While most people may associate Northstar as one of the foremost Lake Tahoe ski resorts for families, unbeknownst to many is that it's the training ground for the Northstar Ski and Snowboard Teams program. Kids and teens between the ages of 5 and 18 can train and compete on a number of different teams, including alpine racing, freeskiing, snowboarding, and big-mountain teams. We recently sent one of our own bloggers, Paul Plaza, to experience the Northstar Teams Program first-hand. Read on to discover what he learned.
We've all been there, ripping down a run when all of a sudden a young kid so effortlessly zooms past us. How could they be so good? While sometimes it's simply talent or the byproduct of spending all of their winter weekends on the mountain, it's often the result of great coaching. And that's where the Northstar Teams Program comes in. I recently followed them for a day this winter to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the action. Here's what I learned.
Northstar Teams Programs doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a competition team.
One great part about the Northstar Teams Programs is that your son or daughter can participate even if they aren't interested in competing. The Northstar Development Team focuses on getting kids who have an interest in improving their skills matched up with other kids of similar ability. They ski the entire mountain together, working on the discipline that will make them better overall skiers and riders. From here, if they develop an interest in competing, coaches will work on details that will help them succeed in the desired program that they will eventually join.
Northstar Teams Program has their own training area of the mountain.
Being a Vail resort program, the Northstar Team Foundation supports the infrastructure of a dedicated training hill that allows athletes to have a safe venue for giant slalom, Super G, slalom training, air bag training, and a mogul course, all of which is closed to the public. Combined with a dedicated events department, the Northstar Teams Program is able to host USSA, USASA and Nor Am events so every athlete has a chance to compete at their home resort. Additionally, next season they'll be installing snowmaking equipment and beginning to design a training facility. The support of the foundation allows for improved infrastructure which aides in athlete development.
Northstar Teams Program coaches focus on developing proper technique.
The main goal of the Northstar Teams Program is to produce "gold medal athletes in life and sport, using alpine racing, freeskiing, snowboarding, and big mountain as the conduit for life lessons and skill acquisition." A large portion of a coach's job is to observe their students and provide feedback during and after every run. Coaches study the skiing habits of each of their students and provide tips and tricks on how to improve, such as teaching them how to dig their edges harder for deeper carves or proper positioning when skiing on powder.
Coaches teach kids how to use their gear to its full potential.
In addition to focusing on proper technique, coaches also emphasize understanding how your boots, skis and body work with one another when skiing, teaching kids how ski edges and the snow react with one another in different snow and terrain conditions. What's more, the program believes in gaining the perspective of multiple coaches to give athletes the advantage of learning from each coach’s individual expertise. These coaches will guide athletes to develop the passion of skiing and teach them the skills to be successful.
Small groups guarantee kids will progress.
Like many of the points above, it's really all about improving each kid's technique. Kids will have the same coach week after week which allows for the coach to really study their skiing habits. Time like this spent throughout the winter ski season develops a bond of trust between coach and student, ultimately translating into better progression of skiing skills and more fun on the mountain. It takes the idea of ski school to a whole new level.