Stratton Mountain School and the Franconia Ski Club were top winners as U.S. Ski & Snowboard announced its 2020 Clubs of the Year. SMS was named overall Club of the Year, while Franconia was awarded Development Club of the Year. Alpine Club of the Year honors went to Burke Mountain Academy.
Always one of the top multi-sport programs in America, SMS earned the top honor for the second time, having also won in 2009. Established in 1972, Stratton Mountain School has a storied tradition. It has sent 46 student athletes to the Olympics, capturing six medals. Over the years, it has placed 118 athletes onto national teams, including 17 this past season. It was also named Club of the Year in 2009.
Club of the Year recognizes a club with a commitment to program, youth and overall athlete development, along with development of facilities, commitment to region and national structure, coach certification and professional development, plus season accomplishments.
Accomplishments and results from current season
Stratton Mountain School provides a unique environment that offers each student the opportunity to pursue excellence in competitive winter sports and college preparatory academics while developing strong personal values. The program, which features alpine, cross country, freeskiing, freestyle and snowboard programs, is a gold level U.S. Ski & Snowboard Podium Club.
This past season the alpine program qualified five student athletes to the U.S. Junior Championships, seven to the Eastern U16 Championships and 11 to the Eastern U14 Championships.
“For the alpine program, we work with athletes on team goals and hold them accountable every day,” said Alpine Director Mike Morin. “We start with the small things, and they end up being the big things. From the coaches’ perspective, we work every day to create a positive training environment, which includes the simple idea of speaking to athletes in a positive manner and coaching confidence for each athlete within an athlete-centered approach. The foundation of the program’s success is our culture of excellence.”
In other sports this season, freeski qualified 15 to USASA Nationals, 75% of freestyle athletes qualified for Junior Nationals with 50% making it to U.S. Championships, nordic continued its string of 25 years with at least one medal at Junior Nationals and snowboard recorded 57 podiums at USASA events.
In recent years Stratton Mountain School has focused on facilities. It has developed a high performance center focused on sport science and sports medicine including a field house, gymnasium, strength and condition, rehabilitation and outdoor fields, as well as an air awareness center and yoga studio.
“We are proud to receive recognition as U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s Overall Club of the year after a season of immense hard work and achievement for all five of our winter sports programs,” said Headmaster Chris Kaltsas, who is retiring in June after 24 years. “Following this past season’s athletic accomplishments, alongside another year of impressive college placements, our community is excited to continue the tradition of excellence that has guided Stratton Mountain School since 1972.”
Franconia Named Development Club of the Year
New Hampshire’s Franconia Ski Club was named Development Club of the Year, the second year the award has been presented. Franconia was recognized for its longstanding commitment to fostering a love of winter sports and raising successful athletes in its community. Recently, the significant investment in facilities and training venues has provided new opportunities for programming and partnerships, and set the club up for continued success.
Over the past decade, the Franconia Ski Club has grown to become one of the most notable development programs in New England. It’s membership has grown from 40 in 1998 to 192 this past year and a waiting list for 2020-21. The club impacted development across the region, as well as nationally, with the first phase of the Mittersill at Cannon Mountain Improvement Project, with a $4 million investment in trail and lift development. The next phase, including the Mittersill Performance Center, is underway. The venue was the site of the 2017 NCAA Championships and the 2019 U.S. Junior Championship super-G.
“Our mission at the Franconia Ski Club is to impart the joys of skiing and the lifelong lessons of healthy competition,” said Program Director Eric Price. “All of our programs take that mission to heart, using it as a guiding principle in the development of our athletes. We focus on providing our athletes with the highest level of alpine racing instruction available and fostering within them a love of and respect for the sport. This approach, along with access to the world-class training and racing facilities at Mittersill at Cannon Mountain, has allowed us to develop some of the best athletes in not only the Eastern Region but also the U.S.”
The club has taken the NHARA U14 state title from 2016-2020, and the U12 title from 2015-2019. The club has a host of athletes ranking in the top five YOB in the east and top 15 in the nation. Franconia’s Dylan Welch is ranked number one in the country in slalom for YOB 2004.
Introduced in 2019, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Development Club of the Year Award is an award presented to a member club which has distinguished itself in providing outstanding youth development programs. Key criteria include exceptional or unique programming focused on developing athletes ages 13 and under; providing opportunities for youth to enter the sport, providing a positive, engaging experience for young snowsports athletes; commitment and encouragement of youth athletic development; implementation of best practices and innovation for long-term athlete development; use and support of U.S. Ski & Snowboard resources intended for development levels; conversion of athletes to higher levels of involvement, participation and competition; develops and encourages a lifelong passion and enthusiasm for participation in snowsports.
The Franconia Ski Club is a silver certified U.S. Ski & Snowboard Podium Club, presently working on its gold certification.
Burke Named Alpine Club of the Year
A longstanding and highly revered program, Burke Mountain Academy was named Alpine Club of the Year. The program excelled this year with success at every level from U12 up to FIS, and NorAm, including five athletes making National Development Group criteria, plus qualifying athletes for Alpe Cimbra (former Topolino) and OPA Cup.
