AVSC looks to another big year
If you go by the numbers, the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club is on a roll. For the upcoming winter season, 1,728 local youths are projected to enroll in club programs – including more than 1,500 in the non-competitive Base Camp programs. Executive director Mark Cole isn’t fixated on numbers, however, when he talks about the continued success of the valley’s largest non-profit. Rather, he singles out the impressive accomplishments of AVSC competitors last season. Sixteen-year-old Jordan Karlinski was selected to the Boardercross C Team for U.S. Snowboarding in June. Two alpine skiers, Toby Lamar and Alice McKennis, were picked to compete in U.S. nationals at the end of the season. The club also produced a national champion Nordic team at the high school level last year.”Going into this year, we’re really building on the success that we had a year ago,” the executive director said. “I feel like in each of the competitive programs, we have fantastic staff and a real focus on quality in terms of athletic achievement.”Away from the competitive programs, Mark Cole said the club continues to fulfill its mission of reaching out to offer the option of winter sports to every youth in the Roaring Fork Valley. This year AVSC’s projected operating budget is a projected $2 million, up from $1.7 million last year. That money covers staffing and operating expenses, but it also covers a number of scholarships for club members who otherwise couldn’t afford club programs. Mark Cole said that 12 percent of the club’s projected enrollees this year are Latinos.”That doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “Our mission compels us to give every child in this valley the opportunity to be on the mountain. That’s important. We can’t sit back and wait for them to come to the clubhouse and expect that it’s going to happen naturally. … We have to set up situations that are comfortable for those parents to come in and to sit down and ask questions and to walk through the enrollment process. We’ve got to navigate the hurdles of equipment, clothing and transportation. We’ve got a lot of people helping us and I think we’re succeeding there in a great way.”The Base Camp programs, which are based out of Snowmass Village, have seen the biggest areas of growth. The ongoing construction at Base Village this winter hasn’t had a discernible effect on enrollment numbers for the non-competitive programs, said Allen Cole, the club’s marketing and development director.The Aspen Skiing Co. offers its own non-competitive youth programs at Buttermilk, but Allen Cole said he has not seen “an appreciable move from Snowmass to Buttermilk.” “According to our latest enrollment data, we are equal to or well ahead of our enrollment over last year for all of our Snowmass programs,” Allen Cole said.He noted that the Aspenauts program for high schoolers has 48 more youth enrolled this year at this time compared to last year. The 8-and-under and 6-and-under SnoWarriors programs are also up in numbers, with 97 more youth enrolled this year at this point in the season.As for AVSC’s competitive programs, which include alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, freestyle skiing and snowboarding, Mark Cole said enrollment has grown at a steady rate of four percent for the last couple of years. With that growth, the club has added new coaches in the freestyle and Nordic programs this season and a new big mountain program. The big mountain program will be headed up by former Snowmass Freeride Series champion, Vince Lahey. The club doesn’t have any capital growth projects in the works right now, but Mark Cole said that could change within six months. “We’re to the point where we need conceptual endorsement from the Aspen Skiing Co. to do anything,” the executive director said. “Just two weeks ago, I got something in here from [Skico CEO] Pat O’Donnell saying they’re too busy with opening up. There’s no urgency right now. It’s important that whatever we decide to do gets the attention it deserves.”Currently, Mark Cole said the club has one of the nicest clubhouses in the country and some of the best competitive facilities in the state. As it eyes its 70th anniversary next season, the executive director said the club has eye toward its past and one toward the future.”We’ve been an integral part of the community for that long,” he said “That’s one of the coolest things that I think happens. When a child gets involved here, they’re tied to that tradition. You just can’t say that everywhere.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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