USSA athletes anxiously await a new era |

USSA athletes anxiously await a new era

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

A shoveling of a little dirt?

More like a shift of epic proportions.

When the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) broke ground on its Center of Excellence on Wednesday, athletes from every sport under the organization’s umbrella started to see their future expanding and changing along with the new facility.

The USSA’s plan is to create a national center that houses a training facility, an educational resource center and administrative offices. The change obviously means less driving around town for different needs, and better facilities and equipment, but for the athletes, it also signals a synergy that could take their sport to the next level.

"Not only is it a great place to train, but a place where new ideas will spawn," said Bill Demong 2007 World Championship silver medallist in Nordic combined.

The key benefits are top-notch training opportunities, better sports science, a chance to share energy and ideas between disciplines and a united front that the organization can use to interact with the community and the world.

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For many years, skiers and snowboarders have been making a tour, of sorts, around the area using different training centers. So, a training center designed for them creates myriad of benefits.

"Immediately it allows us to train and test without traveling," Demong said. "It will really give us a national center, not only to congregate in, but to branch out."

Even with the current training facilities, Demong said that his sport was able to maximize the facilities to allow both him and teammate Johnny Spillane to each win medals in international competition after an almost 100-year drought for the U.S.

"Training centers make a difference," Demong said.

For many athletes, it’s a greater emphasis on sports science. Demong said he sees his sport being able to create a cohesive philosophy for training for ski jumping and cross-country skiing in a more unified manner. He says that U.S. Ski Team Nordic combined head coach Dave Jarrett has been working toward the goal, but the Center of Excellence will give him the perfect venue to make it happen.

"The impact of having an intense sports-science and sports-med staff will be huge," Demong said. "To be able to go in there two times a week is just a huge step forward to fine-tuning our program."

Cross-country skier Andy Newell is already looking forward to working more closely with his strength and conditioning coach. Having his program director, Luke Bodensteiner, down the hall to consistently check in on the team’s training regimen won’t hurt the team’s progress either, he said.

"It will be good as far as testing and sports science," said Park City native Ted Ligety, who won a gold medal in alpine skiing in 2006. He hopes that the new center will help the team to fine tune its summer training.

Disabled skiers are another group eagerly preparing for the sports science department to move under one roof. Up until now, they have been getting much of their sports-science aid in other locations around the country.

All of the teams see the new building as chance for their sport to take a major leap forward in international success.

"It’s gonna expand all horizons in all venues," said snowboardcross athlete athlete Graham Watanabe.

Many of the Center’s benefits will affect the athletes of the future even more than the current team. In 10 years, the USSA will be fielding teams whose athletes have spent their entire careers in what is one of the most advanced facilities in the world.

"What an opportunity for the youth," marveled U.S. Freestyle Ski Team members and native Parkite Nate Roberts.

that time, all of the teams will be used to working side by side, interacting and learning from one another.

"I think this will bring a lot of teams together," Roberts said.

"It’s really going to be a big stepping stone to being a powerhouse," Newell agreed.

Newell expects that just being around all of the different forms of expertise and energy will allow all of the teams to encourage and help one another.

"I think the biggest part is feeding off the energy of all the other teams," Ligety added.

Disabled cross-country skier Chris Klebl says that the disabled athletes are awaiting the opportunity to train together as a team more often.

"Right now, you go do your thing, you leave," he said.

He also expects that the new top-of-the-line equipment will mean big improvements for the disabled contingent.

Watanabe says that right now, he might be the only rider based in Park City, but once the Center is finished, boarders will no longer be spread across the country, perfecting their tricks on different mountains.

"It’s going to be so incredible," Watanabe said.

He is most excited to spend his time perfecting tricks along the skiing freestylists. The new building will house what he calls a "tramp-and-ramp room," which gives the opportunity for the athletes to strap their boards and skis on indoors and ride ramps into foam-padded pits.

He also wants to use the new centralized location as a place to mix with younger rides and influence their futures in a positive way.

"Everything in one place is such an attraction for the young riders and the existing riders to come together," Watanabe said. "Hopefully we’ll make an impact on the team’s success."

Impact in all areas seems to be the resounding theme of the center. USSA President Bill Marolt hopes a new national center will soon mean an impact in American results.

"We wanted to up the ante and take the next step to be more competitive in the world," Bill Marolt said.