TeamAVSC Blog

Clubhouse Chronicles: 4 decades of commitment, teamwork and integrity

December 23, 2021

Clubhouse Chronicles: Four decades of commitment, teamwork and integrity

Pat Callahan
Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club alumnus and coach

A special time has arrived for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. It’s our 85th anniversary as an organization!

And as a result, we are preparing to celebrate all the incredible people and athletes that have contributed to and benefited from our programs over the years, with our inaugural Alumni Reunion Après Ski Party on Dec. 26 in Aspen.

I’m a proud alumnus of the Alpine ski team at the Aspen Valley Ski Club, as well as a longtime coach at the club. Quick read more or view full article The past 40-plus years of involvement with AVSC have been nothing short of remarkable.

I wish I could brag about illustrious beginnings of my ski racing career, but that would be a reach, to say the least.

After growing up skiing on Buttermilk and Aspen Mountain, I never even considered ski racing until my freshman year in high school. My ski buddies, the Marolt twins, decided they wanted to take up ski racing. I reluctantly decided to give it a try.

My first race was the classification race at Vail. This race was in the “old days” where they gave new racers a grade based upon how fast they are. The best became an A, then B, C, and so on. None of the racers were slow enough to earn the failing F grade. Except me. I was so slow they gave me a G…

Although I was off to a slow start, I was enthralled with the sport. What could be better than sprinting out of school each day to make a few runs on the race course? Days were spent riding the rope tow on Aspen Mountain, hiking the slalom course at Buttermilk, or riding the old Poma lift at Aspen Highlands.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a childhood in Aspen. I loved traveling to other ski areas and really enjoyed the camaraderie of being with my own team and meeting racers from other clubs. I was hooked. I dedicated myself to the sport and gave it my best effort.

With the help of great coaches, such as Shane Burton, Phil Volckhausen and Robin Caudill, I worked my way up to an A ranking the following year. Racing in Aspen was full of wonderful experiences. I was fortunate to be able to continue my career as a NCAA Division 1 racer at Middlebury College.

Following my racing career, I tried my hand at coaching for a season. One season quickly turned into 30 years as a coach, and 25 of those years have been at AVSC, coaching every group from the youngest beginners to the oldest, most decorated skiers. I estimate I have coached over 1,000 aspiring ski racers while at AVSC.

It was with luck that I started off so slowly as a racer, as it has given me an interesting perspective on coaching. I understand the kids who are struggling as youngsters might grow to become our next Olympians, so I tend to pay a little extra attention to all the young racers that remind me of myself as a young racer. Excited, willing to learn and grow, go fast and soak it all in.

There is an obvious pride in coaching kids who have gone on to the Olympics, but I have just as much pride in those AVSC alumni who have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, firefighters, school teachers and yes, even ski coaches. The life lessons that help develop a young racer into an Olympian are the same lessons that help develop kids into great human beings. Commitment, teamwork and integrity are our guiding principles at AVSC. These traits are the backbone of success in all endeavors.

It’s been over 40 years that I’ve been involved with AVSC. It’s been a thrilling adventure as a racer and coach, with the highlight being the relationships formed with my fellow teammates and the kids I have coached.

This winter we are celebrating 75 years of Aspen Skiing Co. and 85 years of AVSC. It’s time to get all the alumni together. Please join our alumni group. We can swap stories about how great we were… or in my case, how I was literally the worst ski racer in Colorado.

Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Aspen Times sports section.

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What will it take to diversify the ski industry?

December 16, 2021
This Article was featured in the Aspen Times 12/9/21. Read the full article here

The photo on the back of Aspen Skiing Co.’s 2021 sustainability report highlights a diverse cohort decked out in company uniforms: Half of the 10 people in the photo are women; about a third are people of color; one of the subjects is in a sit ski.

It isn’t actually on par with Skico’s staff as a whole. Not yet, anyway, according to the caption printed underneath it: “This picture doesn’t represent the actual diversity of ASC’s employee base, but it’s the direction we’re headed.”

So in an Quick read more or view full article industry driven by a sport that has historically been dominated by well-off white people — a sport that still has that well-earned reputation — how do you get more people of color into the business and out on the slopes?

It’s complicated and it’s hard, because it isn’t just about being proactive about equitable recruiting or inclusive advertising or accessible programming, according to Hannah Berman, the sustainability and philanthropy manager for Skico. (The sustainability department at Skico works on racial justice initiatives and community giving as well as climate action.)

