Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Snowboard Dir--ector Jon Casson has been busy this summer.
Casson's been answering his busy phone line, replying to countless e-mails and responding to letters sent from snowboarders across the country who want information about the Winter Sports Club's snowboarding program.
"We always have a bunch of kids at nationals, we have tons of top riders and some of the best coaches in the country," Casson said. "I think our reputation is getting out there."
Last year, the program supported 136 athletes. Casson said he wouldn't be surprised if the number of riders in this year's program exceeds 155.
"I think we could reach 160 athletes this year," Casson said. "It's just a feeling, but I've seen a lot of new faces interested in joining our program. I've also gotten a lot of phone calls and e-mails."
Early registration closed Friday, but Casson said he would not have exact numbers until the beginning of December, when the bulk of the Winter Sports Club athletes will have registered.
Still, Casson is almost certain that this year's class of riders will surpass the numbers the program put up in 2004-05.
But Casson insists that the strength of the Steamboat program is built around what it offers in terms of coaching and guidance and not how many riders sign up to take part.
This year, the freestyle side of the program will return an experienced core of coaches led by Cactus Nemec.
Nemec, who has coached for 13 years in Aspen and Steamboat, will lead a group of top-notch instructors that includes development coach Melanie McDaniel, junior coach Joanne Richards, senior lead coach Eric Rolls and pro-am coach Spencer Tamblyn.
Nemec said McDaniel has a unique ability to connect with the program's youngest riders. Richards will move up from her part-time position as an assistant coach to a full-time slot as the junior coach.
The only new member of the coaching group is Rolls, who will be responsible for guiding the high school-aged riders on the team.
Most recently, he was a coach at the Gould Academy in Maine with the program's air and pipe team. He also is an examiner with the American Association of Snowboard Instructors for the Eastern Division. Rolls also worked as a program director for the Jay Peak Snowboard School in Vermont.
Tamblyn, a former U.S. halfpipe champion and longtime athlete and coach with the Winter Sports Club, will lead a group of upcoming riders that includes Matt Ladley, Chad Oliver, Charlie Peddie and Teresa Ward. The group plans to compete in the USSA Grand Prix Series, Evolution Tour and US Open this season. Heath Van Aken, who took over as pro-am freestyle coach last season, has left to pursue other interests.
Other supporting coaches include Colin Jenks, Dylan Davidson, Rob Peterson, Erika Anderson and Scott Anfang.
The Winter Sports Club's snowboard race program also is expected to be strong.
Head racing coach Thedo Remmelink has attracted a strong core of riders, many of them with goals of competing in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
The group includes riders such as Justin Reiter, Tyler Jewell, Josh Wylie, Erica Mueller, Eden Serina, Jen Grace, Johanna Shaw and Aimee Newton.
Assistant coach Hansjoerg Berger will be the primary European coach as the team travels the World Cup Circuit, and Adam Cassanova will work out of Steamboat with the regional- and national-level competitors.
"The race program just continues to blow me away," Casson said. "They are an amazing group of athletes, and it's going to be even more exciting to watch them perform in an Olympic year."
The Winter Sports Club snowboarding program includes 10 divisions and is looking to build on a successful 2004-05 season that included numerous top finishes in regional, national and international competitions.
"The snowboard program had taken its place as one of the elite programs in the nation, and we are proud of the hard work from the coaches, the dedication of the riders as well as the support from the parents and the entire community of Steamboat," Casson said.
The Winter Sports Club is one of the oldest clubs of its kind in North America. Last season, almost 1,000 athletes, ages 3 to 72, participated in snowboarding, Alpine, Nordic and freestyle skiing.