Steamboat Springs When Scott Ptach learned that ability coach Peter Anderson was leaving the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club last spring, the Alpine skier began to question his future in Steamboat Springs.
But in August, all the questions were answered when Gene Bridgewater assumed Anderson’s position as the Winter Sports Club’s head postgraduate and FIS coach. After meeting the new coach, Ptach, who grew up on the slopes of Howelsen Hill, said he was confident that his decision to stay in Steamboat was the correct one.
“I thought about going somewhere else after Pete left,” Ptach said during a weight training session Wednesday. “But Deb (Armstrong) got Gene, and he seems to be matching up to Pete in every way.”
Bridgewater, a Boulder native, will take over for Anderson, who left the club to take a position with the U.S. Ski Team at the end of last season.
Bridgewater came to Steamboat Springs and coached here in the late 1990s but returned to Boulder, where he earned his degree from the University of Colorado.
Bridgewater skied on the university’s club team and coached at Eldora while at CU and also made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Olympic decathlon team.
Bridgewater took a job coaching at the Aspen Valley Ski Club after school in Boulder and remained there through last winter. He said he was looking for a change at the end of last season and later in the summer learned that the Winter Sports Club was looking for a new coach.
Bridgewater said the interview for the job was more like a long planning meeting, and by the time it was done, it was clear that Bridgewater was a good fit for the club.
“He’s been in the industry for many years, and he is a professional,” said Deb Armstrong, Alpine program director. “He brings the leadership we needed and has taken our physical conditioning to a new level.”
Armstrong said that Bridgewater offers the club a chance to maintain a strong Alpine tradition but that he also will bring a new drive to the Alpine programs. She already has seen the results of his leadership as local athletes train for the upcoming season.
“We want the Alpine skiers in our programs to meet the potential of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s reputation, and the potential of our community,” Armstrong said.
Bridgewater said the summer and fall training periods are the keys to a successful season on the slopes.
The coach said he would focus his efforts on building his athletes’ core strength and has included weight training, endurance and several new resistance training techniques since joining the staff in August.
Ptach said the training has been difficult at times, but he feels like he will enter the season in great shape and ready to ski fast.
“I need to get a feel for him and how he works, and he needs to get a feel for how he needs to teach me,” Ptach said. “I worked with Pete for two years, and we had a connection and a flow that was working. It’s going to take a little time to develop that same connection with Gene.”
Ptach doesn’t expect Bridgewater to be a replacement for Anderson.
He said every coach brings something different to the table, and by working with different coaches, Ptach has a chance to expand his skills and learn new things.
Bridgewater also is looking at the move to Steamboat as an opportunity to coach a new group of skiers and an opportunity to help each skier reach his or her own goals — whether that’s skiing fast, making a college ski team or making the U.S. Ski Team.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with each individual athlete and push them to be the best they can be,” Bridgewater said. “I hope to hold these skiers to a higher standard. No matter what the skier’s ability level is, I want them to be the best all-around skiers they can be.”
Bridgewater has worked with several elite athletes during his stint in Aspen, including Dow Travers, who became the first winter athlete to represent the Cayman Islands at the Winter Olympic Games, last winter in Vancouver, British Columbia.
One of Bridgewater’s big goals is to help Winter Sports Club athletes reach the U.S. Ski Team, and maybe even the Olympics in the future.
But the coach said his role in Steamboat is much broader than the Olympics.
“There is definitely motivation to realizing an Olympic dream, but it’s also a long shot,” Bridgewater said.
“There are also a lot of goals to be reached along the way.”
Bridgewater said he plans to help his athletes take advantage of the opportunities as they come along. For some skiers, that might mean a top finish at a local or regional race, for others it might mean landing a spot on a college team, and for a few it might mean a shot at the national team or the Olympics.