“Skiing is very expensive, and race and class are correlated, so we see less skiers of color in that sense on our slopes,” Berman said in a joint interview with Auden Schendler, the company’s senior vice president of sustainability. “But if you look at skiing rates by socioeconomic (group) and by race, upper middle class white people ski at a much higher rate than any other (group). So that points to, you know, this cultural piece that’s a little harder to tackle.”

The perception of skiing’s exclusive culture and lack of diversity doesn’t come out of nowhere, and it is hardly isolated to the industry, according to Wayne Hare, a former Buttermilk and Snowmass patroller who now runs a nonprofit, The Civil Conversations Project, and has been partnering with Skico to organize talks in Aspen about race and life in America.

“The problem is just racism at large, and this (lack of diversity) is just a symptom of it,” Hare said.

Hare also suggested the “where we’re headed” caption on the back of the sustainability report but wants to make it clear that his work with Skico “has nothing to do with creating more diversity at Aspen,” though seeing more people of color on the slopes “might be a byproduct of it.”

“If I were in Aspen, and somebody said, ‘Well, what do you mean? Just look around you: We don’t have a problem with racism,’ I would say, ‘No, no, you look around: look at those slopes. … The slopes are that white because of racism,’” Hare said. “No, not that you’re indicating you don’t want Black people here, but it’s just decades or centuries of racism that got us where we are today.”

It plays out in both the history of exclusion and the present experience for Black skiers and snowboarders on the mountain, according to Quincy “Q” Shannon, the founder of the Black ski club Ski Noir 5280; Shannon also participated in an Aspen U speaker series on racial justice and is involved in what he describes as a “growing and equitable partnership” with Skico to bolster diversity on the mountain.

You can see that reality in the history of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, Shannon suggested. The cohort of dozens of Black ski clubs has convened almost every year since a 1973 summit in Aspen. Aside from boosting visibility and gathering community, the summit serves as a fundraiser to support young snowsports athletes of color and increase participation in winter sports.

The organization has come to Snowmass a handful of times over the years and will return in February 2022. But round one, held at Aspen Mountain 48 years ago, wasn’t exactly met with a warm embrace.

“The National Guard was called, and individuals were put on standby, and they were feared and worried about: What does this group of African Americans coming to this location mean to our town?” Shannon said. “And as dramatic as that was in the ‘70s, there are very much so times in the mountains where that same fear is what we’re greeted with when we come places.”

Shannon still senses that apprehension today and said he is often concerned about his safety. When he’s out on the mountain, he isn’t just thinking about the skier uphill from him or the terrain on the next run; Shannon feels he also must be vigilant about how he greets people, where he sits to eat, whether his back might be turned to the door or to other people.

“I don’t have the luxury of being angry or upset during the day,” Shannon said. “If I was skiing and my leg hurt, and now I have a frown on my face, these are things I actually think about, like how do I present in front of people?”

There also are people who are already in the industry, and already in the area, who still feel the impact of skiing’s exclusivity, according to Schendler and Berman.

“It’s true that there’s another population, the Latino population in the valley, and the question there is more for us, one, … How do you give them access to the sport?” Schendler said. “But the other is, how do you enable your Latino employees — and we have a lot of them — to advance? And we have not cracked that nut.”

An overview from a listening session led by Valley Settlement (a nonprofit that serves the local immigrant community) this summer revealed that there are a host of factors impacting some Latino employees’ upward mobility toward guest-facing and executive roles: language is one component but there’s also transportation and child care and other components, too, according to Berman.

“That’s our ‘everything is everything’ problem,” Berman said. “We have to just keep chipping away at it.”

In the meantime, the company and other local groups offer some programs that get more of the valley’s kids out on the mountains. Skico continues to offer School Ski Days, a program that offers a day of comped tickets and rentals as well as discounted lessons to any class in the Roaring Fork Valley.

But one day a year on skis doesn’t make for a sustainable culture of inclusivity, and folks like Berman, who helps coordinate School Ski Days, recognize that.

So organizers also look toward initiatives with more longevity, like the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s recreational Aspen Supports Kids program. The club offers scholarships for that program, which features six or eight days out on the mountain each season and year-over-year progression with the aim of making skiing more accessible to local youth; financial aid is available for more competition-oriented programs.

The Aspen Supports Kids program also partners with local businesses like Gorsuch and Four Mountain Sports to help alleviate some of the equipment costs for participants, and organizers coordinate transportation from downvalley communities, according to Meredith Elwell, the program director for Aspen Supports Kids.

