Alumni Spotlight: Corey Warren '04

Photo by Corey Warren

Corey Warren '04 has seen multiple sides of SVSEF; he skied on the freestyle team, and returned a few years later as a coach. He now spends his time as a photographer, videographer and visual designer based out of Seattle. Learn more about what Corey has learned from building a business and pursuing an artistic career, and what lessons he's taken with him from the Wood River Valley. 
What has your journey since living in the Wood River Valley looked like? How was the transition, from growing up here to attending college and to moving to a city? Did you feel prepared for those changes? How did you get started in art and design?
Since graduating from Community School in 2004, I have lived in Portland, OR, Moscow, ID, Bellingham, WA, Ketchum briefly, and now Seattle, WA. I went to four different colleges and managed to still graduate in four years, which was an entire journey on its own. Immediately after graduating from Western Washington University in Bellingham in 2008, my best friend let me in on a business idea and we started as partners in a skate/snow/gallery/print shop. I wore many hats and co-created INNATE, whose brand mantra was “a natural philosophy,” and encouraged the discovery and implementation of the innate talents of each and every individual for the greater good. We had a five-year run and disbanded in 2013. I had a short stint in Idaho coaching ski team for a season before moving back to Seattle to settle into my new life as a freelance creative. Now I’ve spent almost four years in Seattle and I’m finally finding my rhythm, uncovering the potential of the city and learning every step of the way. The transition from Idaho to Oregon to Washington was pretty natural and I did feel prepared, especially coming from Community School. This probably isn’t the time or place for it but one thing no one seems to be prepared enough about is the reality of finances and credit, which is an immediate and hard-hitting reality for many when they leave for school and become increasingly more independent from their parents. We need to implement more realistic curriculum in addition to the existing stuff.
Did you have a sense for a while that you wanted to start your own business, or is that something that developed over time or with certain experiences?
My whole family is pretty creative and have run their own businesses my whole life, so I think a lot of my creativity comes from being around it all the time and having cultivated it slowly over my entire childhood. I was always starting new businesses and coming up with new products and logos, so it evolved naturally into college when I needed to have a focus. The internet has been an incredible resource for me to get inspiration, post my own work and get feedback, and discover what’s happening in every little facet of art, design, film, etc. I’m a super visual and tactile person, really aesthetically incentivized with an A-type personality, so design and art are really natural outlets for me to make sense of the world.
You’ve got this company, Idahome, which resonates with a lot of locals. You’ve been in Seattle for a number of years – what parts of Idaho did you take with you, in addition to the inspiration for that brand? What are the goals and values of the company?
In regards to Idahome, I try to keep the glory, the grit, and the grandeur alive with the content I post and the products we sell, which are limited. The topography design, the county lines design, and the classic are all mountain/geography inspired and resonate with locals. Idaho is raw and genuine, it’s fresh and clean and represents the center of the universe to me— everything revolves around Idaho in my world; I’ll always gravitate back there, in my mind or physically. I’d like to grow Idahome to the point that it’s self sustaining and I can focus on design and marketing. I’m always trying to find the best products with the smallest ecological and humanitarian footprint, and the content of the work will always remain positive, uplifting and showcase the natural beauty of Idaho. I’d really like to lock in some long term ecological partners to form alliances with people on the ground doing work and speaking up for the environment.
On the most challenging aspect of building a company:
Building a company is an expression of one’s own passions with the caveat of having to make a profit. It’s firstly a challenge to balance the idea of making money on your passions with keeping them separate and pure. Secondly, you can’t be risk-averse and need to be willing to dive head-on into uncomfortable situations and put more on the line than you’re used to, because it’s greater than yourself and affects more people than one. Lastly, momentum and consistency are key, and that takes dedication and persistence. It goes without saying all these qualities are not readily accessible in everyone and running a business separates one type of person from another. Idahome is still in its infancy and should be seeing some growth over the next couple years! Stay tuned.
How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired as an artist?
On motivation and inspiration… it’s a fickle thing! I can’t always conjure it but I’m finding that one has to at least be in touch with their own schedule and what times of day are best for which types of work. I am a night owl and produce a ton of my best conceptual work at night. Newly born creations are best for mornings, and finishing ongoing projects for the evening. I like to use the days to play and exercise/ get errands done so the evening I can lock into my flow and be productive. Schedule is paramount to creativity but so is spontaneity, so again, a balance…. such is life, eh?
Aside from your own businesses, you work for Matador Network; what do you do for them, and what do you enjoy most about working there?
I’m a freelance content producer for Matador Network, which means I travel to destinations around North America for various clients of theirs, and create video and photo content for their brands. Sometimes I cover events, sometimes I create an entire experience for the viewer with a montage of all the activities one can do in a particular area. Sometimes I do more commercial work but the majority is destination marketing content. I love the travel and schedule, and the opportunity it’s afforded me to learn the art of run and gun film making (essentially making short, loosely-scripted documentary films out of your backpack).
How do you describe the value of a program like SVSEF? What aspects of the program have you carried over or applied to your current jobs, or any steps or experiences that have come in between?  To life in general?
The SVSEF was an incredible family for me as a child. I can’t think of a better structure for a kid to engage with, or a better organization to grow within. The discipline, autonomy, and self confidence are the biggest things I took away from the program. Knowing I was capable of accomplishing my goals, small or large, is a huge part of my identity and growth into who I am now. We are incredibly fortunate to have a ski culture so accessible to us in the WRV, because it’s such an unrealistic and rare lifestyle to be able to live.
You coached for SVSEF for a bit; what was that like, to return to the program from a different standpoint?
Coaching that one season was an incredible, surreal experience for me. Seeing that program from the coach’s perspective was a trip, with the reversal of roles catching me off guard at first. Coaching ski team is the most fun job ever, and I was just reminded of how incredible both Sun Valley and the SVSEF program are. The role the the SVSEF has in children's’ lives is paramount to their success in life and I mean that wholeheartedly. The structure, experience and character building that happens there is invaluable, and to be packaged in such an encouraging lifestyle is what makes it so unique and special.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I can’t be sure that this is the best advice I’ve ever gotten, but here are a few things:

  • Never do two illegal things at the same time.
  • Be true to yourself and surround yourself with people that make you the best person you can be.
  • Enjoy the process and practice gratitude… life slips by quickly and it’s important to remain in a state of awe and amazement at the experience we get to have, uncomfortable or not. Gratitude is the attitude!
  • It’s not about staying out of the rain, it’s about learning to dance in the storm!

How have you come to define success?
Defining success takes experience, plain and simple. One has to live life and learn what they resonate with, what makes them tick, what incentivizes them and what challenges them. When our moral framework is developed, we are able to build on a foundation of understanding about the world that informs our choices and how we can stretch ourselves to achieve our goals. Success can be so many things to so many people…to me, success is having true friends, having a healthy mind and body, and continuing to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder about the world until the very end. Success is having a positive and long-lasting effect on people and the world around you.

Alumni Spotlight: Taylor Sundali '07

14883666_1762637107323179_69485398748786083_o-1Taylor grew up in the ranks of the SVSEF cross country program, graduating from Wood River High School in 2007 and heading east for school in 2008. After attending Middlebury College and skiing for their cross country team, he moved to Detroit after being selected as a Venture for America fellow. Taylor went on to start a company, Compass, that orchestrates the implementation and finessing of websites for small businesses. Taylor now lives in Philadelphia, where he continues to help business owners improve their web presence and grow their companies. We took some time to chat with Taylor about the unique path he took to get to where he is today, and how SVSEF has influenced the way he approaches work and life.
What was it like to make the transition from growing up in the Wood River Valley to attending a small liberal arts school across the country? Did you feel prepared for that change?
I was more prepared than I initially thought. I remember thinking how hard it was for me to get into this school, and how studious most of these other students must have been in order to make it there. After a while, though, I realized how many were very similar to me. Good student-athletes who were, overall, more intellectually curious than anything.
One of the harder things to get used to, to be perfectly honest, was the climate. It was the first time I was entrenched in high-humidity and high heat… it was weird for the weather to stay warm all night.
How did you hear about Venture for America? Why did you choose that route after college?
Venture for America was introduced to me by a great friend from college, Astrid Schanz-Garbassi. She heard that I was unhappy working at a stuffy, corporate gig that I landed right out of school. Basically, I needed a change. We spent about 1.5 hours over the phone one night talking about the program, and how good of an opportunity it was for me.
Did you have a sense for a while that you wanted to start your own business, or is that something that developed over time or with certain experiences?
Totally. I always knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial and on my own. VFA was a perfect opportunity to safely play in that space. I cut my teeth a bit with a window washing company I co-ran in high school, but it wasn’t anything to create a career around.
How did Compass come about?
Compass was an idea that me and my friend (Mike) had when in the VFA Fellowship in Detroit. We were dabbling with ideas on the side of our main jobs, and his parents were in the market for websites. They had just gone to an agency, and had been quoted at obscene rates. We realized we could provide the service they needed at a much lower cost.
After we helped them out, and made a little bit of side cash, we saw the seed of an idea. Digital marketing services vary wildly in quality and price, and there wasn’t any centralized marketplace that addressed the core problems of small business owners (like Mike’s parents). On the other side of the marketplace, Freelancers were having a hard time finding work, managing projects / client expectations, and dealing with the overhead involved in building websites. There are plenty of talented designers, but not all of them are willing to deal with the additional work to freelance. A marketplace that matches the two intentionally was clear to us, and that’s what we’ve been building ever since.
What are the goals, mission and values of the company?
A lofty question!
Our current goal is to hit $1mm in run rate (annualized revenue). This is very specific, but it indicates a somewhat-scaled company. It would also, based on our projections, get us to a profitable stage.
