Jesse Hunt, executive director of Park City Ski and Snowboard, named Alpine Director at US Ski and Snowboard
After nine years away, Jesse Hunt is returning to the position of alpine director at U.S. Ski and Snowboard. The announcement comes after Hunt was heavily involved in a major merger between ski and snowboard clubs in the Park City area, including Park City Ski Team, Summit Ski Team, Team Park City United and the Nordic and Fly Freestyle divisions of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. The resulting club, Park City Ski and Snowboard, now has around 900 athletes.
“I’ve gained some great perspective at an elite level and at a grassroots level,” Hunt said. “It’s given me a lot to bring to the table after getting a chance to reconnect with the clubs and the regions, and bring that perspective back to the national level in terms of development.”
And development is the key word. His move to U.S. Ski and Snowboard takes place amid another shuffle: on March 21, the organization sent out a press release saying the alpine men’s head coach, Sasha Rearick, would become head men’s development coach for alpine ski racing.
Hunt said this move and his own promotion will prioritize development and foster a team mentality, which he said is an aspect that the alpine team has drifted away from in recent years.
“I would like to reengage with that concept and that philosophy,” he said. “I believe that even though it’s an individual sport, it’s delivered in a team environment, and when it’s delivered that way you can create a powerful national team. That will be one of my first, most important initiatives, is to get back to building a team.”
Luke Bodensteiner, chief of sport with U.S. Ski and Snowboard, said the resignation of Patrick Riml, Hunt’s predecessor and alpine director since 2011, was part of the evolution of the team. He said Riml’s focus was on working with top-level athletes like Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and others – and now it’s time to build a new team.
“For 12 years we’ve run a top-end strategy, trying to get the most we can from top level athletes,” Bodensteiner said. “We are starting to run the course on the top-end strategy, with a lot of those athletes retiring. It’s (advantageous to) us to focus on the development end.”
Bodensteiner said Rearick and Hunt’s new appointments will be accompanied by a shift in other staff and financial resources toward the development team, adding that working with clubs will be a big part of that process.
Hunt said he is currently transitioning away from PCSS, which is actively searching for a new executive director, and will start working for U.S. Ski and Snowboard on May 1, in time for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Congress on May 1-5 in Park City and the International Ski Federation Congress, scheduled for May 13-19 in Costa Navarino, Greece.
“My role comes down to philosophical underpinnings — how we run the program, how we drive the program and what we’re doing,” Hunt said. That will include selection criteria, who makes the team, managing and working with staff, working with the national team athletes, helping create a budget and allocating the team’s resources.
Hunt said he heard about the opening after the U.S. Nationals, and said he was interested in the position because he felt like he could bring back some of the strategies and philosophy that drove the team’s success between 2000-2009, when he was Alpine Director the team. According to a press release, the teams that Hunt oversaw earned four FIS Overall World Cup titles, 12 Olympic medals and 18 World Championship medals during those years.
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the alpine team earned a bronze, silver and gold medal, via Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn, compared with five medals at the Sochi Winter Games and eight in the Vancouver Winter Games (which U.S. Ski and Snowboard counted among Hunt’s successes).
“We had a successful 2018 Winter Olympic Games, but we know we did not achieve all our goals in alpine,” said Tiger Shaw, CEO and President of U.S. Ski & Snowboard in a press release. “Jesse’s appointment adds an incredible amount of value to our elite athlete alpine program, but he will also be a key part of the plan we have been activating for some time now in development. I am confident that we have the right mix of experience, passion, dedication and a strong plan that will help our alpine program achieve more than they think possible, both internationally and back home in the USA.”
As for leaving PCSS, Hunt said there’s never a perfect time to leave, but he said the club’s foundation after the merger was sound, adding that he was proud of consistency the organization has brought to snow sports in area.
“It’s helped me grow and better prepare for taking on the challenge of building teams in other organizations,” he said. “I want to take what I’ve learned, as far as integration of teams in the community, and take it to another level.”
Hunt added that over his time at Park City Ski and Snowboard he has met passionate, community-oriented people.
“It’s been a really difficult decision, just because it’s been fun working with the people that I’ve been working with,” he said. “I just wanted to add that because it’s definitely meant a lot to me.”
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Kathleen O’Connell, who makes her return to Nordic combined this weekend at the Continental Cup, is moving to Park City to pursue a career in Nordic combined.