East goes to battle for additional staffing

As USSA, the national governing body, begins a conscious centralization, its biggest region protests.

The East, with more than half of the alpine members of the US Ski Association (USSA) has been struggling for the last year and a half to get the representation it feels is deserved. Thursday (Oct. 18) the Vermont Alpine Racing Association (VARA) board of directors sent a letter to its membership outlining the efforts of the Eastern Alpine Competition Committee (EACC) and the current status of the situation.

The EACC has been in negotiation with the national office of USSA. Presently, the letter said, “nothing is expected to happen that will make any material difference to race programs in the 2012-13 season,” but the EACC continues to work to bring additional monies and staff from the national program to the East.

“The East comprises over 50 percent of the entire USSA membership (more than 13,000), and sends approximately $1.8 million to the governing body annually in the form of memberships and head tax dues derived from race entry fees. In return, the region receives roughly $150,000 of funding for human resources to support membership and regional needs.” This season its “human resources” equates to one full time and one part time staff member.

The payback, the East maintains, should be higher than eight percent, though the letter does note there is an understanding that dues “ help to support the health of the sport as a whole, including at the Olympic level. …  We value the exceptional job that our national team coaches and administrators have done in producing some memorable results, including the USA’s performance at the recent Vancouver Olympics.”

Those Olympians, however, do need to come through a pipeline whether they start in the East, West or Rockie Mountain regions. And, frankly, all of those regions want to be the best. “Our region is unified in our goal of providing exceptional grass-roots introductory and development level experiences for our young athletes – at the same time positioning our highest-achieving athletes for selection to the national team,” said the VARA letter.

But it’s not so much the finances. To achieve its goals the East is asking for a larger chunk of the human resources pie.

“The EACC’s main concern is that our national governing body (USSA) is focused on centralizing resources (human and financial) in Park City, leaving the East, in the EACC’s opinion, underrepresented and under served in proportion to the needs of our membership. Currently -  for a membership of over 13,000 -  the East has one full-time and one part-time USSA Regional staff member, whereas in the past many more worked out of the Eastern office. Simplified, the position of the EACC is to retain adequate financial resources and reasonable autonomy to provide for excellent grass roots development that will allow the region to meet its stated goals.”

There have been four possible paths presented:
1. Do nothing, and accept the status quo
2. Keep the existing structure in place, but raise additional funds from within the Eastern region, primarily through head taxes derived from increasing race-entry fees
3. Work with USSA to increase its financial investment in the region
4. Restructure the management of our junior development racing pipeline independently from USSA, garnering more local control and maintaining existing revenue streams within region. Such restructuring would likely occur initially at the U16 or U14 age classification and younger.

In the East the first is plain out of the question. And the fourth could be considered extreme. No question it is a bold plan. Recent meetings have been fruitful.

VARA signed off saying: “As the leaders within Vermont, the VARA board has been actively involved in ongoing negotiations with USSA. At our fall meeting, held last week in Killlington, the VARA board expressed its desire to communicate with our membership to inform everyone as to where this issue now stands.

“We remain committed to our mission, ‘To keep ski racing 1st in Vermont, and Vermont ski racers 1st in the world’.”
More from the VARA letter: “The East’s first choice (it is third on the list) would be to continue to work with USSA to achieve the region’s stated goals. To that end, the national governing body and the EACC have been involved in direct negotiations to work toward common solutions.”



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