Eastern alliance raises hackles at ACC meeting

There was considerable posturing at the annual spring meeting of the Eastern Alpine Competition Committee in White River Junction, Vermont Saturday (April 20). The standard business of the committee went about much as might be expected, but the issue of a break away Youth Development Alliance that would separate U-14 and younger skiers from the national USSA program raised some hackles.

“As regards the elephant in the room,” said Tri-State representative Laura Sullivan, “I have been instructed by my board to ask for full transparency. The board says, for three years now the ACC has been used as a vehicle for this alliance that’s been going and we’d like to have it not used for that platform any more. We’d like to have the ACC working for a strong marriage, a strong relationship. We believe strongly if we all work together it will be a better.

“It is not healthy for the young athletes, for the parents to confuse them,” Sullivan continued. “We’re all in the same boat, we all want the same thing. Let’s do it with the strongest communication and work as one unit.”

Communication seemed to be a major theme. Chuck Hughes, chairman of the Eastern Ski Officials Committee said, “I personally feel with all the talk of the East separation from USSA and discussion for forming a new Eastern Ski Alliance we have fractured our Eastern region and in doing so have pitted many against each other. We must stop the mudslinging and work together.”

ACC president Connie Webster said, “The ACC does not have an active plan to separate from USSA. This has been a point of conversation and a learning point. … The East’s angst, questions and concerns has spurred USSA to look at themselves and say how can we – as part of USSA – do better by ourselves.”

Lester Keller, the USSA Regional Development Director noted USSA has responded to the East with additional personnel and additional service. “I am not the National Director, I’m the Regional Director and I stress that because it indicates this is a partnership.”

Much of the bantering was inspired by a pair of indepently issued press releases, one from the Vermont Alpine Racing Association (VARA) and one from the New York counterpoint (NYSSRA) announcing an initiative to form an Eastern Youth Skiing Alliance to sanction races for non-scored events. Those releases, it appears, may have been misleading.

Webster said her home state of New York has hired a Youth Development Director to help coordinate that effort within the state. USSA expects to provide the same position on a regional basis.

Hughes said the stand of the ACC, “…needs to be clarified and voiced to the membership, not just to the ACC. … We’ve got a big group of people (in the East) 16,000 strong. There’s a lot of confusion from the grass roots all the way to the top.”

ACC member, VARA president and Killington Mountain School Head Tao Smith said: “There has been no action taken, no plan put in place. What there has been are a couple of feasibility studies. The letter written by VARA last year was simply an update on what was going on. We wanted to be sure we were upfront in addressing this with the membership.

What we said was that there were some issues. VARA’s stance is that we are for our athletes. We want to see some positive change in Vermont. There are certain things VARA is committed to with or without USSA.”

He added, “There have been some strides taken by USSA. I, for one, am very appreciative of that. … I believe USSA has taken some very positive strides in the last six to eight months: The McKensie study, appointing Marty (Guyer) as a (Eastern Regional) coach, allocating more resources to the Eastern office. These are all good things, things we have been asking for for years.

“The position of VARA is that we want grass roots club support, projects for youth in the East,  This is hard for our region to accomplish. We are huge. No way Alex (Krebs Eastern Competition Director) can visit all of our clubs in one winter… probably not in three or four winters. Our upper level academies have the resources. It’s the young kids that need support. It’s the club, weekend coaches that need the education.
“VARA recently sent the press release, basically stating the same thing Connie just said. We haven’t made any resolutions, haven’t taken any actions,  haven’t created any independent alliance. We are moving slowly, cautiously and deliberately. No body in the state of Vermont has advocated that we leave USSA.” -hm

Frontpage image by Ann Nash Photography



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