Highly-acclaimed freestyle coach Clay Beck, who headed the Alpine Meadows freestyle program for many years and spearheaded the careers of several top Olympic athletes, died July 2 in a light aircraft crash near his home of Truckee.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Highly-acclaimed freestyle coach Clay Beck, who headed the Alpine Meadows freestyle program for many years and spearheaded the careers of several top Olympic athletes, died July 2 in a light aircraft crash near his home of Truckee.
"This is a really sad day for our sport and especially those athletes whose careers he impacted in such a positive way," said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Freestyle Director Polly-Jo Clark. "He brought great leadership to young athletes, teaching them performance and strong character values. We will miss his work and all that he could have offered our sport in the future."
Among the top athletes the 37-year-old Beck had coached was 2002 Olympic moguls silver medalist Shannon Bahrke.
Beck started the Alpine Meadows Freestyle and Freeride Team program in 1995. It grew to become one of the best programs in America and was recognized as the USSA Freestyle Club of the Year in 2002. His young athletes were consistently strong contenders at the USSA Junior Olympics. This past March, Beck announced his retirement from the program leadership to spend more time with his young family. He had planned to continue in the sport in a variety of project roles.
In his retirement letter to the freestyle community last March, Beck said: "While building a program within the Tahoe skiing community, I realized that I was having an impact on the young lives that I was coaching. This meant a lot to me because I realized that not only could I share with my athletes the technical skills they needed to develop into better athletes; I could impact their lives in a way that they could become better people."
"Clay was at the forefront of the sport through his positive encouragement and drive to see freestyle skiing gain the respect it deserves," said fellow coach Nat Schirman, who heads the nearby Squaw Valley Freestyle Team. "His drive for healthy competition and progression helped to make both Far West and United States freestyle envied training grounds for some of the best skiers in the world. We only hope that this experience can help us to all come together in support of those he left behind."
Beck was an experienced pilot. He reportedly left Truckee Airport shortly after noon on July 2 for a brief local flight. When he failed to return for an afternoon meeting, he was reported missing. The wreckage was found July 5 after an intensive search.
Information on memorial services for Beck is pending.