But identifying and pulling up plucky young athletes with potential from those Aspen Supports Kids programs to the level of competition and development teams is an effort that AVSC is still working on, Elwell said. Part of the work comes from ensuring that families are aware of the “pipeline” to snowsports competition.

“I don’t know that we’ve perfected that bridge, but it is on the forefront of what we’re doing. … Just through bigger levels of communication, building a trust and a relationship with these families, I think is a big step,” Elwell said.

It can certainly help build trust with more families when there’s someone that speaks their language, said Lauren Serafin Martinez, the program director for AVSC’s Bill Koch Ski League recreational cross-country skiing program. (She has also helped Elwell with registration for Aspen Supports Kids, Serafin Martinez said.)

Sometimes, helping kids see themselves as skiers can be boosted by a program organizer who is also learning the sport for the first time — someone like Serafin Martinez, a born-and-raised valley local who had never tried cross-country skiing before the Nordic program director August Teague recruited her for the position. The last time she was on skis was in an AVSC Aspen Supports Kids downhill program when she was still in elementary school.

“I personally have no background in Nordic, so that was a big thing for me. I was like, ‘How am I going to do this if I don’t have any (experience in) Nordic?” she said. “But at the end, especially downvalley in the Carbondale groups, it brought us closer — you know, the never-ever kids then there was me, a 21-year-old on skis for the first time.”

Part of Serafin Martinez’s job focuses on outreach to kids and families that might not otherwise be exposed to cross-country skiing. The program’s expansion to Carbondale was intended, in part, to involve more young skiers from downvalley communities.

Serafin Martinez sees that work in inclusion as something that goes well beyond representation for representation’s sake.

“Such a big part of the community is out on the mountains here, and I think something I’ve seen, obviously, is that in the programs, it doesn’t quite reflect the community that we have,” Serafin Martinez said.

“If I have a goal in this, it’s to have it be a mirror … We want the representation to be there,” she added. “I think it’s like an easy way for kids to make friends and to be in the same groups and, you know, make it comfortable for everyone, and hopefully as they grow, they learn to all be inclusive, and they learn more than just skiing out there.”

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Clubhouse Chronicles: Recognizing 85 years of excellence, community

December 16, 2021

This Clubhouse Chronicles was written by executive director, Mark Godomsky. Read the full article here.

The year 2022 will mark the 85th anniversary of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club serving the youth of the Roaring Fork Valley.

And what an 85 years it has been.

Since our club’s inception in 1937, we have served an integral role in shaping the youth of our valley by coaching and inspiring kids to excel, while promoting a community of passion, grit and mountain culture.

As you can imagine, our programs have grown astronomically since 1937. We now serve close to 3,000 athletes Quick read more or view full article from every school between Aspen and Rifle. We offer programs for every individual and skill level, from first time skiers to athletes heading out to represent our club and community in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Our efforts are not limited to winter, either, as our recreational mountain bike program has grown to serving close to 500 athletes in the summer months.

We could not have achieved this growth and success without this community. It truly takes a village — or in this case a valley. From the in-house coaches and staff of AVSC, to the dedicated Aspen Skiing Co. ski pros helping facilitate our Aspen Supports Kids (ASK) recreational programs, to our chaperones, parents and community volunteers, to the Skico and AVSC mountain operations teams, the list goes on. We are so grateful for the hard work and dedication that each person invests in our club and athletes.

The support of our incredibly generous donors and sponsors is truly what makes this club and our operations so successful, and allows us to get and keep kids on snow. So far this year, we have awarded 575 athletes financial aid to partake in our programs, coming in at just over $570,000 in aid.

In addition, our programs are subsidized substantially to make them affordable and competitive for the families in our community. The ability to engage a variety of athletes and encourage all athletes to participate regardless of financial status is critical to our success and we owe that to the generous donations from our community members and organizations.

Last month, we hosted an equipment day for Aspen Supports Kids athletes, where we handed out 300 pairs of skis and 150 snowboards thanks to our generous partners at Four Mountain Sports and Gorsuch.

For those that are unfamiliar, ASK is our recreational program run with the help of Skico ski instructors and coordinators. ASK participants were able to apply for equipment scholarships and the athletes that were awarded scholarships came to Basalt Middle School for a fun day of getting fitted for ski and snowboard equipment for the upcoming season.

We also owe our success to the incredible venue and mountains we call home. The kickoff to winter has been slow, with little precipitation and warm temps. But with the hard work and preparation of our mountain operations team, blowing, pushing and prepping snow, our training venue at Aspen Highlands is open and provides a useful space for each discipline to train.

