Ski club, resort and school working together
Crested Butte has produced a number of extremely successful skiers through programs like the Crested Butte Ski Club and the Crested Butte Academy.
Competitors such as Chris and Casey Puckett started out with the ski club and went on to win the alpine racing national overall combined title in the ’90s. Casey then went on to take the gold in the Skier X at the 2007 Winter X Games.
David Chodounsky trained with the Academy in the late ’90s and went on to captain the NCAA champion Dartmouth ski team and win the collegiate slalom title.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Young local athletes have also found success on the World Freeskiing Tour and in snowboarding.
Yet, on-mountain sports programs for the future stars of the Gunnison Valley were looking dim this summer when the Crested Butte Academy shut its doors for good.
While the ski club had the resources, coaching and volunteers to offer an affordable ski-racing program for kids up to age 12, they could not grow to provide opportunities for ski racers, freeskiers and snowboarders of different abilities through to the high school years.
“It’s hard to be in that business and provide quality programs with a bunch of volunteers,” says club president Judy Byron.
“We’re working parents that aren’t in the business of putting on something that big.”
Enter Drew Cesati, former director of alpine racing from the Crested Butte Academy, and Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR).
Cesati came to CBMR director of operations Ethan Mueller with an idea based upon the work he had done with the Academy.
“I think that was a shame when it went away,” says Cesati of the Academy closure. “There was great momentum there.”
It just so happened, Cesati’s was an idea that first hit Mueller back when his family purchased the resort.
Mueller saw a variety of on-snow training programs under a variety of names and all under different roofs.
“When we got here, the model was very different from what we had at Sunapee and Okemo,” explains Mueller. “We saw a lot of advantages to having it all under one roof.”
After several meetings, Mueller and Cesati hatched a plan to offer on-snow mountain sports programs for all ages and abilities, from the fledgling free rider to the committed alpine racing prodigy and everyone in between.
“It really started as a conversation with Ethan Mueller,” says Cesati. “It continued to evolve and then I was starting on Monday.”
The resort and Cesati created the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team and hired Cesati as the manager.
It just so happens that around the same time, Byron was talking with Crested Butte Community School principal Stephanie Niemi about providing time for ski racers to train during school hours.
“Stephanie Niemi was willing to make it work,” says Byron. “When that piece came together, it was an opportunity to have one big program of all disciplines.”
Furthermore, when the club heard Cesati was involved, things started to really click. Conversations between the club and the resort resulted in a shift of responsibility from the club to the resort, allowing the club to focus on fundraising for local athletes.
“The club is super-psyched,” says Byron. “The club will go from hands-on to becoming the foundation for support.”
Whereas the club was responsible for numerous aspects of racing, from coaching to organizing events with the resort to raising funds for scholarships, now it can concentrate on fundraising.
“We’ll keep our commitment to keep the Gunnison Valley youth on the hill and following their dreams,” says Byron.
“It allows the club to continue as a fundraising entity,” says Mueller. “Let them focus on that and let’s us focus on the on-hill stuff.”
If you’ve got a six-year-old who wants to receive early ski or snowboard coaching once a week, i.e. the Cyclones program, the Mountain Sports Team can do that.
Say your 10-year-old is ready to move from weekend training to three days of training and some competition experience—the Mountain Sports Team can do that.
Or, if you’re local ski racer Mick Osmundson who is looking for six days of training and a rigorous race schedule, the tools will be there for him to use. There will be tutoring, coaching, travel and accommodations, all organized and provided by the Mountain Sports Team.
“We want to offer multiple levels of training products to the local communities at large and the out-of-town customer,” says Mueller.
Cesati has already pulled in a couple of coaches from the Academy and is continuing to build a staff that can accommodate as many athletes as possible. Furthermore, the plan is to keep things as affordable as possible.
“The kids are going to get a real high-end program but do not need to pay the high-end price,” says Cesati. “The kids are going to be able to get to the mountain and train.”
Mueller and Cesati are still working out program specifics but the numbers are in and the plan is rolling ahead to start this winter.
“There’s a lot of wheels in motion for this year,” says Mueller. “Some of this is still a work in progress but we’re hitting the ground running.”
“We found the pot at the end of the rainbow,” says Byron.
Information about the Mountain Sports Team can be found on the resort website, www.skicb.com/mountainsportsteam. CBMR will hold an open house in late September for anyone interested.
“I’m hoping the community will take the leap of faith and show their support,” says Cesati. “Something needed to happen so the kids could get what they deserved.”