Squaws freestyle future looks bright
With a storied history of bringing up world-class freestyle skiers such as Olympians Jonny Moseley and Shannon Bahrke, the Squaw Valley Freestyle and Freeride team is known as one of the most successful ski training programs in the country. Now in its second year as a non-profit foundation under the guidance of director Nat Schirman, the powerhouse ski team is looking forward to one of its biggest winters in recent years on the heels of two major announcements.In the first few days of December, Schirman, his coaching staff and the non-profits board of directors finalized both its roster of scholarship winners and received word that their own stomping grounds had been granted the 2009 and 2010 USSA U.S. Freestyle National Championships.The team awarded seven scholarships for the 2008-09 winter, all of which went to promising student athletes. The recipients include Ben Westmoreland, 17, of Truckee; Chase Duhon, 17, of Reno; Cameron Onega, 13, of Grass Valley; Andre Landau, 17, of San Francisco; KC Oakley, 20, of North Lake Tahoe; Angela Robinson, 20, of Reno; and Guy Smith, 17, of Truckee.These seven skiers were awarded scholarships based on outstanding performances both on the slopes and in the classroom.Im thrilled to be able to reach into the community and grant opportunities to talented student athletes that might not have been able to join the team otherwise, said Schirman.Two of the skiers, Westmoreland and Duhon, are repeat scholarship winners, having earned the awards last winter as well.Once again I am honored to receive a scholarship, said Westmoreland, a student at Truckee High. Im excited for a great season of competition and to continue being a positive role model for the younger skiers on the team.While the scholarships are big news for the team and the student recipients, the decision by the USSA to host the U.S. Freestyle Nationals at Squaw Valley USA for the next two years is huge news for the entire community. Such national championships have not been held in North Tahoe since 1987 and will draw thousands of visitors from across the nation to the slopes, restaurants and hotels of North Tahoe. Scheduled for March 23-29, the competition will decided national champions in single moguls, dual moguls and halfpipe. Skiers are sure to throw down their best stuff at the event as it will be the last national championship before the 2010 Olympic team is chosen. In addition to the high-flying antics, spectators can also look forward to a whole week of festivities in conjunction with the competitions.At last years U.S. Nationals in Park City, Utah, two Squaw Freestyle team members placed well KC Oakley took third in dual moguls and Miles Honen took fourth in halfpipe. Looking ahead to this years national championship, Schirman hopes to have a much larger contingent of the team fighting for podium positions.Our goal is to qualify 10 kids for nationals this year, said Schirman. To get that many of our athletes skiing for national titles in front of a hometown crowd would be amazing.To qualify for the national championships, aspiring skiers need to compete and place well at USSA Far West division freestyle ski competitions. The Far West schedule has six local stops this season.Until the snow flies and the team can get serious on the local slopes, the Squaw Valley Freestyle and Freeride team is training weekly at Starz Gymnastic academy in Reno and ripping a few ski days at Mammoth Mountain. Once the lifts start spinning in Olympic Valley, however, it wont be hard to find the team. As Schirman noted, they have little reason to leave home.With fantastic coaches, a mogul run that finishes at our locker room, an in-house trampoline, and KT-22 right next door, we have all the puzzle pieces for the best training ground in the world, said Schirman.For further information on the Squaw Valley Freestyle and Freeride team, visit http://www.olympicvalleyfreestyle.com.