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U.S. Ski & Snowboard Recognizes Outstanding Athletes, Coaches, Clubs and Leaders at Annual Service to Sport Awards

By Leann Bentley
May, 18 2023
Julius Blegen award
Spencer Eccles holds the organization’s highest honor, the Julius Blegen Award with Kipp Nelson, Chairman of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Board of Directors.

PARK CITY, UT - May 18, 2023 - U.S. Ski & Snowboard is proud to announce the recognition of several exceptional individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the world of elite skiing and snowboarding. This year's recipients have showcased exceptional talent, dedication and support, furthering the growth and success of skiing and snowboarding worldwide. 

The highest honor of the evening, the Julius Blegen award, the organization’s highest honor and given annually to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard member who contributed his or her outstanding service to the sports of skiing or snowboarding in the United States was received by Spencer Eccles. Eccles is an athlete, business leader, philanthropist and general fan of ski racing and few have provided the magnitude and longevity of support for the sport as himself. A longtime trustee of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation, his contributions were significant to the growth of the sport, the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and the development of ski and snowboard training facilities at the Utah Olympic Park that have impacted top U.S. and international skiers and snowboarders. In recognition of both his continual philanthropic and spiritual support of ski and snowboard athletes over a period of more than a half century, Eccles is a rightful candidate for the Julius Blegen Award. In years past, Bruce Crane, Bob Dart, Thelma Hoessler, Dexter Paine, Chuck Heckert and countless others have been recognized with this award. 

The Beck International Award, the highest athletic award, is presented to a competitor based on outstanding performance in international competition during the past season. Mikaela Shiffrin deservedly was awarded the honor. In the 2022-23 season, Mikaela made history as the winningest alpine skier of all time, surpassing Ingemar Stenmark’s World Cup record with her 88th win in Are, Sweden. Along with the Beck International Award, she also took home the 2023 Alpine Athlete of the Year award. 

The 2023 U.S. Ski & Snowboard Coach of the Year Award went to Colin Rodgers, who has been the Nordic Director and Head Coach of Green Valley Mountain Valley School for many years and made an immense impact on the development of ski racers around the country. 

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club took home the Alpine Club of the Year, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Club of the Year and Freestyle Club of the Year based on their holistic approach to coaching and building stronger athletes. 

Other recipients include Hailey Swirbul (2023 Buddy Werner Award), Share Winter Foundation (2023 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Champion Award), Jamie Kimball & the Utah Olympic Sports Park (2023 John J. Clair Jr. Award; Russel Wilder Award) and the many incredible people who work to inspire past, current and future generations of skiers and snowboarders around the world. 


Find the full list of winners below. 

Adaptive Athlete of the Year:

  • Zach Miller, U.S. Para Snowboard Team: Zach Miller consistently performed at the top of his sport, never leaving the top six and achieving podiums in four of nine events. At the World Championships in La Molina, Spain, he continued this trend with a bronze in snowboardcross, silver in dual banked slalom and a gold in the dual banked slalom team event. Along with a strong season of athletic performance, he continues to be a valued teammate and mentor within the sport.

Beck International Award, Alpine Athlete of the Year 

  • Mikaela Shiffrin, Stifel U.S. Alpine Ski Team: Mikaela Shiffrin is the most decorated alpine ski racer of all time, smashing records in the 2022-23 season, including Ingemar Stenmark’s record for most World Cup career wins. She now has 88 World Cup victories, and this year she took home the overall World Cup title, becoming the first American to win five overall World Cup globes.

Cross Country Athlete of the Year:

  • Ben Ogden, Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team: Ben Ogden achieved a never-before U.S. level of success on the FIS World Cup, finishing eighth overall, and winning the Under 23 green bib, making him the best skier under the age of 23 on the World Cup. This level of excellence is unparalleled in men’s U.S. cross skiing history, exceeded only by Bill Koch’s World Cup title win in 1983.

