Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club

By leslie hittmeier

Photograph by ryan dorgan

IN 1938, NINE years after Grand Teton National Park was established and twenty years before Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened, a group of skiers raced down the steep north-facing hill that looms over downtown Jackson. (The following year, this “hill” opened as Snow King Resort.) That race marked the beginning of the Jackson Hole Ski Club. Today, the club is known as the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club (JHSC) and is the oldest nonprofit in the valley. It’s thriving—about 500 young athletes participate in a variety of programs in alpine and Nordic skiing and freeriding—and the JHSC recently announced a lofty goal: to become one of the best ski/snowboard clubs in the nation.

The JHSC already counts World Cup racers and Olympians as alumni: Alpine racer Resi Stiegler has seventeen World Cup top-ten finishes and competed in the 2006 and 2014 Olympics; snowboarding pioneer Travis Rice is a three-time X Games gold medalist who has won every major snowboard contest in the world to date (no exaggeration); Zach Schwartz raced nationally and internationally (and then returned to the JHSC to coach); Breezy Johnson, a twenty-two-year-old downhiller, might compete in this year’s Olympics (read an interview with her on p. 30); and Seppi Stiegler, Resi’s younger brother, made it to the U.S. Ski Team, won the NCAA GS championship, and was the 2011 World University Games slalom champion (and, like Schwartz, is also now a JHSC coach).

These success stories thrill Brian Krill, the JHSC’s newish executive director (he started in late summer 2016). But, “While our core mission is competitive skiing and snowboarding, that is also a vehicle for teaching life skills,” Krill says. He wants athletes to achieve their highest potential in both sports and life. “Realistically, only a few will reach the highest levels of the sport,” he says, “but all athletes in our programs are involved with a value-based education centered on our six core values: fun, fitness, commitment, sportsmanship, teamwork, and competition.”

KRILL HAS AN extensive background in nonprofits, education, and athletics. Before moving to the valley, he was the director of sports education at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA). There, he developed resources and scholarships for junior-level ski clubs across the U.S. Krill wants to grow the JHSC to the point that it can compete for these national-level opportunities. “This place has unlimited potential,” he says. There’s “the venues, the community, the access—it’s endless.”

The first step is to get the JHSC USSA gold-level certified, which recognizes the country’s best ski clubs. Krill is also developing strategies to enhance the JHSC’s life skills education program and hopes to establish a ski mountaineering, or “skimo,” track. (There is a robust skimo World Cup scene in Europe, and it’s growing in this country.) For athletes looking to commit less time and/or money, Krill wants to add a backcountry skiing program, which doesn’t require the same rigorous training as the race programs. “I see things like three-day hut trips for an affordable fee that will serve a lot more kids in this community in our future,” he says. “We work harder than any other club in the country to make [skiing and racing] accessible and affordable.”

An example: JHSC’s partnership with the Doug Coombs Foundation, which provides equipment, lessons, and lift tickets to lower-income local kids. Last year, the foundation had eleven athletes that wanted to race but couldn’t afford it. “We found the funding, and some of those kids won races last year,” Krill says.
To be both inclusive and world-class is a challenging task that requires a generous and engaged community like Jackson Hole. “In my mind the sky is the limit, but this is the community’s organization, not mine,” Krill says. jhskiclub.org

| Posted in JH Living
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