Clubhouse Chronicles: 4 decades of commitment, teamwork and integrity
Clubhouse Chronicles: Four decades of commitment, teamwork and integrityPat 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. 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.