Inside Edge: Local skiing opportunities abundant

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As promised, the Warren Miller Show was sold out again this year. We’re always amazed at the number of folks who know better, but show up hoping for a ticket. Oh well ... Everybody in the theater was fired up, so now all we need is snow.

Why aren’t you racing? — Each year the Edge asks the same question — Are you going to waste your days smearing snow around the mountain like a spatula, or are you going to slice it up with powerful carves while feeling the wind in your face?

There are many forms of racing available to both recreational and serious racers of all ages. We’ve updated the information below, hoping to draw more folks of all ages into this great sport. If you aren’t already hooked, we hope this is the year you give it a try.

USSA Racing — The United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) is the governing agency for organized racing in the U.S. and is the feeder system for the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Team.

Clubs are registered with USSA, coaches are trained at USSA clinics and races are sanctioned by the USSA. Beginning at age 5, racers can compete in their age groups either independently or as members of a club.

All organized clubs are members of the organization and compete under a uniform set of rules. Youth and junior racers eventually progress to national and international competition through this pipeline.

There are two USSA teams in the Sandpoint area — The Schweitzer Alpine Racing School (SARS) is the largest team in the region, and has served Schweitzer families on a continuous basis for over 40 years.

There are a number of programs available to suit almost anyone’s needs ranging from once per week to full time, five days per week, training. SARS is best known for its successful youth and junior level alpine racing programs.

They boast a large coaching staff and more than 100 members from the Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane areas. The Youth Program (age 13 years and under) meets 1-3 days per week. The Junior program (14 years and older) meets 3-5 days per week, depending on the needs and commitment level of the athlete.

Jamie Landewehr (SARS alumni himself) serves as head coach and program director. For additional information about their programs, contact Jamie at (208) 946-7859 or visit the web site at www.sars.net.

The Independence Racing Team is a USSA team comprised of 10-20 young athletes from the Sandpoint area and is entering its 20th season. The program is entirely free and offers children, who might not otherwise have the opportunity, a chance to compete.

Members and families are expected to actively participate through significant volunteer work both on and off the hill. You might have seen these kids washing cars every weekend this summer to fund their racing expenses.

Club membership is limited due to a small volunteer staff. Call Shep Snow at 290-6370 or visit www.independenceracing.com for further information.

SARS Masters Program — Racing doesn’t end when one gets a real job. Some of the most dedicated competitors silently lurk in the ranks of the USSA Masters racing circuit. USSA sanctioned Masters races are held throughout the U.S. There are also national and international Masters championships.

Racers have the option of competing independently or as members of a club. Schweitzer has a very active Masters program operating under the auspices of the Schweitzer Alpine Racing School.

This program for individuals 21 years and older not only provides training for competitive adults; it’s also an excellent means of advancing one’s ski skills. Many of the most diligent trainers do not participate in sanctioned races.

The Masters program offers a number of flexible programs designed to fit into the varied time and financial constraints of its members. Training is provided by USSA and PSIA licensed coaches. Again, you can call Jamie for more details.

Sandpoint Nordic Club — The local Nordic community is growing by leaps and bounds (or is it strides and skates). The club offers training and organized competition for athletes of all ages, from 6 years old to adult.

Nordic racing is an excellent way to stay fit during the winter season. It is also provides some great camaraderie with other Nordic enthusiasts. There are many different race formats for all ages and abilities. One can race as a skater or a strider (classic). There are short races of a few kilometers, and quite long ones.

The team also offers a USSA Juniors program, that includes travel to Junior Olympic Qualifiers. The club trains at Schweitzer Mountain, and snowpack permitting on the old University of Idaho Extension site off Boyer Ave. Last year they also cleared trails at the Western Pleasure Ranch. For further information contact Ross Longhini at ross.longhini@gmail.com or visit www.sandpointnordic.com.

Want something a little more low-key? There are also racing opportunities that don’t require travel and special memberships.

NASTAR — The National Standardized Racing Program, also known as citizen racing, is geared toward the recreational skier as well as the competitive racer. The NASTAR National Championships routinely draw more than 1,000 competitors.

NASTAR is citizen racing at its best — simple, convenient and measurable, with the chance for a tangible reward after each run. Area pacesetters earn handicaps based upon their time relative to that of the National pacesetter.

A computer program interpolates any racer’s time as it might compare against the National pacesetter and medals are presented based upon age and gender. It sounds complicated, but it’s simple, inexpensive and lots of fun. Schweitzer runs the best NASTAR program in the Northwest. The course is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Andre Bircher at 263-9555 for details.

Independence Junior Race Series — Whether you are experienced or have never raced before, this series is for you. Last year’s program was a huge success and we already have more than 70 percent of the kids returning.

The racers will be organized into mathematically equal teams based upon NASTAR handicaps. Each team will have two coaches. The first day (Friday, Jan. 3) will be a coached, “learn to race” clinic followed by timed runs through the NASTAR course.

The following three Friday evenings (Jan. 10, 17 and 24) will center on the race course, with some coaching on the side. Each member of the winning team receives medals and everyone gets a neat T-shirt at the final party. The goal is having fun and making friends. A great deal at a very low price ($45) and registration is limited to 80 kids, so act now! Registration forms are available at local ski shops or contact Shep Snow at 290-6370.

Twilight Race Series — This one’s for the adults! Teams of five (at least one must be female) race on the NASTAR course on Friday evenings throughout February. At an informal, post-race party the evening’s winners receive prizes donated by sponsors. There are also prizes and awards for the team that wins the overall series. But the most important prize is bragging rights! Contact Brandon Peterson at 263-9555.

Schweitzer will also host a number of special events this season that are targeted at telemark skiers, snowboarders and even dummies! Look for the full line-up in The Edge next week.

Potpourri — Watch next week for our special, “refrigerator worthy” calendar of winter events at Schweitzer. Any comments, recommendations or contributions to this column may be sent to Shep Snow by email at shep@thesnowschool.com. Negative feedback should be sent to someone else.

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(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

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