U.S. Ski & Snowboard capped a challenging winter season by recognizing coaches and clubs for their service to the sport. A dozen coaches and seven clubs were honored in a kickoff for the organization’s annual spring awards.
U.S. Freeski Pro Team Slopestyle Coach Skogen Sprang, who led his athletes to an outstanding international season, was selected as the freeski and overall U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Coach of the Year. Veteran cross country coach Sten Fjeldheim, who is retiring after an illustrious 35-year career at Northern Michigan University, was named cross country and overall Development Coach of the Year.
The 116-year-old Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, Ill. was recognized as overall Club of the Year, for its program growth during the pandemic season. Idaho’s Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation was named Development Club of the Year for its focus on athletic development.
“Coaches and clubs faced unique challenges this past season yet still rose to the occasion to provide safe and productive athletic programs across the country and on international tours,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard Director of Sport Education Gar Trayner.
The top honorees were recognized during the organization’s annual Club Excellence Conference, held online for a second straight year. Additional awards will be announced during late May and early June.
2021 COACHES OF THE YEAR
U.S. SKI & SNOWBOARD TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR
FREESKI TEAM COACH OF THE YEAR
Skogen Sprang, Olympic Valley, Calif.
U.S. Freeski Pro Team Slopestyle Coach Skogen Sprang was selected as the freeski and overall U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Coach of the Year. It was the third time Sprang has been honored with the freeski award, and second as overall coach of the year (2014).
Sprang was recognized for the accomplishments of his athletes, winning the FIS Freeski Park & Pipe Nations Cup and a pair of crystal globes for Colby Stevenson. Three other athletes, Alex Hall, Mac Forehand, and Aaron Blunck, finished in the top-10.
USA won the FIS Freeski Nations Cup trophy in the 2021 season, with the country’s 1696 points nearly double the points of runner-up Switzerland’s 853. Colby Stevenson led the way by taking the slopestyle and Freeski overall globes and three other men - Alex Hall, Mac Forehand and Aaron Blunck - finished in the top-10.
He was also acknowledged by his peers for nearly a decade of success through two Olympics and his personal commitment to coaches education. Sprang is a level 300 coach and helps to facilitate coach education every spring at the level 300 coaches clinic at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
OVERALL DEVELOPMENT COACH OF THE YEAR
CROSS COUNTRY DEVELOPMENT COACH OF THE YEAR
Sten Fjeldheim, Marquette, Mich.
Legendary Northern Michigan University cross country coach Sten Fjeldheim was recognized as the cross country and overall Development Coach of the Year. Fjeldheim was recognized for his 35 years as one of the most successful coaches in sport history and for his broad contribution to sport development. It was his third time winning the overall award (2000 and 2005) and fourth time for cross country (1991, 2005, 2016).
In his tenure at NMU, seven Wildcats won national titles. He coached 97 National Collegiate Athletic Association All-America athletes, 11 Olympians and five U.S. champions. During his entire time as a coach, he was a significant contributor to U.S. development efforts, also serving as a national development coordinator and a coach at Olympics, world championships, and junior worlds.
A Norwegian native, he came to the USA as a child. He skied three seasons for NMU and was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1980-86.
U.S SKI & SNOWBOARD TEAM COACHES OF THE YEAR
Alpine - Mike Day, Burlington, Vt.
U.S. Ski Team alpine coach Mike Day was honored as U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Alpine Coach of the Year. Day, who heads Mikaela Shiffrin’s coaching team, was recognized for Shiffrin’s success in a challenging season, coming back from the tragic death of her father amidst a World Cup tour upended by the pandemic. Shiffrin won four medals at the world championships and skied a strong World Cup season with three victories and 10 podiums.
Day was lauded for his attention to detail and anticipating every scenario. His planning acumen instills confidence and trust in his athletes enhancing their ability to perform. He has been a coach with the U.S. Ski Team for a decade, most recently working with Shiffrin. He was also Ted Ligety’s coach when he won three gold medals at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Cross Country - Jason Cork, Stratton Mountain, Vt.
