AVSC: Not afraid to brave the cold

Josh Ganz
Coach’s Corner
Development 2 team member Tai Kim, of Missouri Heights, snowboards a secret stash on the Snowmass ski area on Jan. 12.
Charlie Childress/Courtesy photo |

Many institutions have mission statements, ideals or ethos that they adhere to in order to achieve their goals.

The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club is no different. We have our “core values” — teamwork, commitment and integrity — and through them we do our best to create quality people in a safe athletic environment.

In the past two weeks, specifically, our athletes have demonstrated excellence in their commitment to their teammates, athleticism and their respective sports. Being a part of a team or club of this nature does not come without its difficulties. There are social, mental and physical pressures that can be incredibly taxing for anyone to overcome. Some of these pressures are intensified exponentially at ages as young as 13, 12 and below.

I know that when I was a child at that age, the last thing I wanted to do on the weekends during the school year was to get up early. Things honestly haven’t changed much for me some two decades later. If I had my way, the ski/ride day would never begin before 11 a.m., and those would be the early days.

Unfortunately for me, this is not the case. I’m up at 7 a.m. five to six days a week to be on the mountain early to get the most out of the experience (and because my boss said so). At least I receive a paycheck.

These kids sacrifice the personal comfort of sleeping in (again, a comfort that I hold incredibly dear) and much, much more to progress in their sport. It’s not an easy task. Jan. 12 was no exception. If you didn’t have the pleasure of being on the mountain that day, let me describe it to you. As my roommates and I were driving from Aspen to Snowmass on Highway 82, we thought, “Well, it’s not nearly as bad as the weather reports were projecting.”

There was a dark cloud far off in the distance, but above us was sunshine. There was little to no wind. It wasn’t snowing, and those ominous clouds appeared to be moving away from the valley. We turned left onto Owl Creek Road and went past the airport, and things seemed to remain the same. Less than one mile later, it seemed as if we had driven into another land. A land where winds were dangerously blustery and roads did not exist.

We had to go down to about 5 mph no fewer than three times before we safely arrived at the Snowmass Village Mall. As coaches, we expected barely any athletes to show up and that we would end up having to call off training, imagining that the lifts wouldn’t even be able to run.

To my surprise, within minutes of arriving, the clubhouse was full of eager children wanting to strap in and slide down, be it sideways or forward. As the visibility was bad and the winds were high, my team and two others opted for the environmental protection of trees.

Buckskin, Rock Island and Hang On Halvin’s were a few of the places we headed toward that morning and afternoon. We passed the time doing slopestyle training, weaving quickly in and out of trees (exploring the timing of turns along with upper- and lower-body separation), spinning off moguls and small rock jumps and dropping cliffs. It was snowing hard and incredibly windy, so much so that by the time we would make our way back up the Sheer Bliss lift and enter through a gate for another round, we could barely find our own previous tracks. It was as if someone kept hitting the reset button on the terrain, and it was incredible. I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best days of the season.

While it would have been incredibly easy to read the weather reports and decide not to bother getting out of bed, our athletes were out on the hill braving the bitter cold, frozen facemasks and all, and loving it. There were tons of high-fives thrown during the six hours we were on the hill. Hugs and cheers were even given between athletes at various accomplishments (cliff drops, hip jumps and powder stashes, just to name a few). By 2:30 p.m., everyone had a smile stuck on their face (partially from being frozen but mostly from having fun).

AVSC athletes are competitive and know that conditions are not always going to be perfect. Some competition days will provide the same conditions as Jan. 12, and because of that, they’re willing to brave those days when it would be easier to stay under the covers and pop in a DVD.

Their toes get cold, maneuverability is hampered due to extra layers, and visibility is anything but pristine, but they’re still out there. The athletes’ commitment to the mountain and desire to be prepared is top-notch, and through it all they’re having fun. That’s just one of the many reasons I love my “job” with AVSC.

Josh Ganz is a snowboarding coach for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. He writes about the progress of athletes who live and/or train in Snowmass Village. Email him at


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