Wednesday, January 28, 2009

South Shore ski foundations

12/08 tahoe mt. news unedited

By Kathryn Reed

A training alliance for youths who ski at Heavenly, Sierra and Kirkwood is in the works. From there, some envision forming a team called the Lake Tahoe Ski Alliance.
Part of this is the brainchild of Jim Plake, president of Heavenly Ski & Snowboard Foundation. Almost immediately upon joining the nonprofit – which is separate from the mountain – he was voted in as its leader.
After he met with Kirkwood officials on Nov. 18 to talk about the alliance, he said the three are onboard to form a coalition of sorts. The reason to work cooperatively is that each resort has only a few teenagers who are competitive skiers-boarders.
“If you are still in at 15-, 16-years-old, you are not in the foundation for recreational purposes,” Plake said.
His initial idea is to have this group train at the three mountains together.
“If that goes well, we may create a team. They can still identify with an individual resort so you don’t lose your home area identification. That concept is long overdue,” Plake said. “A lot of times you get that good and you have to leave the mountain because the training is not available. This keeps the kids local and that is pretty cool.”
Each resort has a ski foundation. Naturally, each is run a little differently. The main purpose is the same – get youths interested in riding, training and competing.

Heavenly Ski & Snowboard Foundation

The foundation was formed in the mid-1980s with the help of then resort owner Bill Killebrew and others. The group has a building near the tram for its participants.
The annual budget is about $230,000 a year. About $180,000 of that comes from tuition. The rest comes from fundraisers. The ski swap is a big one. The Winter Welcome was resurrected Dec. 5 after being on hiatus for a couple years.
Tuition is about $2,000 per child – it depends on the level and amount of travel involved. Heavenly’s foundation doled out $18,000 in scholarships for this season.
“Our focus still is to maintain a program for kids to race, but also it’s designed to bring kids from the community in,” Plake said. “It’s really incumbent upon us, the foundation, to really strive to give every kid in our community an opportunity to try.”
Tuition pays for training and coaches to travel. Beyond tuition, parents must pay for competition-travel at other mountains, overnight expenses and a season pass, though the resort gives foundation kids a discount.
Plake expects about the same number of kids to participate this year as last season – just more than 100.
The foundation doesn’t take beginners, but it works with the Development Team run by the mountain which has learn-to-ski programs.
The mission statement on the website ( says, “The Heavenly Ski Foundation’s goal is to make it possible for every interested young athlete in the local and surrounding communities to take advantage of the programs offered by its competitive ski and snowboard teams. It will provide a supportive and healthy environment to all levels of athlete regardless of economic background. The Foundation strives to assist these young athletes to advance not only athletically, but socially and educationally as well. It encourages athletes to gain mental and physical self-esteem, respect for others and good sportsmanship. It will provide for all levels of participation which allows for personal development beyond athletics. Athletes are assisted to prepare for participation in Far West races, Junior Olympic events and U.S. Nationals and Nor-Am events.”
For more information, call (530) 541-7354.

Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation

“The Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation promotes a healthy lifestyle, instills a spirit and a love of mountain snow sports through professional athletic skill development,” according to its website,
Jim Reilly, who lives in Aptos and has a second home in Kirkwood, just took over the presidency of the foundation.
“We want kids to compete, but we do experience a lot of kids and families who want to race and train, but don’t care if they travel,” Reilly said. “Speaking as a parent, I have a daughter in the program. If she went to one or two races in a year, that’s fine. But I want her in the racing program because it makes a better skier out of her and it gives her more confidence in life.”
The cost to participate is between $1,900 and $2,600 a year. It’s based on the amount of travel and coaches’ time. Prices include a season pass. No scholarships or discounts are offered.
The annual fee is based on the coaches’ salaries and travel expenses, divided by the number of athletes. A little more than 20 riders participate each year. The coaching staff has six people.
Reilly says one thing that sets Kirkwood’s program apart is how few athletes work with one coach.
The foundation also offers a masters’ program.
“We’re slower and fatter,” Reilly said with a laugh. He said most don’t travel, though it’s an option. Instead, these mid-lifers want to improve, race and run gates.
Chip Seamans, general manager of the mountain, said the nonprofit foundation is an integral component of the resort.
“Many of the racers are part of families that are homeowners,” Seamans said. “The foundation owns a lot of the gates and equipment that they generously share with Kirkwood.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe Education Foundation

Sierra’s foundation started a little more than a handful of years ago as a way for parents to better communicate with one another and to create a more cohesive atmosphere, according to Sue Perpall, secretary of the foundation.
The nonprofit is looking for a president and is working on a website.
More fund-raisers have been planned to help deflect some of the cost of the participants – which tops $1,000 per rider. That fee includes coaching and a season pass, but not travel.
“Last year the foundation helped with kids who went to nationals with some traveling money and paid the entry fee for other kids. We try to help coaches with expenses,” Perpall said.

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