U.S. Ski Team cross country coach Jason Cork was named U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Cross Country Coach of the Year. Cork was recognized for the success of Jessie Diggins, who won the overall FIS Cross Country World Cup as well as the Tour de Ski.
Cork has been Diggins’ primary coach since 2010, building a strong rapport and orchestrating her training plan and race service support, in addition to providing athlete support at the World Cup level for the entire Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.
Freestyle - Vladimir ‘Vlad’ Lebedev
U.S. Freestyle Ski Team aerials coach Vladimir ‘Vlad’ Lebedev was honored with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Freestyle Coach of the Year. He was recognized for leading the U.S. team to the FIS Nations Cup in aerials.
A mix of veterans and new rising stars combined to place nine U.S. athletes into the top 16 in the World Cup led by Winter Vinecki, who finished second. At the FIS Freestyle World Championships, Chris Lillis and Ashley Caldwell won silver, with the team taking bronze.
Lebedev is a native of Uzbekistan and competed as a Russian aerialist for a decade, winning bronze at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
Nordic Combined/Ski Jumping - Anders Johnson, Park City, Utah
Team Coach of the Year honors for ski jumping and nordic combined went to Anders Johnson, a longtime athlete who was in his first year as World Cup coach for the women’s ski jumpers. Despite a challenging season, he was recognized for raising the level of all his athletes and improving the team culture.
Johnson grew up in the shadow of the Olympic jumps in Park City. After coaching for several years with Park City Ski & Snowboard, he moved up to the national team last spring. He single-handedly led the team through much of the COVID-impacted World Cup season serving as everything from coach to suit maker.
He led the women’s team to its best results in two seasons with personal bests from Paige Jones, Annika Belshaw, and Logan Sankey.
Snowboard - Peter Foley, Hood River, Ore.
Veteran coach Peter Foley was selected as Snowboard Coach of the Year. His snowboardcross team earned eight podium finishes on the World Cup tour, more than any other nation, earning the SBX Nations Cup for the USA.
Foley was the founding coach of the U.S. Snowboard Team in 1994 and has been with the SBX program for 17 seasons. In addition to his work with the team, he is an advocate for coaches' education. He is a level 500 coach himself and hosts a level 300 clinic for SBX at Mt. Hood each summer.
DEVELOPMENT COACHES OF THE YEAR
Alpine - Mike Bansmer, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club alpine coach Mike Bansmer was recognized as Alpine Development Coach of the year. A six-year veteran of the Steamboat program, Bansmer has been an instrumental contributor to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard alpine development system.
This past season, five of Bansmer’s athletes were at the top of the National Development Group. Across his entire program, Bansmer manages 42 athletes, one of the deepest talent pools in the country. Two of his athletes were nominated for the U.S. Ski Team this spring.
Beyond his program in Steamboat, Bansmer is integrally involved with regional and national development projects, donating significant time each season to contribute to the development of athletes around the country. He was cited for his hard work and professionalism that is having an impact not only on his own club, but on the sport as a whole. This coming season, Bansmer will be joining the U.S. Ski Team’s men’s Europa Cup team as an assistant coach.
Freeski - Teddy Goggin, Team Summit, Dillon, Colo.
Longtime freeski coach Teddy Goggin, director of the Team Summit freeski program in Colorado, was honored as Freeski Development Coach of the Year. Goggin was recognized for his creation of a thoughtful, well-rounded approach to athlete development, focusing on process and goal setting.
Goggin has been coaching for a dozen years. He is a level 300 coach who is also one of the primary developers for national coaches education clinics. He works with athletes from grassroots to the national team. His approach to coaching and engagement in the overall development process have made him an integral part of the sport’s pipeline.
Freestyle - Lars Johnson, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Lars Johnson of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club was selected as Freestyle Development Coach of the Year. The head coach of the Steamboat freestyle program was recognized for his contributions to the development pipeline in numerous ways this past season.
Johnson had multiple athletes from his program start in World Cup moguls events this past season, including four athletes named to the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. Johnson also plays a strong role in the thought leadership space of long-term athlete development and skills acquisition.
