of interest in Wood River Valley cross country skiing.
“The sustainability of these events is going to rely on
marketing and sponsorship, and my dream would be
for one of the venues in the U.S. to make a run at
hosting World Cup Finals.”
Kapala came to the area 25 years ago to take on the
role as head coach for about 20 junior skiers in the
SVSEF nordic program. Today, the program barely re-
sembles its humble beginnings.
The club is now split into five different levels. The Devo
program for elementary ages has about 100 kids, the
Prep team (middle school) has 30 kids, and the Comp
team (juniors) has about 25 kids. The public school
bus delivers the kids after school to the “Hut” at the
Lake Creek trails, where the club has its headquar-
ters. In addition, SVSEF runs a smaller post-graduate
program with about four to six kids, and the Olympic
Development Team (ODT), with five to eight athletes.
Each program level has a head coach and several
part-time assistants. All told, there are 14 coaches
who work with the various nordic programs.
The SVSEF ODT was born about six years ago when
SVSEF officials recognized a gap in their program-
ming: there was no support for local skiers to continue
training after college in order to make Olympic and
World Championships teams. Along with some urg-
ing from USSA to increase regional development pro-
grams around the country, Sun Valley started the ODT
with current USST Head Coach Chris Grover. Their
goals were twofold: to provide support for SVSEF kids
as they continued their ski racing careers after col-
lege, and to enhance the training program for the al-
ready healthy junior programs.
In its short life, the program has done just what it set
out to do. Sun Valley sent two athletes to Vancouver,
including hometown star Morgan Arritola, who hails
from nearby Fairfield, Idaho. And the ODT has really
raised the bar for the junior and post-grad programs,
according to head coach Travis Jones. “It’s pretty cool
for an 11-year-old kid to be tying up their boots at the
Hut sitting next to Simi [Hamilton] or Morgan,” he said.
“It’s letting them know that this next level is available
to them if they work hard and stick with it.”
The SVSEF program has set a goal of qualifying six
athletes for Sochi 2014. While this number includes
their freestyle and alpine programs as well, cross
country is the largest of these, and Jones expects at
least half of the six to come from the nordic ranks.
“Six at Sochi has really given our athletes something
to aim for, but also something concrete for the whole
community, which funds our programs, to get behind,”
said Jones. “It’s been really cool seeing the communi-
ty rally behind our skiers as they move forward toward
The 2011 SuperTour Finals are only a small part of
what’s happening with cross country skiing in Sun Val-
ley. With posters all over Ketchum and more than the
usual throng of nordic spectators lining the trails at
Lake Creek cheering, it’s clear these races aren’t just
for the competitors, but also for the town.
“The whole community became very aware of the
ODT prior to the Olympics,” says Kapala. “These guys
would be roller skiing around town and people would
drive by yelling out the window. ‘Go Morgan, Go Simi!’
Random people at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday would be
yelling this stuff. But what’s really cool is the town is
seemingly embracing these athletes as their team.
When you have an ODT program that is trying to suc-
ceed at the highest level, it adds to the tapestry of an
enriched community. It shows people what is possible
having these skiers here, that you can achieve a lot
Freeman races the 50K in the Wood River Valley.
Diggins, Randall and
Graefnings topped the
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