After Five Years, the SSWSC-Steven's Family Alpine Venue Has Made an Impact
The 2019/2020 season marked the fifth year of operation for the SSWSC – Steven’s Family Alpine Venue and what an impact it has made for the alpine skiing programs at the SSWSC! Designed in conjunction with our partner, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation, and thanks to a $2.3 million “Creating Champions” capital campaign, the new venue included a re-routed competition course with night lighting, snowmaking and a state-of-the-art start house dedicated for use by the SSWSC for training and races. As a private venue for the club, an annual operating agreement with the SSRC allows for the SSWSC to direct snowmaking and grooming operations on the hill. This has included terrain enhancements and water projects whereby SSWSC coaches pour water into the snow to make an icy, challenging surface like those on the World Cup and elite level events.
“I call it our ski racing sandbox. Once we get the snow on the hill, we can move it anywhere to create features like rollers, mounds, sharp break-overs and spine-like terrain to challenge the racers. Once the skiers master those, we’ll move the snow around and try something new. We can make the hill ski like a World Cup course and days later modify it to accommodate U12 racers. It’s a hugely valuable training asset,” says SSWSC Associate Executive Director Jon Nolting.
The venue has played host to the NCAA Championships giant slalom races in 2016 and 2018, while also serving as the U14 Championships hill for super G and giant slalom for four straight years. It hosted snowboard NorAm events as well (including then 16-year-old SSWSC rider Cody Winters’ thrilling first NorAm podium finish, missing the win by less than 0.01 seconds).
Its value as a training center has been the biggest impact. In the 2019/2020 season the trail opened top-to-bottom on November 12 for training, before skiing opened to the public at Steamboat Ski Resort and our earliest start ever. This early start was helped by extra snowmaking capacity as a result of an additional pump for Steamboat Ski Resort that was purchased from the capital campaign funds to ensure the earliest possible training. Prior to its use, the coaching staff sets up miles of B-net and hundreds of pads to make the trail safe for the athletes. To-date, there have been no major accidents at the venue. We’ve added to the B-net inventory with matching grants from the Kelly Brush Foundation. During the season, the coaches sprayed over a half million gallons of water over the trail to keep the surface firm and fast for racing. Steamboat Ski Resort hired a former NorAm level ski racer and top-notch winch cat operator, Hugh Killebrew, to be a dedicated groomer to the venue, ensuring training conditions were perfect. Through a lot of effort and teamwork, training environments for our alpine athletes have been ideal.
The results have been dramatic. In the five years since its completion, SSWSC has emerged as one of the top alpine programs in the country. After a long drought of U.S. Ski Team nominations, two SSWSC athletes have been named to the alpine national team over the past couple of years, and SSWSC is tied for the highest number of racers named to the U.S. Ski Team’s Elite Athlete Development Pool, a watch list for junior athletes with potential to make the national team in the future. This season the alpine team also broke a decade long streak by wrestling the Colorado Ski Cup team title from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, indicative of the depth of talent of the team on the top regional racing circuit. There is no question that the quality of training offered on the SSWSC-Steven’s Family Alpine Venue has been a major factor in the alpine program’s resurgence.