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The Idaho Connection to the Winter Games: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

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A rare combination of factors has led Sun Valley to produce Olympians: optimum elevation, world-class coaching and 100-150 inches of fresh powder.  - SUN VALLEY SKI EDUCATION FOUNDATION
  • Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation
  • A rare combination of factors has led Sun Valley to produce Olympians: optimum elevation, world-class coaching and 100-150 inches of fresh powder.
Idaho connections to the Winter Olympics are almost as old as the games themselves. The first American woman to ever win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics for alpine skiing was Gretchen Fraser in 1948, who called Sun Valley her home. Today, there are 39 Olympians living in the Wood River Valley, and this year, nine athletes with with Idaho ties are competing in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Coaches and trainers of  young alpine skiers say Idaho will be able to get a glimpse of the current crop of Olympians and the next generation of competitors when the US Alpine Championships return to Sun Valley on Monday, March 19, running through Monday, March 26.

“The U.S. Championships are a very high-level, high-profile event that showcases the best alpine athletes in the country” said Jody Zarkos, director of events and community relations at Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, a year-round ski and snowboard training facility.

Zarkos said budding winter Olympians train eleven months out of the year, with few exceptions, in hopes of becoming part of the top 1 percent who make it to the winter games. She said, "Athletes eat, train, sleep, train, and repeat" at SVSEF, which saw its certification upgraded from "silver" to "gold" by the United States Olympic Committee in 2017.

“There are a lot of talented individuals and athletes that hail from Idaho that will have an impact on the games this year and for years to come” said Zarkos.

Figure skaters also play a big part in Idaho's heightened awareness of winter sports. The Sun Valley Figure Skating Club is preparing to host its upcoming Sun Valley Winter Games competition, beginning Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Sun Valley Indoor Ice Rink.

“Our games have always been really popular and bring people from all over the country” said Jennifer Embree, spokesperson for the Winter Games event.

The competition is limited to skaters and their coaches, it is not open to the general public.