Grooming Groms into Pros | SierraSun.com

Grooming Groms into Pros

Seth Lightcap
Sierra Sun

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunTahoe Freeride Company team member Charlie Ingalls, 12, of Truckee practices his flat spins at Starz Gymnastics center in Reno, Nev.

With world class ski and snowboard terrain lurking around every corner, it’s no wonder North Tahoe is one of the nation’s foremost breeding grounds for superstar winter athletes. From Jonny Moseley to Chas Guldemond, the cliffs, halfpipes, and race courses of the northshore have been a brightly-lit stage upon which uber-talented skiers and shredders have consistently broken into the big time.

But for every McConkey or Rippey, there have also been piles of local athletes that, while arguably just as talented, have for one reason or another not become household names. Maybe due to misfortune, or maybe a lack of guidance, but for whatever reason, these skilled locals were casualties of both on-snow and in-business hazards that plagued their snowy road to success.

If only the new North Tahoe ski/board training team, Tahoe Freeride Company, had been around for these forgotten rippers of yesteryear.

An emerging force on the scene this season, the Tahoe Freeride Company is a training organization dedicated to helping fledgling pro skiers and riders maneuver the professional minefield and achieve their true potential. But unlike other freestyle or racing teams, the Tahoe Freeride team offers more than just advice on technique.

“The Tahoe Freeride program is geared towards kids in the Tahoe Area pursuing a career in skiing or snowboarding,” said Tahoe Freeride Company founder and head coach Sean Hartel. “The most successful athletes in winter sports got there with a good mix of competitions, media exposure, attitude and marketability. We looked at the careers of some of these pro athletes and based our program off how to achieve that kind of success.”

The program Hartel has put together offers periodic summer trampoline and water jump training, five day a week winter training at Boreal, Alpine Meadows, and the Sierra backcountry, in addition to, help sculpting resumes and attracting sponsors, professional photo and video shoots, and organized trips to regional and international competitions. Taught by coaches who are all pursuing winter sports careers themselves, Hartel feels this blend of technique training and business savvy will help aspiring athletes take the reins of an awesome career.

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“We recognize that kids get good at such a young age that they are unprepared for the extra baggage that comes with being a pro,” said Hartell. “We help them progress on snow while learning the business end of one of the best jobs in the world.”

The passion that inspired Hartel to start the Tahoe Freeride Company was a love for freestyle coaching mentored by the late Clay Beck, the founder of the Alpine Meadows Freestyle team. When Beck passed away in an aviation accident this summer, Hartel decided to re-group the team under his guidance, adding the professional twists he felt relevant to today’s media-driven sports world.

Tahoe Freeride team skier Billy Mann of Truckee was on the Alpine Meadows team last year and is excited to for his future on the Tahoe Freeride team.

“I’m looking forward to improving my learning curve and having fun dedicating myself to skiing, ” said Mann. “Hopefully someday skiing will take me to the Olympics.”

Joining Mann on the team are local skiers Andre Simonpietri, Becca Babicz, and David Wise, local snowboarders Johnny Lazzereschi and Brian Shoey, as well as many others.

Charlie Ingalls, 12, of Truckee is stoked to be the youngest team member.

“Having the chance to ski with guys who are my mentors will be a real inspiration,” said Ingalls. “I think the atmosphere will really help me progress and I hope to get in alot more competitions.”

Though the team is already chalk full of amazing young athletes they are still accepting applications for more team members, both male and female, skier or snowboarder.

But as Hartel noted, “This is not a recreational team. We are only targeting athletes with exceptional abilities this first season.”

With limited resources, Hartel wants to concentrate on a team he already knows is top notch.

“There are a lot of local kids that can drop jaws around the world,” said Hartell. “They just need to get their name out there.”

For further information about the Tahoe Freeride Company check out http://www.tahoefreeride.com.