The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, organizers of the annual Winter Carnival, is about more than Olympic appearances. The club’s true mission is to help young skiers and riders become successful in life on and off the slopes.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, organizers of the annual Winter Carnival, is about more than Olympic appearances. The club’s true mission is to help young skiers and riders become successful in life on and off the slopes.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club integral to city’s tradition

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Check out a complete list of events for this year's Winter Carnival here.

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Kane Park, of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freestyle program, skis in a Rocky Mountain Division Development competition at Howelsen Hill in 2009. Athletes ranging in age from 10 to 13 participated in the event.

— The Olympic celebration — the one that took place after former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes had claimed five medals in Vancouver — had barely died down when skiers and riders were back on the competition courses and looking to the future.

The medal-winning achievements of Nordic combined skiers Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Brett Camerota represented a high point for a club that is celebrating its 98th Winter Carnival and has produced and coached 71 Winter Olympians.

Already this season, mogul skier Patrick Deneen, training with Winter Sports Club coach Timmy Meagher, has ranked as high as No. 1 in the world. And Anna Marno, 18, scored a breakthrough for the club’s Alpine program by qualifying for the World Junior Championships from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6 in Crans Montana, Switzerland. Marno was just 16 in March 2009 when she broke onto the national scene with a Junior Olympic Championship in the downhill event.

Bryan Fletcher, who narrowly missed out on the Olympic U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team last season, didn’t pout. He rededicated himself to his summer training and roared back to finish a career-best eighth place on the World Cup in Ramsau, Austria, in December 2010. In late January, he and brother Taylor Fletcher were named alongside Lodwick, Spillane and Demong as members of the U.S. World Championship Nordic Combined team that will compete in late February in Norway.

The Winter Sports Club’s pipeline to international competition and the Olympics is stronger than ever, but in the final analysis, the club that is so integral to Steamboat’s tradition as Ski Town USA is more devoted to polishing youngsters into well-rounded adults than it is to climbing Mount Olympus.

The Winter Sports Club hires an elite coaching staff made up of numerous former Olympic and World Cup athletes and uses the Howelsen Hill facilities in downtown Steamboat to introduce youngsters to competition in Alpine, Nordic, freestyle, snowboarding, biathlon and Telemark skiing programs. This season, some 800 children and teens are taking part in the club.

“Any day from 4 to 6 p.m. at Howelsen Hill you see so many kids participating in so many outdoor adventures,” said Sarah Floyd, athletic director for the club.

Teaching those young skiers to set goals and reach them with humility, as well as to travel across the country with their peers and coaches, are the life skills the club offers whether or not a young athlete is on an Olympic path.

The tradition here goes back to 1913 when Carl Howelsen showed locals how to use skis for more than mere transportation during the long Yampa Valley winters. Howelsen built the first ski jumps in town and planted the seeds of the Winter Sports Club when he organized the first Winter Carnival in 1914.

For more information about the Winter Sports Club, visit www.sswsc.org.

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