Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club named national club of the year |

Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club named national club of the year

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
Randy Wagner SharpShooter ImagingThe Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club's Andrew Hancock rounds a gate en route to a second-place finish in giant slalom at March's Rocky/Central Division J3 Junior Olympics at Buttermilk.

ASPEN – Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athletes, past and present, produced some indelible moments this past winter. Superpipe phenom Torin Yater-Wallace captivated the hometown crowd and the nation with his silver-medal winning performance in superpipe at the Winter X Games – just two months after his 15th birthday, no less. The club’s J3s did the unthinkable, capturing the top seven spots in the Rocky/Central Division Junior Olympics overall standings on their home snow.There was recent AVSC alum Wiley Maple speeding to first place on Aspen Mountain to clinch the NorAm downhill title, and 18-year-old Katie Ryan bouncing back from a broken arm to win the junior-division super G at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Winter Park. And who could forget Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman representing the U.S. at the Nordic World Ski Championships, freestyle skier Alex Ferreira winning the Gatorade Free Flow Tour halfpipe title, Aspen High clinching the CHSAA girls state skiing crown and club adaptive athletes shining at the U.S. Nationals in Alaska, among other feats.A few more accolades now can be added to the list.The United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) on Monday named AVSC its 2011 Club of the Year, a first for an organization that will celebrate its 75th anniversary next winter. AVSC also was honored as the Alpine Club of the Year and Adaptive Club of the Year, and Pat Callahan was named Domestic Alpine Coach of the Year.”We all have our opinions about how well we’re doing, but to have it confirmed by the organization that oversees all the clubs says a lot to us,” AVSC Executive Director Mark Cole said. “I think we had an unusually strong year.”The AVSC garnered recognition as the USSA’s Snowboard Club of the Year in 2003, but it never had won alpine or adaptive awards.The club’s alpine athletes excelled at many levels of competition this past winter. Perhaps nothing was more impressive than the efforts of the J3s, who swept the podium four times and produced four different winners at the Junior Olympics. As a result, Travis Lundin, Andrew Hancock, Benjamin Throm, Colby Lane, Xon Baker, Dean Travers and Tristan Lane finished first through seventh, respectively, in the overall standings. Travers, a resident of the Cayman Islands, went on to win gold in super G at the Whistler Cup in British Columbia.”It’s like I’ve been telling people, you’ll never see that again,” Callahan said. “It’s never happened before and it was one of those freak occurrences, something special.”Callahan, a 15-year member of the AVSC coaching staff, was recognized for his role in helping mold the talented group.”I was kind of in the right place at the right time. I’m obviously thrilled and honored by it. I found out Thursday or Friday and was told not to announce it, but of course I told my dad and he told everybody in town,” joked Callahan, who was the 1998 NCAA Coach of the Year while leading the St. Lawrence (N.Y.) University ski program. “I think this is the bigger award here. It’s kind of a small pool of NCAA coaches, but I have no idea how many coaches are in the U.S. It’s nice to be singled out in this way.”I feel a little guilty around the club, to be honest. I feel like I did my job like everybody else. There are a lot of coaches that have been here for a lot of years, and that has brought some good continuity and consistency. … I look at this as a group honor even though it has my name on it.”In addition to its athletes’ feats on the hill, the AVSC also was recognized for its willingness and ability to host high-profile events – from women’s World Cup races to the NorAm Cup and National Championships downhill, Junior Olympics and others.”That’s part of having a tremendous partner like the Aspen Skiing Company, who provides access to world-class terrain,” Cole said. “We’re one of the only clubs in the country that can host speed events, and that has become important to the development of ski racers on a national level.”The AVSC also has taken steps of late to help develop adaptive alpine athletes. This past winter, it was the first club in the nation to offer such a program, which proved to be an unequivocal success.Athlete Laurie Stephens paced the squad during March’s U.S. Nationals in Alaska by winning every sit-ski event – the downhill, super G, super-combined, giant slalom and slalom. Teammate Chris Devlin-Young also secured gold in the downhill, while Tyler Walker picked up a bronze and three silver medals.”This was the first year of our partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and I think they recognize this as a model that can be replicated at other clubs,” Cole said. “There is real power in having these athletes there, side by side with able-bodied athletes in the same organization.He continued: “I love the fact that [these awards] coincide with rolling out our 75th anniversary year. We’re definitely going to tout the fact we’re USSA’s club of the year.”So, what can we expect in 2011-2012?”The big thing now is to try and keep it rolling, keep filling in the [programs for young athletes] and bringing them on up,” Callahan said. “We’ve got a good thing going here.”

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