Summer break? Not for winter sports club

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— It's a good thing Rick DeVos can find humor in the name of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

"We are always laughing at our name," DeVos said. "Especially this time of year."

Yes, it once was true that most Winter Sports Club events and programs took place in the winter, and the number of club-sponsored activities dropped dramatically after the final ski races each April.

But the times, they are a changing.

In the few years since DeVos took over as the club's executive director, the Winter Sports Club has added a variety of summer activities, including operating the Howler Alpine Slide for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Foundation, new summer training programs at the Bald Eagle Lake water ramp and the new plastic jump at Howelsen Hill.

"Maintaining a year-round schedule has become a necessity," DeVos said. "It's really the athletes who are driving this thing."

Most of the new summer activity at the club can be attributed to the pressure to provide year-round training for upper-end athletes. But the club also has ventured into road biking, mountain biking and skateboarding in recent years in hopes of keeping its athletes active and involved in sports of their choosing. The club also provides physical training programs for more serious athletes in its Nordic, Freestyle, Alpine and Snowboarding programs.

DeVos said the club has between 130 and 150 athletes who take part in summer programming at the Winter Sports Club. It also employs a staff of 20 coaches, nine full-time administrators and one part-time administrator during the summer. Those numbers compare to more than 1,000 athletes in the winter and more than 130 employees.

"Our role is shifting with the times," DeVos said. "Year-round training is a reality in just about every sport these days, and our club is adjusting to meet those demands."

Although the growth and increased participation numbers seem like a windfall for the Winter Sports Club, DeVos said it presents more challenges.

"Every athlete in our program is subsidized to some extent," DeVos said. "The more athletes we have, javascript:body_guess_subhead()the greater the financial pressures become."

Coaching fees and fundraising efforts have supported the summer programs. DeVos said the club will continue to meet athletes' needs and will rely on some creative thinking to help fund the programs.

DeVos pointed out that the club's role is not to make money but to maintain a level that allows it to supply quality programming for the young athletes in Steamboat Springs.

This weekend, the club's staff will open the Howler Alpine slide at Howelsen Hill, one of the creative avenues the club uses to raise money to cover its winter and summer operating expenses.

The slide generates money for the club and also allows its coaches to maintain full-time positions on the staff. Plus, young members of the club get summer jobs.

Next week, DeVos said the water ramp will open and the programs at Bald Eagle Lake will dive into summer. The new plastic K-68 jump will host its first camp that week, and young Steamboat ski jumpers will have a chance to keep their jumping skills sharp despite the warm temperatures and green slopes.

Physical conditioning programs have been under way for several weeks, and the club's summer programming will shift into high gear soon after school lets out for the summer.

"Our numbers have gone up every year since 1999, and I don't see that trend going anywhere soon," DeVos said. "But as a club, one of the biggest things we can do is provide year-round training and give these athletes the attention they need to reach their goals."

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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