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'The Tribe is Big'—Sun Valley Basks on U.S. Skiing’s Biggest Stage
Friday, March 25, 2016


It’s been 40 years since the last national ski race was held in Sun Valley.

And that’s way too long, judging by the crowd that turned out for the Opening Ceremonies of the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships Thursday evening.

Half the town may be away on Spring Break. But, still, hundreds of people thumbed their noses at a bout of blizzardy weather to pack the Ketchum Town Square in a salute to the athletes on stage this week, Sun Valley’s rich Olympic heritage and to the Olympians of tomorrow.

“It has been a long time, and I think we’ve awakened a sleeping giant,” said Sun Valley’s Olympic medalist Christin Cooper, who recounted watching ski racers like Ingemar Stenmark  during the last national race held here in 1977.

The Twin Falls Drum Corps led the athletes down a 4th Street festooned with American flags where athletes walked through a line of high-fiving Sun Valley ski instructors and under a canopy of ski poles held by the Sun Valley Ski Patrol.

Cooper introduced 17 Winter Olympians who either make their home in Sun Valley or grew up in Sun Valley. They included old-timers like Susie Corrock, natives like Picabo Street and Kaitlyn Farrington and some of the Wood River Valley’s newest Olympic residents, including Dane Spencer and Will Brandenburg.

The Harriman Cup, introduced shortly after Sun Valley opened in 1936, was the most coveted ski racers cup in America for 30 years until the World Cup races started, Cooper noted.  

Cooper talked about the world and legacy she grew up in: Sun Valley coaches who stressed the fun of skiing above the technique. Mentors like Pete Patterson, who taught her how  inner strength and perseverance was more important than perfect turns when it came to competing in Europe. And people who had her back, including Olympic medalist Gretchen Fraser,  who always sent well wishes with her to the Olympics.

Cooper nodded to Bald Mountain rising in the background: “My coaches told me the best coach is that mountain.”

“Explore the mountain before you leave,” she told the racers. “Get off Warm Springs (where the races are being held). Stand at the top of Exhibition and imagine you’re tucking it down that--they say that the bumps will smooth out as you gain speed. Make slalom turns all the way down.”

Cooper now owns a restaurant in Bozeman, Mont., with her husband--former U.S. Ski Team racer Mark Tache.

“I work for a living and I love my work, but I live to ski and I need to ski and I work around that whole need,” she said. “I’m a grateful member of the tribe of skiing—and the tribe is big.”

The winners of the Super G were took their places on a podium following Cooper’s remarks against a backdrop of an American flag.

Five-time giant-slalom champ Tim Jitloff ended it by throwing Idaho bakers wrapped in silver and gold foil into the crowd, much to the delight of youngsters.

Former U.S. Ski Team Downhiller Bryon Freidman and Grammy Award-winner Johnny Neel plied the evening air with songs like “Folsom Prison Blues.”

John Marno, whose daughter Anna Marno won the Super G earlier in the day, noted that the crowds that have been gathering at the bottom of Greyhawk and along the race course leading up Warm Springs this week have been the biggest he’s ever seen at nationals.

Sun Valley native Tanner Farrow, a member of the U.S. Ski Team, agreed that the Sun Valley crowds are the biggest he’s seen in five years of competing at nationals.

“People are excited. Everywhere I go people are talking about it,” he said.

Sun Valley’s General Manager Tim Silva acknowledged that it took three to four years of work to pull it off. Sun Valley will hold the U.S. Alpine Championships again in 2018.

“It’s great to see it happening. It truly has taken a community to get us there,” he added, giving a shout out to the USSA, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Sun Valley employees and even the athletes.

“Thank you for your dedication to excellence,” he said, addressing the athletes. “And good luck—particularly at the top of Greyhawk!”


Mikaela Shiffrin is expected to start off the first of two slalom runs today at 9 a.m. on Greyhawk. The women will run the second slalom race at noon.

The men’s slalom races will start at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

The Awards Ceremony will take place at 2:30 p.m. at Warm Springs Plaza.

The much anticipated Big Air Exhibition—a preview of a new event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea—will take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. today.

All events are free.

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