Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skiers dance Thursday at the Depot Art Center in downtown Steamboat Springs. The class, taught by Wendy Smith Mikelsons, didn’t seem to have much to do with skiing, but Alpine program director Deb Armstrong said it could prove important when the 16 athletes — about half boys and half girls — take to the snow in several months.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Steamboat Springs There wasn’t much in the Depot Art Center on Thursday afternoon that said “skiing.”
Brilliant fall colors shouted from the one photo displayed in the Depot’s largest room, and eight girls danced across the wood floors in T-shirts and shorts.
Michael Jackson serenaded from the radio.
Perfecting moves, having fun and showing off for a gathering group of parents were the goals of the moment, but skiing was the goal of the day. Thursday’s dance class was the final one for one of two sessions specially tailored for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine skiers.
“It’s a great deal,” club Alpine director Deb Armstrong said. “This is completely a win — win all the way around.”
The focus of many powder hounds has turned to skiing and snowboarding as another winter approaches and many of the Winter Sports Club’s athletes already are engaged in their workouts that will build up to the season.
The dance classes seem even more unrelated to dashing down the slopes than the club’s regular fall activities, which range from lunges and weight lifting to balance exercises and soccer games.
Still, stepping to the King of Pop, led by dance instructor Wendy Smith Mikelsons, could prove as essential as anything else.
“Skiing is really technical. You’re adjusting your balance every millisecond,” Armstrong said. “You’re asking your body to do pretty intricate, technical things, and if you haven’t refined your body and it’s not used to moving in certain ways, you’re going to be behind the game.”
That can all come from almost anywhere, including the dance floor.
Armstrong said she strove to excel in sports of all types as she trained to be an Alpine skier.
That all-around fitness paid off in a big way when she won a gold medal in the giant slalom at the 1984 Olympic Games.
“I did everything. I played volleyball, basketball, tennis and golf,” she said. “Even out there on a golf course, I would make a direct correlation to skiing. I made that correlation to any type of movement activity.”
The benefits of the dance classes may not be limited to the physical realm, either.
The focus of nailing down a step and the memorization that goes along with it also could greatly benefit an athlete who plans on soaring as fast as gravity will allow down an icy pitch.
“It’s about the organization of thoughts,” Armstrong said. “It’s knowing what comes next and following some intricate details when you’re going 60 miles an hour. You have to build that up so your brain can handle that.”
The program, which was limited to two twice-a-week sessions and about 16 athletes this year, came about as the product of a brainstorming session between Armstrong and her next-door neighbor, Clark Davidson, executive director for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.
Davidson said he was eager to help in the community and that he was inspired by an old interview in which former NFL receiver Lynn Swann said ballet classes helped him make the highlight-reel grabs that landed him in the Hall of Fame.
“I was extremely excited for us to do something like this,” he said. “I very much believe in cross-training, and we get excited about doing anything for children.”
He and Armstrong insisted this was only the start for Steamboat’s aspiring Alpine skiers on the dance floor.
“It’s just a pilot program this year. I ensure we’ll do it again next year,” Davidson said. “The way Deb and I have talked about this, this is the very beginning of something we’d like to see grow in the next 10 years to the point where there are longer programs and more children involved.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org