How many lucky kids can get away with blowing off school to hit the slopes? A lot more than last season, and it's all because of the new Tamarack Sports and Education Foundation (TSEF).
Founded in August of this year, the non-profit TSEF is currently offering a full-time Academic Winter Tutorial for students in grades 7 through 12. The program, which admits a maximum of 10 students, combines academic tutoring in math, science and other traditional subjects with quality coaching focused on honing athletic skills.
According to TSEF President Belinda Brey, the typical student-athletes enrolled in the program "are high achievers, and are independently motivated to excel academically and athletically." She notes that some of them are training full-time and traveling to competitions, making an alternative academic schedule such as TSEF's critical to maximizing their potential on and off the snow.
TSEF offers several training programs, depending on students' interests. The TSEF Nordic Full-Time program provides training tailored to the personal goals of the athlete and the TSEF Park and Pipe Full-Time program uses video analysis to ensure a noticeable progression of skills. Both run Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. The McCall Ski Racing Team Alpine Ski Racing course operates Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. All the full-time programs are open to skiers ages 13 and up.
Several other programs in the Winter 2005-2006 line-up occur after school and on weekends. These classes welcome all students between the ages of 7 and 18, no matter what their level of ability.
Ten-year-old Wyatt Cobb Riegel and his 8-year-old sister Alyssa Sage Riegel are enrolled in the TSEF Nordic Kids After-School program. It is designed to emphasize skill development and good times, and the Riegels' experience indicates its working.
When asked why they decided to enroll, both youngsters say "because it's fun!" Sage adds that her legs are stronger since she started the program, and that she most enjoys the program because it gives her time to play with her friends. "We don't have much time at school to play," she says. Wyatt believes he's now a better downhill skier and also loves going on the long ski runs made possible by his participation in the program.
The Riegels' mother, Suzanne, says the family moved to Valley County because of the wide range of outdoor sports available to them there. "We do year-round activities with the kids," she says. "Camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, bow shooting, skiing. Tamarack was the first opportunity our kids had for an after-school program."
Another program, the TSEF Park and Pipe Weekend, focuses on technique, skills progression and fun. It runs Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon, and 13-year-old Austin Borkoski doesn't at all mind giving up the opportunity to sleep in.
"I just thought it would be a good chance to learn how to be a better snowboarder," he says. "The time and commitment isn't that much of an issue for me at all. We have so much fun, the time goes by way faster than we would like it to!"
Kathy Borkoski shares her son's enthusiasm.
"My family takes advantage of the outdoor lifestyle that is so prevalent in McCall. We greatly enjoy the winter sports," she says. "I'm so glad that TSEF recognizes the long-term value of really getting these kids excited about the lifetime sports of snowboarding and skiing."
The quality of the facilities utilized by TSEF underscores its commitment to creating an exceptional experience for the students. "Tamarack Resort is developing world-class facilities that will be a tremendous asset to developing athletes and students," Brey says. "For example, the training facilities for the Park and Pipe Program include Tamarack Resort's Hell's Canyon SuperPipe, and No Business Terrain Park is by far the best park and pipe facility around."
She also points to the Tamarack Nordic Center. It covers 30 kilometers of scenic terrain, and snow-making capabilities will facilitate early season training. She notes that the alpine race training facilities continue to be improved, and that Tamarack Resort is being utilized by alpine racing teams as a training facility and competition venue.
As part of its commitment to teaching life skills along with athletic acumen, TSEF has assembled an impressive coaching faculty. Brey says all the coaches are certified by the United States Ski Association (USSA) or the United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA). She adds that TSEF is working with U.S. Ski Team member and 2002 Olympian Dane Spencer to develop the Alpine program and with the McCall Ski Racing team to supply the Alpine program. Lacey Heward, of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, is working on the Adaptive Assistance Program. Currently under development, the Adaptive program will specialize in outdoor opportunities for physically and developmentally challenged athletes.
Given that Tamarack employees and supporters created TSEF, it's no surprise they have dedicated so much time and energy to promoting winter sports in Idaho. Perhaps less immediately evident, however, is the foundation's emphasis on educational and developmental opportunities for underprivileged youth in the community.
"Through scholarship programs and a donation policy," Brey says, "TSEF will reach out as a charitable foundation to assist interested youths so that they may participate in TSEF programs."
Thanks to Tamarack, skipping school to play in the snow isn't just fun, it's also a smart thing to do.