Freeski Athlete of the Year:

  • Birk Irving, Stifel U.S. Freeski Team: Birk Irving took home X Games medals and World Cup podiums, podiuming in four of the five events he entered this season, and also scored the coveted FIS World Cup crystal globe in halfpipe, marking him the best halfpipe skier on the World Cup circuit. Irving also was named this season’s National Champion for being the top male U.S. athlete in halfpipe.

Freestyle Athlete of the Year:

  • Jaelin Kauf, Stifel U.S. Freestyle Team: Jaelin Kauf dominated the 2022-23 season, adding two silver World Championship medals from the 2023 FIS Freestyle World Championships in Bakuriani, Georgia and five World Cup podiums to her bursting resume, which includes an Olympic silver medal from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. 

Ski Jumping Athlete of the Year:

  • Annika Belshaw, USA Nordic: Annika Belshaw had a breakout 2022-23 season at the World Cup  level. In the first World Cup event of the season, Annika finished in 20th place in Lillehammer, Norway, which set the tone for the remainder of her season. She went on to finish in the top 30 at the World Cup on nine separate occasions, including three top 20 finishes and a career-best 19th place in Rasnov, Romania. Annika has become a leader on her team with her tireless work ethic and determination, which led the women's ski jumping team to their most successful season since 2017.

Snowboard Athlete of the Year:

  • Julia Marino, U.S. Snowboard Team: Julia Marino has been on the U.S. Snowboard Team slopestyle and big air team for eight years, and coming into the 2022-23 season, Marino already had a slew of accomplishments under her belt. She is a 2022 Olympic silver medalist, seven-time X Games medalist and has nine World Cup podium finishes. This season, Marino added even more success to her name, scoring a FIS crystal globe as the most dominant slopestyle/big air woman rider on the circuit.

Adaptive Domestic Coach of the Year:

  • Maria Stuber, College of St. Scholastica: College of St. Scholastica Head Coach Maria Stuber led the charge as an exemplary model of para athlete club integration. While juggling multiple roles, Maria diligently worked with U.S. Paralympics nordic skiing staff to integrate visually impaired skier Max Nelson into her programming with an accountability that matched what she expects from all members of her roster. In addition to managing her large team, Maria went above and beyond to make sure Max had the additional support of a guide as well as other para-specific support critical to Max’s success. 

Alpine International Coach of the Year:

  • Shaun Goodwin & Foreste Peterson, Stifel U.S. Alpine Ski Team: Shaun Goodwin and Foreste Peterson have made a phenomenal coaching team this season at the NorAm level of the Stifel U.S. Alpine Ski Team. They have worked with a promising group of young women and provided them all with an avenue for success and advancement in just one year. Together, these two coaches have been selfless and successful in the support and coaching of the athletes. All athletes that were not injured advanced from the D-Team and met C-Team criteria objectively, dropped their world rankings more than half and moved inside the top 100 in the world. 

Alpine Domestic Coach of the Year, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Development Coach of the Year Award: 

  • Ben Brown, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club: Ben Brown, the Head U16 Coach of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC), led his team to unprecedented divisional, regional, national and international success in 2023. He gives his best to every one of his athletes, works collaboratively with his coaching peers to support the greater goal of maximizing performance and freely shares his coaching methods with colleagues, winning both awards for Alpine Domestic Coach of the Year and U.S. Ski & Snowboard Development Coach of the Year. 

Cross Country International Coach of the Year, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Coach of the Year Award

  • Colin Rodgers, Green Mountain Valley School: Colin Rodgers has been the Nordic Director and Head Coach at the Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) for many years. Under his leadership, the program has blossomed into one of the best cross country development academies in the U.S. Colin's extensive knowledge of the sport, his passion for developing ski racers and his enthusiasm has been magnetic in building the GMVS roster and program, and earned him both the Cross Country International Coach of the Year, and U.S. Ski & Snowboard Coach of the Year awards.

Cross Country Domestic Coach of the Year:

  • Pepa Milocheva, Craftsbury Green Racing Project: Pepa Milocheva of Craftsbury Green Racing Project embodies the value of commitment. Since long before the Project began back in 2009, Pepa has been committed to developing her athletes into the best ski racers they can be. Her impact has been substantial, coaching numerous athletes who have represented the United States on the World Cup, at World Championships and in the Winter Olympic Games. In addition, she coached Craftsbury biathletes who also have represented the U.S. at all levels of competition including the Winter Olympic Games. 