We have so much to be grateful for as a club and community. And we want to give a big thank you to all the people and organizations that help us to inspire and coach our valley’s youth. Cheers to another great season ahead and think snow!

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An Aspen guide to the 2021-22 Winter Olympic ski and snowboard season

December 16, 2021

This was an article written for the Aspen Times, 11/4/21
Aspen, you’re beginning to look a lot like you should. Those pretty leaves are being replaced by white mountain tops, those chairlifts will soon be spinning and with glee winter will be upon us again.

And this season is particularly special as the four-year Olympic cycle hits its crescendo with the 2022 Winter Games coming up from Feb. 4-20 in Beijing.

While a world away, Aspen, the Roaring Fork Valley and the entire state of Colorado will buy into what is arguably the largest celebration in the skiing and snowboarding world, where Quick read more or view full article everyone with a television set will be able to take in those sports that are commonplace here in the mountains.

So, to get things started, here’s an Aspenite’s guide to the Olympic season, from what local athletes could possibly represent the red, white and blue, to the Colorado events that will help determine who gets to chase the Olympic glory.

Buckle up. The next few months will be full of excitement in the competitive world of skiing and snowboarding.

Alex Ferreira returns for more

In terms of Aspen athletes, it starts with Alex Ferreira. The 27-year-old halfpipe skier is the reigning Olympic silver medalist, having finished second to Nevada’s David Wise in his one and only appearance at the Games four years ago in South Korea. Ferreira also is a two-time X Games Aspen gold medalist (2019, 2020) and is undoubtedly one of the best in the world when he’s on top of his game.

So, can he get back to the Olympics in 2022 and go for another medal? Without a doubt, but the competition for those coveted U.S. team spots will be fierce in halfpipe skiing. In the first Olympic qualifier, held at Aspen’s own Buttermilk Ski Area back in March, Ferreira finished sixth overall and fourth among Americans, behind Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck, Wise and Winter Park’s Birk Irving. He’s in a good position entering this winter, but will need to keep it up over the remaining qualifiers.

Hailey Swirbul heads to her first Olympics

The closest thing to an Olympic lock this winter has to be Hailey Swirbul. The 23-year-old is a Basalt High School graduate and has become one of the U.S. cross-country ski team’s top up-and-coming talents. This will only be her second season as part of the prestigious A team for the U.S., but she’s already proven she belongs.

She landed her first career World Cup podium last December and is poised to add to it this winter. Swirbul also was chosen to represent the Americans at the world championships last season, and there is little doubt she’ll get to do the same at the Beijing Olympics come February. Only three women were named to the U.S.’s A team this winter, a list that includes Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins, veteran breakout star Rosie Brennan and Swirbul. That’s a sign from the U.S. coaches that her Olympic spot is written in Sharpie.

Hanna Faulhaber is ready to shine

Along with Swirbul, Hanna Faulhaber looks primed to make her first Olympic team. The halfpipe skier, who happens to be a current Basalt High School student much like Swirbul used to be, has skyrocketed up the world rankings. The 17-year-old had a breakthrough performance when she finished fourth at the world championships last March in Aspen and is one of only six women on the U.S.’s freeski pro halfpipe team for this upcoming season.

The downside to her Olympic dreams is that she crashed during training ahead of the first Olympic qualifier last march in Aspen and did not compete, meaning she’s behind the curve in that regard. Veterans Brita Sigourney and Devin Logan look like Olympic team locks, but the rest of the U.S. contingent is wide open. As long as she stays healthy, one must like Faulhaber’s chances.

Athletes who could surprise

Let’s call Ferreira, Swirbul and Faulhaber locks, at least for a second. Who else could surprise and find their way onto the U.S. Olympic team from the valley? It’s worth keeping an eye on the rest of our halfpipe skiers, notably pro team member Cassidy Jarrell and rookie team member Tristan Feinberg. I’d say both are longshots considering the insane amount of depth the U.S. has in halfpipe skiing these days, but they’ll both be knocking on the door. Jarrell missed the first Olympic qualifier because of injury, while Feinberg — only 18 — was a surprising finals qualifier in that competition in Aspen. He finished seventh among the Americans at Buttermilk, which at least has him in the mix entering this winter.

Another name worth watching is Aspen’s own Bridger Gile in alpine skiing. The 22-year-old is on the U.S. B team and fared well at U.S. nationals here in Aspen back in April. He has numerous World Cup starts under his belt, including this season’s opener in Soelden, but hasn’t yet touched a second run. He’ll probably need to finish a little stronger in races over the next two months to make that Olympic team, but it’s very much in the cards for him.

