Steamboat Springs They won’t be coming to your door, unsolicited and in uniform — that’s your domain, for now, Girl Scouts — but the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team does have something to sell, and team members hope there are a few buyers out there.
The team’s source of funding has been up in the air since it was cut from the ranks of United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s fully funded programs in the spring. Through the summer, the team has worked to establish itself financially in what amounts to a whole new world.
Along the way it’s tried to reach out to new sponsors, it’s partnered with U.S. Ski Jumping and it’s maintained ties with USSA.
That last relationship has born fruit recently, when the association agreed to pick up the salary of coach Dave Jarrett, and again this month when it sent 15 gold passes to the Nordic combined team to resell and fronted the squad the money, $150,000, until the team got its product sold.
Gold passes are fully transferable ski passes that cost $10,000. The vast majority of that cost, 85 percent, can be written off as donation, and they’re good at more than 250 ski resorts across the United States.
In case the transferable ski pass to everywhere you want to go wasn’t enough, there’s also a newsletter, a magazine subscription and a VIP tour of the Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, as incentives.
It’s a huge windfall for the program.
“It’s certainly a sign of good faith on their part,” Jarrett said. “Maybe they’re realizing perhaps they made some hasty decisions. I’m not sure.”
The deal will be the same next year, as well, offering some much-needed financial stability to the team, which in April considered its ties with USSA to be much closer to severed.
This year, it goes a long way to ensuring a United States presence throughout the World Cup schedule. As a worst-case scenario, the team was set to focus on the looming World Championships this winter in Falun, Sweden.
Now, Jarrett said, all the salaries — assistant coaches, equipment technicians and the like — will be covered, as well as equipment costs. He expects a full contingent of four U.S. skiers to be at the World Cup opening weekend in Ruka, Finland, in November.
“Originally it was, ‘You guys aren’t going to be funded,’ but they’ve come back with something else, come back with a way to continue my employment and now found a unique way of allowing us to make money for ourselves,” Jarrett said about USSA.
Hopefully, it’s a bridge, he explained. Learning about being dropped in April, the team and its friends launched into fundraising mode. There was optimism and a seemingly large pool of potential sponsors the team couldn’t previously reach out to because they conflicted with deals USSA already had.
Those deals don’t just happen, however. Jarrett said there’s a marketing program in the works and that the long-term outlook is positive, but most of the money is not yet in the bank.
The team opted not to take a traditional trip to Europe to compete in the summer grand prix Nordic combined events and instead has spent its time training in Park City. That’s going well, members report. There’s new blood in the pipeline, like members Ben Berend, Adam Loomis and Michael Ward, and two-time Olympian Taylor Fletcher said that’s pushing the guys who’ve been around, like him and brother Bryan Fletcher.
The team raced through a full intrasquad competition Friday and Taylor won, outlasting Bryan in the cross-country ski race.
The team is planning an October European training trip.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” Taylor said. “We’re doing something a little different this year, and we feel like that’s good for us. It’s really motivated us to do what we want and to do better.”
And the time at home has given them all an opportunity to sit down and consider: Do they have any friends who love to ski at various resorts all around the United States, who appreciate a good newsletter, magazine subscription and a VIP tour, and who might just have $10,000 burning a hole in their pockets?
“Right now, everything is looking far more promising than it did in April or in July,” Jarrett said. “The staff is breathing easier, especially with this latest development with the gold passes.”
Anyone interested in the passes can check out the facts at http://foundation.ussa.org/gold-pass-fact-sheet. There are a total of 450 available. A person has to specify if they intend to buy one of the Nordic combined 15.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9