Freeski International Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Riddle, Stifel U.S. Freeski Team: Mike Riddle began his career in freeskiing as an athlete for Team Canada. After a successful career, including winning the silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Riddle turned his focus from competing to coaching. Riddle began coaching the Stifel U.S. Freeski Team halfpipe team in 2018, shortly after retiring from his competitive skiing career, and has since led the team to a multitude of successes. This season was no different, as the freeski halfpipe crew once again showed the depth of their talent on the World Cup tour and at the 2023 FIS World Championships, winning three medals.

Freeski Domestic Coach of the Year:

  • Leah Stroud, Park City Ski & Snowboard: Freeski Park & Pipe Head Coach for Park City Ski & Snowboard (PCSS) Leah Stroud has a long history of coaching between Breckenridge, Mt. Bachelor and in multiple positions at PCSS before being promoted to Head Coach. The athletes Leah began working with anywhere between four and six years ago are now finding themselves at the top of their game, and there is a constant funnel from the PCSS program to the Stifel U.S. Freeski Team. 

Freestyle International Coach of the Year:

  • Bryon Wilson, Stifel U.S. Freestyle Ski Team: In his first year as Head Coach of the Stifel U.S. Freestyle Ski Team moguls team, Bryon Wilson achieved massive success. Bryon had seven different athletes on World Cup podiums, including career first podiums for Elizabeth Lemley and Cole McDonald. Nick Page, an athlete Bryon coached at the club level, broke a seven year men’s World Cup mogul win drought with his first place in Idre Fjall, Sweden. He also had a successful first World Championships in a challenging venue, with Jaelin Kauf taking silver in both singles and doubles. At the development level, Alli Macuga earned FIS Rookie of the Year and was the moguls and dual moguls NorAm Champion, and the USA took home the Nations Cup in both moguls and dual moguls, highlighting the strength and depth of American mogul skiing.

Freestyle Domestic Coach of the Year:

  • Mikaela Wilson, Park City Ski & Snowboard: Mikaela Wilson of Park City Ski & Snowboard has been focused solely on coaching for five years and has coached some of the best up-and-coming athletes in the sport, helping them find their potential on the biggest stage. She took the Head Coach position at PCSS in 2020 and rebuilt the program from just five athletes to 44 in 2023. 

Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined International Coach of the Year:

  • Trevor Edlund, USA Nordic: In the 2022-23 season, Trevor Edlund of USA Nordic took on a huge task as the lead assistant for both the men's and women's ski jumping teams. Despite having to manage his time between both teams, Trevor took the task at hand in stride and proved to be one of the most invaluable members of the team. Trevor's tireless work ethic, enthusiasm, humbleness and curiosity brings spirit and energy to the ski jumping community.

Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined Domestic Coach of the Year:

  • Adam Loomis, USA Nordic: USA Nordic’s Adam Loomis has done an outstanding job in the development of the next generation of ski jumpers and nordic combined skiers in Park City. He is a role model to all the young jumpers, not only as a technically excellent coach, but as a former nordic combined athlete and current summer and winter endurance athlete.

Snowboard International Coach of the Year:

  • Rob Fagan, U.S. Snowboard Team: U.S. Snowboard Team snowboardcross coach Rob Fagan began his career in snowboarding as an athlete for Team Canada before turning his focus to coaching and joining the coaching staff for the U.S. Snowboard Team in 2019, taking over as head coach in 2022. He had a slew of great results this season, including five World Cup podiums from three athletes and a World Championship medal.

Snowboard Domestic Coach of the Year:

  • Ryan Conway, G Team: Ryan Conway has been coaching with the G Team for over 15 years and now coaches its NorAm Team. He is known for developing young athletes and incredible rail riders to win USASA National Championships and has coached several kids to the U.S. Snowboard Team rookie team.

Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined Club of the Year, Paul Bacon Award: 

  • New York Ski Educational Foundation: Athletes of all age groups on the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) team had a successful year, walking away with several podiums in ski jumping and nordic combined, with two nordic combined athletes and one ski jumper selected to represent the USA at World Juniors. To cap off a successful season, a NYSEF nordic combined athlete won a medal at the World University Games.

    Having overseen a competition schedule that included the FISU World University Games, NCAA Ski Finals, and many more, NYSEF was also awarded the Paul Bacon Award for the
     greatest contribution to U.S. Ski & Snowboard in the field of competition organization during the 2022-23 season.

Alpine Club of the Year, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Club of the Year Award, Freestyle Club of the Year

  • Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club: Steamboat Spring Winter Sports Club (SSWSC) has shown impressive depth in the U16-U21 age groups. They earned an impressive eight of the available 18 podiums at the U16 National Championships and at the highest level event for U16s, the International OPA Cup in Germany, SSWSC athletes brought home five of the available 12 podium spots. At the U18 National Championships, they showed their depth with 11 top 10 honors, and earned two podiums and six top 10s at the U.S. National Championships. This year, SSWSC walks away with three awards, including the prestigious U.S. Ski & Snowboard Club of the Year Award.

Freeski Club of the Year:

  • Park City Ski & Snowboard: Park City Ski & Snowboard is a storied club. This season, PCSS created a new Youth Development program this year as a multi-sport program focused on expanding the horizons of athletes ages seven to nine. More so, the Devo Freestyle Program for ages nine to twelve to continue with the fundamentals of big mountain, moguls and park & pipe, allowing the athletes to focus on their skill development to move up to the next level. With those few examples, PCSS is very deserving of this award. Additionally, PCSS alumni are some of the most dominant athletes in the world, including freeskiers, Alex Hall, Colby Stevenson, Maggie Voisin, Marin Hamill, Rell Hardwood and Troy Podmilsak. 

Snowboard Club of the Year:

  • Gould Academy: Gould Academy has produced key athletes for years and saw abundant success in the 2022-23 season. U.S. Snowboard Team snowboardcross D team rider and Gould graduate Tyler Hamel won the overall NorAm Cup Tour and Nathan Pare came in third in the overall snowboardcross NorAm Cup standings. Gould also had six riders qualify for Junior World Championships and scored 16 podium finishes at NorAms, among many other highlights. 

John J. Clair Jr. Award, Russell Wilder Award:

  • Jamie Kimball & Utah Olympic Sports Park: The John J. Clair Jr. Award recognizes service to the national teams and the Russell Wilder Award recognizes the most outstanding effort in focusing the interests of American youth on the sports of skiing or snowboarding. Under the construction supervision of General Manager Jamie Kimball, the Utah Olympic Park is showing its support to both the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team and the local club programs through a massive training and competition winter venue expansion at the Utah Olympic Sports Complex. 

Buddy Werner Award:

  • Hailey Swirbul: Honoring sportsmanship, Hailey Swirbul won the Buddy Werner Award. She was a member of the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team from 2018 until her retirement this spring. Hailey was a member of USA’s first ever Junior World Ski Championship relay medal at Soldier Hollow, Utah in 2017 and followed up with two individual distance medals in the 2018 Junior World Ski Championships in Goms, Switzerland. In 2020, she earned a World Cup podium in the 10km Freestyle in Davos, Switzerland. 

Team Athletes Giving Back Award:

  • Samantha Smith & GO BIG Inc.: Sammy Smith of the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team and her siblings are the founders of a 501(c)(3) certified non-profit charity, called GO BIG. GO BIG stands for Giving Opportunity By Inspiring Gratitude. Through GO BIG, they work to provide underprivileged youth in our community with mentorship, sports equipment and other athletic and academic opportunities.