Not quite Aspen, but we claim them

Thanks in large part to the incredible coaching available through the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, there are many athletes who are not valley natives but have trained through AVSC and could possibly represent at the Olympics this winter.

At the top of that list is Chris Corning, one of the world’s best big air and slopestyle snowboarders. Still only 22, Corning made the 2018 Olympic team, finishing fourth in big air and 17th in slopestyle. He was a disappointing 16th in the Olympic slopestyle qualifier in Aspen last March, but was still fifth among Americans. He’s not a lock, not with rising stars like Dusty Henricksen and Judd Henkes looking to snag a spot — let’s assume someone like Red Gerard is a guarantee — but Corning has enough experience and talent to make a push for the U.S. team again.

Others with AVSC ties include snowboarders Jake Canter and Jake Pates, alpine skiers Cooper Cornelius and Isabella Wright, and snowboardcross’s Hagen Kearney. He won’t be on the U.S. Olympic team, but former AVSC athlete Jon Sallinen — he, like so many, works with valley legend Peter Olenick these days — could very well represent his native country of Finland at the 2022 Olympics. He competes in both halfpipe and slopestyle skiing.

Who is not going to China?

As fun as it is to guess who will represent the Roaring Fork Valley at the Olympics, it’s worth pointing out who will not. Last spring, we bid adieu to a cross-country skiing legend in Simi Hamilton. The Aspen native hung it up after three Olympic appearances, six world championships and a decade on the U.S. ski team. He’s retired home to the valley along with his wife, fellow U.S. Olympian and standout Sophie Caldwell Hamilton, and will likely be found competing in many of the local ski races this winter.

Other 2018 Olympians from the area who we won’t see in China include cross-country skier Noah Hoffman, alpine skier Wiley Maple and halfpipe skier Torin Yater-Wallace. Hoffman and Maple have since retired, while Yater-Wallace dedicates himself to the film world exclusively these days. New Castle’s Alice McKennis Duran, who was oh-so-close to that 2018 downhill podium in South Korea, also retired back in the spring, saying her goodbyes with a final lap at Aspen Highlands during U.S. nationals.

About those Olympic qualifiers

So, how does one go about qualifying for the Olympics, anyway? As far as disciplines like alpine and cross-country skiing, it’s mostly about scoring World Cup points. There aren’t any true qualifiers, so doing well in the regular races should get you on the Olympic team. A superstar like Mikaela Shiffrin probably wouldn’t have to touch her skis between now and February to be named to the team for Beijing, but good luck keeping her out of the starting gate.

The freeskiers and snowboarders — i.e., halfpipe, slopestyle and big air — do have specific qualifiers, which largely make up the U.S. Grand Prix series. In the chaos of last season and the pandemic, Aspen stepped in to host the first qualifier in March at Buttermilk, a week after also hosting the world championships, which was not a U.S. qualifier. The qualifiers resume this season with the Copper Grand Prix (Dec. 8-11), Dew Tour at Copper (Dec. 16-19) and the Mammoth Grand Prix (Jan. 6-8). There is also a one-off big air contest Dec. 2-4 in Steamboat Springs.

The name of the game at the qualifiers is to make podiums and beat your American teammates. In recent years, the U.S. coaches have pretty much stuck to the results in naming the Olympic teams, so it’s really in the athletes’ hands. Another qualifier of some sort in mid-January can’t be ruled out, but U.S. ski and snowboard hasn’t yet announced any plans to add any additional contests.

So, what about X Games?

Yes, X Games is scheduled to make its annul trek to Aspen’s Buttermilk Ski Area this winter. ESPN’s made-for-TV spectacle is scheduled for Jan. 21-23. Somewhat unceremoniously, X Games “celebrated” its 20th anniversary in Aspen last winter without fans because of the pandemic. This January’s event marks No. 21 at Buttermilk, and fans will even be able to attend this year after not being allowed in last winter because of the pandemic.

While X Games remains one of the most popular and desirable contests for athletes, it’s not an Olympic qualifier. In fact, most countries will have named their Olympic squads before then and if anything, X Games will be a final tune-up before athletes head to China.

That said, don’t expect it to be a glorified practice session, as X Games competitions during Olympic years can be some of the best, with athletes often bringing new tricks to the arena. Winning gold at either X Games or the Olympics more often than not means being the innovator and doing something that’s never been done before, and Buttermilk will be a showcase for just that come January.

