Steamboat Springs The job is time consuming and draining, both emotionally and physically. In a word, it’s complex, Deb Armstrong explained. And that’s why the explanation is simple.
After five years as the Alpine skiing director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Armstrong announced Thursday that she’s stepping down.
The only reasons, she said, are the demands of the job and the time it took away from her 7-year-old daughter, Adelyn.
“I’ve felt so overwhelmed with the commitments of this job while simultaneously wanting to be the best mom I can be,” Armstrong said. “It finally became crushing for me.
“This is the best thing, not only for myself, but for the club.”
Armstrong, a gold medalist in giant slalom at the 1984 Olympics, worked for Steamboat Ski Area before signing on as the Winter Sports Club’s Alpine director five years ago, lured, she said, by then-director Rick DeVos.
She spoke proudly Thursday of her time atop one of the club’s premier programs.
Alpine skiing still is the biggest division of the club, and Armstrong worked to improve it.
She strived to bring standards to Steamboat’s Alpine skiers, establishing expectations for athletes at every age level.
She also tried to increase the club’s coach retention rate.
“She developed a tremendously cohesive staff,” club Athletics Director Sarah Floyd said. “She developed a very tight, professional staff that worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the Alpine youth of our community.”
Armstrong also made it a top priority to develop athletes the “right way.” Her goal wasn’t just to place skiers on the U.S. Ski Team, but to produce athletes who left the program as enamored with skiing as they were the day they entered the program.
“The vision and goal of the department is to deliver a ski racer so that when they leave, they are mentally and physically healthy, skilled, fresh and passionate to continue their ski career, whether that means a move to the U.S. Ski Team, moving on to a college team, or continuing as a life-long skier,” Armstrong said.
She pointed to the many Winter Sports Club athletes skiing in college — enough in numbers and skill to rank Steamboat third among clubs — as proof it worked.
One of Armstrong’s last objectives as director was moving some of the Alpine program’s training sessions to Steamboat Ski Area, and plans filed with the city of Steamboat Springs indicate the Sitz, See Me and See Ya trails will be widened and lightened to allow for an exclusive training zone.
“That is a new venue for all club sports, but it has certainly been the brainchild of Deb and she’s committed to seeing it through,” Floyd said.
Armstrong’s stepping aside continues a trend of major turnover for the club. She’s the third program head to leave the Winter Sports Club in the past year. Snowboard director Jon Casson moved on last summer and freestyle skiing director Erik Skinner stepped down earlier this spring.
DeVos resigned after last winter and Jim Boyne stepped in as executive director in the fall.
Armstrong said that change in the club’s overall leadership had nothing to do with her decision. She plans to prove it, too. She is eager to continue working with the club in the future. She’s unsure of the role at this point, wanting to figure out her exact spot once a new director is brought on board.
"Deb has taken the program over the last five years to a great place," Boyne said. "We want to find an impactful role for her at the club that allows her to balance her personal and professional life."
That shouldn't be a problem, Armstrong said. She's at home here and remains passionate about developing strong skiers in Steamboat Springs.
“I couldn’t be more happy to serve this club,” she said. “This really is for my mental health, my sanity, and for being a good mom.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9