Thanks to Fasterskier for hosting this healthy discussion and thanks to all of you that participated. In reading through the responses there are a few things I would like to comment on. I will try to summarize some of them and come up with my view. Topics are not in any particular order.
1. It takes lots of hard work and a large group of talent to succeed. This is self explanatory. Even Norway is realizing that they do not have enough depth and are therefore trying to do something for the next best athletes. I think we have a pretty large pool of athletes, but I think we all need to take the responsibility for providing them with places where they can train hard with other people that have the same interest. The college system is potentially a great one, but the only a few of the athletes that have gone that route have experienced success. My view is that most colleges do not run professional enough programs. While we have incorporated a college program like NMU directly into our development program for many years now, there are also schools where there is not enough training and the talented Americans falls victim to a party schedule they see the international racers get away with.
2. Bring athletes back to the communities. I do not think it is always a great idea to bring all athletes back to the communities. Mainly because the best athletes must train together to become better. Since we only have a handful of talented athletes that can succeed internationally (which has only been the case in the last few years) it is imperative that these athletes get a chance to train and prepare together. When that is said, I do believe in building strong programs in the communities. This should be the cornerstone in our development pipeline. However, we haven’t had a great track record with this in the US. In the 90’s there was no group in Park City and the results were lacking. The USSA is only responsible for 5-6 racers, so there are plenty of great talents for the communities to work with and bring up to an international level. It should also be said that the athletes are, contrary to popular belief, not spending much time in Park City. The national team athletes are in Park City 2 weeks in July and 4 weeks in October. The rest of the time they are either on training camp somewhere else or they are at home. It has largely gone un-noticed that the athletes are at home in their respective communities from the end of March till the third week of July in addition to a period in September and in December.
3. Discontinue the U.S. Ski Team and do everything regionally. Why not? Because we need both. I think we need to have a strong national team with the best racers AND a strong regional elite program AND strong club programs. The best athletes will rise in the pipeline and get channeled to environments where they can get challenged. Operating in a vacuum alone is never good. If one discontinues the top level of the pyramid (U.S. Ski Team) there is no place for the best athletes to go and the best athletes loose a support system that can help them be successful in international competitions. We cannot have one or the other, we need it all.
4. Take money from USSA and divide it regionally/money is not everything. We barely have enough money to support 5 racers internationally. It is therefore unrealistic to take this money and divide it up among the regions as we will not be able to give the best skiers a chance to rise to the top internationally, which would eliminate any chance of success.
5. Give responsibilities to the communities. By default that is what is happening with the majority of our athletes right now. The clubs and regional teams must take care of most athletes. Unfortunately, this has only taken skiers to a national level of success, and no higher. Some have said that the U.S. Ski Team system has not worked, but at least in some ways because of the current program we have helped athletes who have gotten through their clubs to a national level achieve more success than in the past 20 years. It is not a perfect system. We also have to have a system where the athletes come prepared to be on the national team. This is the job of each high school/club/college program/regional program to get done.
I wish you all the best for the coming training year. I hope that we can create a system where we can have success in the clubs, regions and the national team. To become great one must have reasonable talent and be able to handle 800 hours of training. Please make the next generation of skiers better prepared and poised for international success by training them well and hard in a professional competitive system where communication is embraced. The success we will have will be because of you (the U.S. ski community). You provide the ski team with talent and will have the entire honor for our skiers when they perform. The U.S. Ski Team and staff are only here to help the best athletes tweak a few details to become the best in the world.