Westhaven Award:

  • Allan Serrano: The Westhaven Award is a lifetime achievement award, recognizing an outstanding FIS technical delegate for his or her service over time. Allan Serrano of Vermont has been a FIS technical delegate at every level, including officiating on the World Cup. He also oversees FIS Technical Delegate training in USA and Canada, is the head homologation inspector in the USA and has designed the courses and overseen the construction of many of the best cross country venues, including the new Mt Van Hoevenberg courses in Lake Placid, New York and new FIS courses in Telemark, Wisconsin.

J. Leland Sosman Award:

  • Dr. Tod Olin: J. Leland Sosman Award is presented annually in recognition of service to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard volunteer physician's pool. Dr. Tod Olin, a pediatric pulmonologist and director of the National Jewish Health Exercise and Performance Breathing Center in Denver, spearheaded a number of projects for the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, including diagnosing post-race breathing issues, treating cold air-induced bronchoreactivity and advising on training modification during times of poor air quality. 

West Family Award:

  • Roger Root: Named in memory of noted volunteer Fraser West and his wife Teddy, the West Family Cup is presented to recognize a long-serving U.S. Ski & Snowboard official. Roger Root of Idaho has been an official in nearly 900 competitions and has mentored over 3,000 other officials with patience, knowledge and humor, and takes the award with unwavering dedication to the sport.

Development Club of the Year:

  • Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS): GMVS provides exceptional programming for athletes ages six to 13, focused on skill development as well as age and developmentally appropriate gate training – all in the spirit of building strong skiers who have a lot of fun. To reduce barriers and encourage participation, they have a robust financial aid program and supplement equipment as needed. In addition to the outstanding alpine program, the GMVS Ski Club is deeply engaged with the local Bill Koch Youth Ski League, introducing young people to the lifelong sport of cross country skiing with its recreational, social, fitness and competitive opportunities.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Champion Award:

  • Share Winter Foundation: Share Winter Foundation is committed to providing youth with skiing and snowboarding opportunities across the United States and works to enrich the lives of youth through winter sports. Through funding, thought leadership and community connections, Share Winter has enabled grantee partners such as nonprofits, schools, rec centers, nonprofit ski areas and clubs to get over 48,000 youth on snow this winter. The Foundation worked with 65 programs this year, including 18 new grantees, to provide amazing mountain experiences for their youth. These partners are providing “learn to ski” and snowboard programming to a diverse group of young people aged five to 18.

Julius Blegen Award:

  • Spencer Eccles: As an athlete, business leader, philanthropist and general fan of ski racing, few have provided the magnitude and longevity of support for the sport as Spencer F. Eccles. A longtime trustee of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation, his contributions were significant to the growth of the sport, the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and the development of ski and snowboard training facilities at the Utah Olympic Park that have impacted top U.S. and international skiers and snowboarders. Born in Ogden, Utah, Eccles grew up ski racing at Snowbasin. He went on to captain the University of Utah Ski Team in the late 1950s and achieved All America status. He was a medalist in both U.S. and Canadian national championships, as well as the Roch Cup in Aspen.

Seeing a need to blend athletic training with education, Eccles was one of the driving forces behind the development of the Rowmark Ski Academy. His continued financial and spiritual support of his alma mater, Utah, helped push the Utes to 15 NCAA national titles since 1981.

In the 1990s, Eccles played a pivotal role in spearheading efforts to bring the Olympic Winter Games back to America in 2002. The International Olympic Committee awarded him its highest honor, the Pierre de Coubertin Medal, recognizing his exceptional service to the Olympic Movement. 

Over decades, he has been an extremely active board member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation, the Utah Sports Commission and the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.

Seeing a need for renovation of the freestyle training pool at the Utah Olympic Park, he put up a $1-million challenge grant in 2014. A year later, the new Spence Eccles Olympic Freestyle Pool debuted offering the most advanced freestyle and snowboard training facility in the world. Just a few years later, Eccles once again saw a need for a dedicated alpine training hill. In partnership with the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, Park City Ski & Snowboard and Rowmark Academy, Eccles led a campaign to build the Spencer F. Eccles Olympic Mountain Center at the Utah Olympic Park, which debuted in March, 2023 offering regional and national athletes a unique training environment.