There is no doubt ski racing is too expensive even for many affluent families. I became hooked on ski racing as a little kid competing in NASTAR and our weekly Sunday club races at our local ski area. I came from an avid skiing family, but as a junior racer it was often a challenge for me to find good coaching and race training. Therefore, when I became a coach in my mid-twenties I was determined to recruit kids into the sport and provide them with affordable training opportunities.
There are many great clubs in the United States that offer affordable training and coaching, but sadly many clubs and academies are so exclusive they make every effort to keep young kids out of the sport.
For example, one of the best safety features over the past thirty years is B-net which has probably prevented many serious injuries and even death. However, many clubs today utilize B-net to literally wall off their sacred training ground from the skiing public and some even have a security detail to keep out the so called “riff raff”. For example, at one major ski resort where my family vacationed every year over the holidays, today their club charges a whopping $295 (not including the lift ticket) for one day of guest training. That’s the same venue where I entered my first NASTAR race as a little kid with a coin operated timing system!
Just imagine if NBA star Lebron James had to pay that kind of money for a shoot-around? Do you think former NY Yankee Derek Jeter had to pay $295 for batting practice when he was a kid? What’s the purpose of having elite ski racing programs when their ridiculous price tag prevents them from attracting talented young athletes who may become the next Bode Miller or Mikaela Shiffrin? When is the last time the USST had a podium finisher in a World Cup men’s slalom? Even on the women’s side in recent years it’s a challenge to find USST racers not named Vonn or Shiffrin on the first page of the results.
Sadly, it’s usually the “grown-ups” not the kids who develop these exclusionary practices. Maybe if we just let more kids ski and race we’ll actually become “Best in the World”!
— Mark Wolcott
Coach Hunt Hollow Race Team
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