Burke has created a powerful guiding framework for its program that challenges the status quo in helping athletes manage training and racing loads. As a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Development site, Burke’s impact has extended even more broadly as a strong program partner in the Eastern Region with a Speed Week and other regional training opportunities. Burke also brought on board two notable past stars to help with the athletic programs including Felix McGrath and Olympic champion Diann Roffe, a 1985 Burke graduate.
“We consider our school and all of the athletic programs a community and we really do believe that the shared sense of commitment to one another elevates the experience,” said Burke Headmaster Willy Booker. “Our primary charge at Burke is character development, and the athletic and academic programs are vehicles for that holistic education. The sense of community that exists among all the athletes and their families is what makes that education possible because it cultivates an environment with a high degree of trust in which the athletes are willing to take appropriate risks, learn through failure and ultimately strive to achieve their goals.”
A hallmark at Burke has been its high quality races. At core to that has been the contribution of David Iverson for the last 13 years at Burke, and 13 before that at Green Mountain Valley School – executing upward of 40 races annually. Iverson, who will be leaving his role, was acknowledged by U.S. Ski & Snowboard for his lifelong contribution to the Eastern Region.
Burke is a gold certified U.S. Ski & Snowboard Podium Club.
Alaska Winter Stars, Cross Country Club of the Year
Alaska Winter Stars was named Cross Country Club of the Year. Alaska has always been a strong division for cross country skiing. But since the inception of Alaska Winter Stars in 1997 by Jan Buron, the state is impacting the top levels of the sport in new ways. Buron believed that athletes who want to compete at the top level must begin their training as children and participate in a year-round program with the same group of coaches. This past year, Alaska Winter Stars athlete Gus Schumacher won Junior Worlds gold, as well as leading the SuperTour and becoming a national champion.
“One of our club’s strengths is helping athletes develop into lifelong skiers,” said club founder Jan Buron. “Our younger junior program focuses on having fun and many athletes transition to being competitive on the state, national, or even international level as high schoolers and beyond.”
Stratton Mountain School, Freeski Club of the Year
Stratton Mountain School, was also named Freeski Club of the Year. SMS is one of America’s premier multi-sport clubs, with its freeski program growing to become one of the most successful in the country and a catalyst for the growth of the sport in the east. Its main goal is to provide wholesome experiences to their athletes to ensure long-term success in both athletics and life. This past year the program grew nearly 50% in participants.
“Our objective at SMS is to keep it fun, while maintaining our focus on goals,” said Freeski Director Jesse Mallis. “We have an awesome coaching staff that make it fun for athletes and keeps them fully engaged.”
Wasatch Freestyle, Freestyle Club of the Year
Utah-based Wasatch Freestyle was named Freestyle Club of the Year. Wasatch Freestyle, which operates at both Snowbird and Deer Valley, is known as one of the premier freestyle moguls programs in America, with a high-level elite coaching staff, continuous engagement in events and a congruent goal of developing the best athletes and leaders possible.
“Wasatch Freestyle has provided a very positive experience for young people and their families who have come through our programming,” said club director Jon O’Brien. “Along with our partners, Deer Valley Resort and Snowbird, we have not only been able to provide area youth with a great competitive ski program but also an experience where young people learn great life skills – leadership, time management, goal setting and good citizenship. I am fortunate to have worked with so many great young people and their families over the years. Wasatch Freestyle is one of the great living legacies of our Olympic movement and a tribute to the ski industry here in Utah.”
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Nordic Combined/Ski Jumping Club of the Year
For the fourth consecutive year, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC) was named Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping Club of the Year. It’s the sixth time the club has won the honor. As a multi-discipline club, SSWSC has a unique approach to youth development with different disciplines working together. It’s unity between club, community, staff, athletes, parents and volunteers, together with its major support partners of the City of Steamboat Springs and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation, gives the program a strong platform from which to work. Over the last two years, the club has soared to its highest numbers with 150 athletes participating in the jumping and combined program.
“We believe that high end athletics is a byproduct of strong life skills like, commitment, grit, perseverance, dedication and striving with passion,” said Program Director Todd Wilson. “While the SSWSC has had great success producing many national and Olympic team athletes, our focus is more centered on the life skills and the achievement process. We believe success is all about setting a foundation of life skills that will serve an individual in athletics and beyond. We are just a proud of our members that go on to be successful in other endeavors as we are with our Olympians.”
Stratton Mountain School, Snowboard Club of the Year
Stratton Mountain School was named Snowboard Club of the Year. Under the leadership of Olympic champion Ross Powers, SMS Snowboard is recognized as one of the top programs in the nation, committed to providing each student athlete with the opportunity to pursue excellence in competitive winter sports and college preparatory academics while developing strong personal values.
“After 10 years of leading the SMS Snowboard Team, I’ve come full circle from my days as a student athlete at Stratton Mountain School to now helping the next generations by providing them with the knowledge and the opportunities to progress to their highest level,” said Olympic champion and Snowboard Director Ross Powers.