won an FIS super giant slalom at Mission Ridge, Wash. April 8.

His best season, 2010, included five consecutive FIS races wins at Sun Valley and Snow King followed by a Nor-Am SG victory at Aspen, Colo. where he finished ahead of a slew of current USST male racers. Miles finished up 2010 by winning a Spring Series GS at Mission Ridge on April 11.

Over nine seasons he had at least 34 podium finishes and 14 first places in FIS races.

Best attributes as a skier? Fink-Debray said, “My feel for the snow and my touch.”

He added, “I’m definitely one of the top ski racers in the country and have raced with all the top guys. I’m happy with what I got out of racing. Now it’s nice just to enjoy skiing.”

Fink-Debray said he has now stopped ski racing at the highest level and is content to look ahead and see what doors open up. He has a small and growing clientele as a personal trainer, a budding career that so far has been rewarding for someone “who loves being fit.”

“I have a good engine and seem to be good at anything uphill,” said Fink-Debray, who keeps journals on his training to spot trends and accumulate knowledge about what works, and what doesn’t work. “Mainly I do it for myself. I’m motivated to prepare myself for races and to focus on them.”

Fink-Debray has seen a lot of the world since he started ski racing internationally in Australia and New Zealand at the age of 15—the same year he broke the top 10 at the Baldy Hill Climb for the first time.

This past July, the world came to Miles and other local fat tire enthusiasts at Sun Valley with the staging of the 2012 USA Cycling Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships on Baldy. Fink-Debray was one of 340 competitors. Not surprisingly, he ended up being the best in his age class.

He won the Men’s Category 2 Senior 19-29 division on a 19.5-mile course July 5 by a full 46 seconds with a time of 1.41:51. Miles said he enjoys road racing and plans to continue mountain bike racing as well.

Encouraged by Ketchum’s Bill Nurge, Miles has started cross-country skiing at Lake Creek north of Ketchum. He is enjoying a more leisurely pace this winter after his busy year.

“This summer was crazy with mountain bike nationals and the Battle of the Blades. I’ve been taking it easy the last couple of months. But I like to do a lot of planning. I’ll continue to set goals for myself.”

Express Athletes of the Year

This is the 36th time the Express has named an Athlete of the Year. Selected have been 17 women and 20 men.

2012—Miles Fink-Debray, six-time Baldy Hill Climb winner, top-ranked alpine ski racer, mountain bike national champ

2011—Richard Feldman, world champion cyclist

2010—Morgan Arritola, U.S. Olympic Nordic skier and Baldy Hill Climb women’s champion

2009—Ryne Reynoso, WRHS All-State ballplayer and professional baseball pitcher

2008—Brad Mitchell, ultra marathon runner

2007—Mike Sinnott, cross-country ski captain of Dartmouth’s NCAA championship ski team

2006—Rebecca Rusch, adventure athlete, endurance mountain biker

2005—Jeff Bolton, WRHS grad and All-America football player at Montana State Univ.

2004—Vilnis Nikolaisons, Sun Valley Suns hockey star from Latvia

2003—Kitty Marcroft, ultra marathon runner

2002—Adrienne Leugers, nine-time Baldy Hill Climb women’s winner

2001—Kelly Wardell, the world’s best bareback bronc rider

2000—Sondra Van Ert, 10-time national snowboard champion and 2000 Grand Prix alpine winner

1999—Steve Born, RAAM cross-country bicycle racer

1998—Muffy Davis, slalom bronze medalist at the 1998 Paralympics

1997—Bob Sarchett, masters alpine skier and softball player

1996—Greg Taylor, seven-time Ironman Triathlon finisher

1995—Aleene Gibson, cross-country bicyclist

1994—Picabo Street, 1994 Olympic women's downhill silver medalist

1993—Muffy Ritz, RAAM cross-country bicycle racer

1992—Gabriele Andersen, world-class runner and cross-country skier

1991—Dave Fauth, baseball and softball player

1990—Ruthie Matthes, world-class bicycle racer

1989—Charley French, masters' champion triathlete

1988—E.J. Holcomb, Great American Ski Chase queen

1987—Katrin Tobin, world-class bicycle racer, and brother Michael Tobin, Pike's Peak climber

1986—Jerry Engelbert, world champion powerlifter

1985—Jane (Magoo) McGloin, Ketchum's sunny sports enthusiast

1984—Loren Adkins, nationally ranked bicyclist, skier and hill climber in the 75-79 age class

1983—Monte Brothwell, Idaho's top marathon runner

1982—Lisa Bernhagen, state champion prep track and field performer

1981—Tom Schnebeck, Bald Mountain Rugby Football Club player

1980—Carol Levine, alpine ski racer and softball player

1979—Phil Hoene, Sun Valley Suns hockey centerman

1978—Dr. Lynn "Buck" Levy, pacesetting marathon runner

1977—Christin Cooper, promising U.S. Ski Team alpine racer



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