AVSC this week: Coaching is a family affair
At the core of Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club are families. This season, the staff features a brother-sister team of snowboard coaches and a married couple, who are leading the mogul skiers.
Just 16 months apart in age, Teddy and Jordie Karlinski grew up snowboarding with AVSC, each strapping on their first boards when they were 8 years old.
As is often true of siblings, the longtime Snowmass Village residents pushed each other to be their very best.
Their snowboarding careers assumed different trajectories. Teddy opted for college and the chance to play collegiate golf, while still keeping a hand in snowboarding.
Jordie focused on her riding and enjoyed a successful competitive career, highlighted by a second in slopestyle two years ago at the Nescafe Championships in Switzerland.
In 2014, she missed a spot on the U.S. Snowboarding Team by the smallest of margins but was circumspect about the news.
This season will be the first in many when she isn’t competing in the U.S. or abroad.
Jordie said she is looking forward to “not having to worry about an upcoming event or training. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and transfer it to the younger kids.”
As the Devo II head coach, Jordie is working with riders ages 10-13.
Teddy is working with the 8- and 9-year-old Devo I athletes.
Both coaches feel that could produce some synergy.
“If I have a kid in my group doing great, killing it, I’ll send them up to Jordie. We’ll have that kind of teamwork,” said Teddy. “The could lead to great opportunities for progression.”
The AVSC athletes-turned coaches also have been reunited with one of their mentors, Miah Wheeler, the club’s new head snowboard coach, who is returning to his roots after a successful stint with the U.S. Adaptive Team.
Another person who was a positive role model during their impressionable days was fellow Snowmass Villager and Olympic medalist Gretchen Bleiler.
“She was definitely an influence for both of us,” Jordie said.
The Karlinskis hope to share their love of riding the entire mountain with their young charges and say they will be focusing on teaching kids the fundamentals.
“I didn’t get good at rails and didn’t focus on slopestyle until I was in high school. We were driven to be good at all five events,” said Jordie. She said the allure of the Winter X Games has probably steered young riders to focus primarily on park and big air.
The Karlinskis plan to seek out all corners of the ski areas in order to increase their riders’ skill sets. Teddy used the example of Travis Rice, a professional snowboarder who is one of the leaders of the big mountain freestyle movement, as someone to be emulated.
Rice is equally at home in the backcountry and a terrain park.
“That’s very important for the growth of the person,” said Teddy Karlinski.
Nori and Kris Pepe
Recently transplanted to Aspen after six years in Telluride, AVSC coaches Nori and Kris Pepe say they are happy to be joining the club “at such an exciting time.”
“Here is the opportunity to grow something, build something, shape it on the way up,” said Kris, who is the head mogul coach. Nori has been selected as AVSC’s Devo II head coach and coordinator. She also will do duty as the Nordic team’s program manager.
As a 15-year-old athlete, the former Nori Lupfer from Waterville Valley made the U.S. Freestyle Team. She competed in moguls, dual moguls, aerials and ballet.
A three-time junior national champion in combined, Nori’s competitive career took a detour after “I got offered a job to perform in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus doing ‘ski flips.’”
Nori followed up life on the circus train with a fellowship that sent her photographing circuses. As exciting as these trips were, she eventually “tired of living in a suitcase.”
Meanwhile, Kris Pepe was finding his own way as a late-blooming competitive athlete. Raised on Hunter Mountain, New York, Kris moved to Breckenridge once he turned 18 and headed to Park City, Utah, next.
Though headquartered in different parts of the country and later, the world, Kris and Nori kept hearing about each other through mutual friends.
Still, they didn’t actually meet until Kris was skiing in his final competition, the U.S. Championships at Killington, where Nori was working as a coach.
“We started dating at a distance,” she said, until fate intervened.
A friend’s wedding took them to Telluride at which point Nori applied the power of positive thinking.
“I put it out into the universe that ‘we should both be offered jobs here.’”
At the beginning of the 2008-09 season, they accepted jobs coaching in Telluride.
It was a great move for the couple’s careers as well as that of the athletes. During Kris Pepe’s Telluride tenure, “five athletes made the national team, a dozen made the development team,” he said.
There were also junior world champions and junior national champions as well as 60 FIS podiums by athletes developed under his reign.
Nori coached kids 8- to 12-year-olds in Telluride, an age with which she’s most comfortable.
“I had really great coaches during that time, especially a woman coach” named Jodi Spiegel. Usually there’s a lot more men and male coaches in the sport. Girls at that age just identify so completely with having a role model and someone to emulate. You have an opportunity to be such a positive influence,” she said.
Like AVSC’s other family members who are coaches, the Karlinskis, Kris and Nori Pepe are big on technique and fundamentals.
“What’s so special about moguls is, it’s still freestyle skiing. We’re flipping, jumping, skiing the whole mountain, but it’s also based from the technical skiing standpoint,” said Kris.
Having both partners understand the rigors of training, travel and competition is helpful, they said.
“We’re always working together on our job and our goals,” Nori said. “Skiing doesn’t stop for us when we get home,” Kris said.
Weekly with Walt
On the Nov. 26 “Weekly with Walt” on GrassRoots Television, host Walt Evans will be joined by special guest Patrick Riml, alpine director of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association.
Also featured are two born-and-bred local racers, Galena Wardle and Ben Throm, who are members of the elite-level national training group.
The program will air at 7 p.m. today (Nov. 26) and will be repeated throughout the week on Channel 12 (upvalley) and Channel 82 below Catherine’s Store.
Or it may be viewed any time on grassrootstv.org.
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