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AVSC hires ski racing legend Tamara McKinney

December 16, 2021

This Article was featured in the Aspen Daily News. Read the full article here.
“To inspire people, don’t show them your superpowers; show them theirs,” Tamara McKinney said during an interview between making Thanksgiving pies Wednesday morning.

They’re not her words — they belong to Dutch author and speaker Alexander den Heijer — but they are the ones McKinney lives by in terms of her philosophy as a ski racing coach.

“That’s the human side of this sport and the emotional side — the inspiration is what makes the difference,” McKinney said, adding, “Obviously strength and technique and equipment matters.”

As the Quick read more or view full article newest coach on the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club roster — McKinney is working with the U12 Alpine Team — she said it was the culture of the program, not to mention the swanky gym, that made the decision to venture from Palisades Tahoe to Aspen full-time, which she did earlier this month. And working with 10- and 11-year-old athletes is an exciting opportunity for a coach, she said.

“For me, the coolest thing about working with this age group is you get them started on a really good foundation of balance and something to build off of,” she said. “But you have to have that balance of being inspired and inspiring the kids and the athletes to try. And I think that’s something in sports — especially maybe in that kind of ­inundation that this generation has with social media — it’s such pressure to be cool.

“And so sometimes when you’re trying a new move or a new skill or learning something, it can be hard for them to try because they might not be good at it. So how do you get through that, to inspire them that we’re all new to something at some point, and it’s OK to try and fall down?”

McKinney, for her part, has plenty of experience trying again until she succeeded, and succeed she has. She established herself as a regular champion for over a decade on the World Cup circuit and as the first American woman to win the overall World Cup in Alpine Skiing.

She went on to be a member of the U.S. Ski Team for 14 years. Between 1981 and 1989 during her career on the team, McKinney competed in three World Championships and three Olympic Games for the United States. In 1984, she was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame; she also has been inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame (McKinney is originally from Kentucky), the Reno/Tahoe Athletic Hall of Fame and the International Ski Hall of Fame.

The sport may take athletes all over the world, but “the ski world is small,” McKinney said Wednesday. She had always known Johno McBride from their shared days as elite athletes. McBride, a Roaring Fork Valley native and an AVSC alum, today serves as the AVSC alpine program director, but his career also includes long stints on the World Cup with the U.S. Ski Team, among other highlights.

The two were sharing a chairlift, as McKinney recalls, in 2018 — she had come to town for ski industry legend Bob Beattie’s memorial — and got to talking. At that time, Casey Puckett, himself a four-time Olympian and who skied the World Cup circuit primarily from 1998-2002, was coaching AVSC at the time.

“And I know Casey from his racing days, and we were just riding up the lift, and I said, ‘Johno, I’m so impressed with the whole situation here and the atmosphere. It just really feels, it’s such a good vibe,’” McKinney recalled. “And he just sort of smiled, and he said, ‘You know, we’re always looking for a good coach here.’”

But the timing wasn’t right for McKinney, a single mom and Top 5 realtor and founding member of Sierra Sotheby’s.

“I worked in real estate to support my skiing habit and hers,” she said. She remembers telling McBride: “I’m not sure I can pull that off yet, but hold that thought.”

Then the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a record-breaking year for resort towns across the country in what became dubbed the “urban exodus,” as people who could afford to relocate to luxury recreational markets did so. She and McBride reconnected over the summer, when McKinney sent McBride an athlete over the summer.

“I really, really wanted to get back on the mountain,” she said. “And again, he said, ‘We’re always looking for a good coach at AVSC.’ So I came out in September just to meet the crew, and we had a barbecue at the ranch — and it just felt like I was kind of home.”

McKinney was able to sell the home she and her brother began building in 1981 last year and, with her daughter now making her own ski-racing career at the University of Vermont, she felt she could make the leap to Aspen. It felt like the logical next step in a long tenure of giving back to the sport, an AVSC press release notes.

“Tamara started coaching young ski racers in Lake Tahoe when she was 18 and in world-level competition. She has coached all age group levels over the years since the late 1990s; from international summer camps, guest coaching with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team U16 technical project post-Squaw Valley World Cup in 2017, to U.S. Team/B-Team technical camp in Zermatt, Switzerland, and coaching FIS and World Cup-level athletes,” the press release lists, as well as the younger-aged “Mighty-Mites, when her daughter Francesca asked how old she had to be for mom to be the coach.”

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