Nordic Combined/Ski Jumping - Zak Hammill, Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage, Anchorage
Under the leadership of former national team ski jumper Zak Hammill, jumping in Alaska is really taking off! Hammill was named Nordic Combined/Ski Jumping Development Coach of the Year for his work in bringing jumping to the forefront in Alaska through his work with the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage. Hammill is already seeing success, with club member Carter Brubaker nominated to the Junior National Team and qualifying last year for Junior World Championships. Alaska also has multiple up-and-coming athletes in the Fly Guys program.
After taking a one-year sabbatical, Hammill came back as head coach last year to take his club to the next level. He worked with his club to get funding for the organization’s first winch cat to better prepare the jumping hill. He has continued to upgrade the jumping facilities and is assisting in the planning of a new clubhouse.
He has also pushed the national coaches committee to form a working group to develop a more structured national training program for U16 athletes designed to reduce attrition in the age class and to establish ski jumping and nordic combined as viable options for skiers from Alaska.
Snowboard - Dylan Omlin, Auburn Ski Club, Truckee, Calif.
A significant contributor to the snowboard development pipeline for many years, Dylan Omlin of the Auburn Ski Club was recognized as Snowboard Development Coach of the Year. As program director for the club, he oversees over 300 snowboard members including a special high school sports program.
Omlin’s athletes have found success at the highest levels from grassroots to the Olympics in both slopestyle and snowboardcross. At the same time, Omlin has given back as a member and now chair of the Snowboard Sport Committee and this past season stepped in to help fill a gap as national slopestyle development coach. He has been a consistent presence for rookie team athletes while helping them navigate an unprecedented pandemic season.
2021 CLUBS OF THE YEAR
OVERALL CLUB OF THE YEAR
SKI JUMPING/NORDIC COMBINED CLUB OF THE YEAR
Norge Ski Club, Fox River Grove, Ill.
Founded in 1905, the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, Ill. is one of America’s oldest. It continues to thrive today, 116 years later, and was named U.S. Ski & Snowboard overall and ski jumping/nordic combined Club of the Year. In a season disrupted by the pandemic, Norge still saw a 30% increase in participation and remains one of the largest jumping clubs in the Central Division. It is the first time Norge has won the overall award, but won for ski jumping/nordic combined in 2004 and 2012.
The Chicago-area club is one of the most well-represented on national ski jumping teams with three men and one woman on the national team, and two men on the junior national team. Two Norge athletes made the 2021 World Championship Team with another two named to the Junior World Championships Team, along with seven to the USA Nordic Junior Championships.
The success of the club stems from a very strong coaching staff, along with increased parent engagement. The club has also initiated specific projects to keep the club thriving and developing athletes across the variety of hill sizes Norge has to offer. It’s jumping complex north of Chicago is one of the most complete in the midwest.
DEVELOPMENT CLUB OF THE YEAR
Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation, Boise, Idaho
Athletic development is a vital component of successful clubs. In recognition of its innovative work, U.S. Ski & Snowboard has awarded its Development Club of the Year Award to the Bogus Basin Ski Education (BBSEF) in Boise, Idaho. The award is presented annually to a club that has executed outstanding programs in the area of athletic development. The award was first implemented in 2019 to encourage clubs to increase their focus on development.
Under the leadership of Head Coach and Program Director Mark Wedeking, along with Director of Operations Shannon Carrell, BBSEF has been actively engaged in U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Podium Club Certification since 2019, with an interest in identifying opportunities and creating a roadmap for continuous improvement in all areas of organizational and athletic performance. The club earned bronze certification in 2019. Over the next 12 months, it executed strategies for ongoing self-assessment, resource development, and improved facilities and training venues. As a result of this mission-focused work, it earned the silver level in 2021.
The club was cited for its commitment to professional development and coaches’ certification, as well as its full range of programs to keep athletes engaged and having fun while developing important skills in alpine, freeski, and snowboard. The club has shown a great commitment to increasing financial scholarships to minimize barriers to the sport. It has established clear goals and benchmarks for organization and athletic performance.
SPORT CLUBS OF THE YEAR
Alpine - Green Mountain Valley School, Waitsfield, Vt.
The Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) in Waitsfield, Vt. was awarded the Alpine Club of the Year Award. Formed in 1973, the club was recognized for its longstanding holistic approach to developing the GMVS community and for its extraordinary work during COVID where the club played a pivotal role in ensuring ski racing could continue during the pandemic.
