I am a product of the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club (TSSC). Of course, back then it wasn’t called that. There was no park and pipe or big mountain teams — those disciplines didn’t yet exist and snowboarding was just starting to trickle into the junior programs. In Telluride, we had two clubs TART (Telluride Alpine Race Team) and Bump Club (the Freestyle Team).
Back then the freestyle kids had three disciplines — bumps, air and ballet. To be considered as an overall champion, athletes had to compete in ballet, an event more analogous to figure skating than skiing. A pole flip was thought of as a pretty rad trick and in the aerial competitions a quadruple daffy was often good enough for a gold medal.
The TART kids trained slalom and giant slalom on Competition Hill and Lower See Forever, the current site of the Air Garden. Sometimes we’d get early morning access and set a giant slalom or Super G on lower Lookout. On the weekends we’d travel to Vail, Winter Park and Powderhorn to compete.
As members of the local ski club, we felt we owned the Mountain. Our friends’ parents were on Ski Patrol and the cool, twenty-somethings in town were our coaches. The best adult skiers on the Mountain dared us to follow, showing us new lines and the school let us out early to train. We felt part of something.
The logistics of the Ski Club have evolved substantially since those days. Today’s racers train and compete on Milk Run and throwing inverted tricks is the norm in junior freestyle competitions. There is a park and pipe team and snowboarders can train for the half pipe or race course. TSSC has secured a club at the top of the ski area and the bottom of Lift Seven, and kids from Telluride are present on US Ski Teams as well as in the X Games.
But, even as TSSC and competitive snow sports have changed, the spirit has remained the same and one thing remains constant: The Ski Club instills a love of snow sports in all of its athletes. A very few will ever really make it in any one of the disciplines, but all will come away with the valuable lessons only standing in a start gate by yourself can teach and the experience of a childhood spent on the Mountain.
I’m still in touch with many of the Ski Club alumni from my generation. There are many who live in town and more who don’t. Those who do not, get back to Telluride every chance they can to once again experience the sport and Mountain so familiar to them and share it with their families. Throughout the winter, they stay in touch through Google alerts and Facebook, usually informed about conditions or Mountain news before many of us who live here.
And, there are all those ski clubbers who have come before and after me. At Christmas time I see groups of kids back from college skiing together in shred posses. Their technical fundamentals give them away and I know they’re TSSC alums. I read the local papers to learn about the young, hot, up and coming competitors and everyday I’m on the hill I see groups of kids training or free-skiing with a coach.
Yesterday (Saturday), the Club was particularly conspicuous as each ski and snowboard group dressed in costume and competed in the club’s annual vertical challenge. Kids ripped Milk Run and Mak’m in tutus, beards, devil horns and Hershey Kiss hats. Each athlete raised money for the club by getting individuals to sponsor them as they challenged themselves to ski as many vertical feet as possible.
As I watched them yesterday, I was reminded that they wouldn’t all win a ski competition or make a career out of skiing, but like me, and those of my generation, they would all leave the club with a love for the sport and desire to return to it throughout their lives.
If you’re like me and missed the opportunity to sponsor a kid during the vertical challenge, it’s not too late to donate to the event. Call 970-728-6163 ext 10 or check out the TSSC website.
Snow Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride winter an epic adventure.