Under the leadership of Tracy Keller, GMVS has a strong commitment to coaches’ education as well as women in coaching with at least one female coach in every age group from U8 to U19. It has also developed a strong high performance team.
During the pandemic, GMVS took charge - not just for its own programs, but to help ski racing across New England. Despite some of the strictest COVID regulations in the country, GMVS was innovative in working with health officials to create an environment where even out-of-state families could continue to participate. It innovated new policies, schedules, and other protocols to ensure a successful junior ski racing season.
Cross Country - Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Ketchum, Idaho
Strong clubs stepped up during the pandemic season, including the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) which was awarded Cross Country Club of the Year. Not only did SVSEF rise up to help its own athletes, but it extended its resources to ensure that skiers across the region had opportunities to compete.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Scott McGrew and Cross Country Program Director Rick Kapala, the club expanded opportunities by hosting additional cross country competitions. The club also provided additional representation and support to U.S. Ski & Snowboard for event planning, coaching education and COVID-19 mitigation policy working groups.
As a longstanding club, it continued to have an impact with three of its athletes on national teams. It is the fourth time (1999, 2007, 2009) the club has been recognized as Cross Country Club of the Year.
Freeski - Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Vail, Colo.
A longstanding club of nearly 70 years, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail really upped its game in freeski over the past two seasons led by Program Director Chris Laske and Head Coach Willis Engelhart. The clear impact was seen in results and enrollment this past season with the club being named Freeski Club of the Year. It is the third time the club has been honored with the award (2013, 2014).
Despite a season impacted by COVID, enrollment in the park and pipe program doubled. SSCV athletes upped their engagement at U.S. Ski & Snowboard and USASA events including the Futures Tour, Revolution Tour and World Cup. The club had seven finalists at Rev Tour, three Futures Tour wins and five other podiums. Willis has also continued to work with Rookie Team athlete Riley Jacobs.
The staff has also been upgraded, now with four coaches - all level 100-300 certified. Former pro skier Sean Jordan, a new addition, brings over a decade of Dew Tour experience to the program.
Freestyle - Park City Ski & Snowboard/Wasatch Freestyle, Park City, Utah
A pandemic season can bring the best out in clubs. Two high-profile freestyle clubs in Utah combined forces to ensure that the sport would continue on, supporting each other on events and providing a playing field for athletes. Jointly, Park City Ski & Snowboard (PCCS) and Wasatch Freestyle were honored as Freestyle Club of the Year.
Wasatch played host to the U.S. Freestyle Championships for moguls, while PCCS managed aerials. Wasatch also held a FIS Open as a NorAm replacement and multiple regional events. PCCS held the U.S. Junior Championships for moguls plus other regional events.
Both programs also had strong seasons. Park City Ski & Snowboard’s moguls program grew 135% thanks in part to its Intro to Mogul Day at the Utah Olympic Park. Wasatch Freestyle had multiple podiums at US Selections, FIS Open, Junior Nationals, and the U.S. Freestyle Championships.
Snowboard - American Snowboard Training Center, Mt. Snow, Vt.
The American Snowboard Training Center (ASTC) was recognized as Snowboard Club of the Year. Founded in 2007 by Olympian Ron Chiodi, ASTC’s mission as a winter-term snowboard academy is to offer a clear path of success in both snowboarding and academics, with a focus on keeping college admissions a priority. Chiodi, who was on the very first Olympic halfpipe team in 1998, has combined with head coach Scott Horwath and the team to build a successful program at Vermont’s Mt. Snow and now ASTC Michigan and ASTC West.
Over the last eight years, ASTC has grown its impact at the Futures Tour, Revolution Tour, and World Cup slopestyle, and big air events. This past year, 16-year-old Lucas Ferry consistently made finals in all Rev Tour events. Fellow 16-year-old Nick Fox also made finals at Aspen in his first Rev Tour.
Between all three programs, the dream of creating a system of support for athletes nationwide has come to fruition. With a clear path and direction for its athletes, the future looks very bright for this unique snowboard academy.