Our goals after that are much loftier. We really want to be the go-to digital service provider for all small businesses. If someone is looking to get a business off the ground, they’ll come to us to get started for all digital marketing.
We explicitly value Alignment, Transparency and Sustainability. These three have manifested in a lot of cultural and business practices that go counter to both startups and other digital agencies. We think this is a very good thing!
Were there moments of doubt at all starting out?
Of course. Many. That being said, my cofounder is much more of an eternal optimist than I am, so it helped to keep me motivated. (note, I also helped keep him a bit more down to earth).
What do you enjoy most about the job?
It’s oddly addicting to build a company, and it’s really hard to put a finger on this feeling I get when doing so. It’s oddly similar to the feeling of improving in an endurance sport like Nordic Skiing. The more intentional, good work you put into it, the better it performs and the more positive feedback you get for it. I’d say this feeling I’m trying to describe is best correlated to building the strength and endurance for a sport like skiing.
How does your business stand out from other companies that focus on website building services?
Above, I mentioned one of our values of Transparency. We keep open and transparent throughout the entire process of building a site, which is something that many agencies hide.
We like our customers to know precisely what they’re paying for, how long it’s going to take, what tools we’re using to build it, etc. Our level of transparency sets us apart from all the other guys.
The other major thing is purely our model. We’re outsourcing all work that can be done by freelancers. Many shops that build sites have every type of person in house (developers, designers, project managers, sales people). Compass… we have project managers.
Development can be outsourced by tools and Content Management Systems.
Design is outsourced to our freelance designers.
Sales is largely outsourced by our referral system and other hacky-growth systems.
On the most challenging aspect of building a company:
The lifestyle. I miss being outside.
How do you describe the value of a program like SVSEF? What aspects of the program have you carried over or applied to your current job, or any steps or experiences that have come in between?
The work ethic it requires to be a dedicated athlete at SVSEF has helped me build this company. I think that was something I always had, on a base level. That being said, SVSEF helped me hone it and apply it to something that matters.
Without the real experience of refining that skill with skiing, I think I would have had a very difficult time picking up this business and running with it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Save your money.
How have you come to define success?
One word: Happiness.
Learn more about Compass here. Thanks, Taylor, for sharing your story and insight.

Alumni Ski Day and Après-Ski Party – December 21, 2016

In operation for over 50 years now, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation has seen a number of athletes grow through the program and go on to apply experience and qualities adopted while with SVSEF to other interests and pursuits. The Alumni Association is intended to advance the commitment that athletes demonstrate to the organization both while they are in the program and beyond, and to continue to engage and connect graduates of the program with each other and with future generations of SVSEF athletes. Bound by the mutual experience of growing up in the Wood River Valley on the hills of Baldy and Dollar and on the trails from Lake Creek to Galena, the SVSEF alumni form a unique community that reaches across the United States and around the world.
We're excited to host our first annual Alumni Ski Day and Après Ski Party on December 21. Come ski Baldy or Lake Creek, reconnect with teammates and friends, and enjoy some beverages at Apple's Bar & Grill and The Cellar. We hope you can make it – looking forward to seeing everyone!
If you are an alumni and you have not received an invitation, please email – we may not have your contact information.
svsef alumni ski wk2

Alumni Spotlight: Q&A With Christin Cooper

Christin Cooper (or "Coop" as she is known to friends) epitomizes Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation's mission of providing "exceptional snowsport programs for the youth of the Wood River Valley thereby enabling each participant to reach his/her athletic potential, while developing strong personal character through good sportsmanship, strong values and individual goals."
Raised in Ketchum with her two sisters and two brothers, Cooper, 56, learned to ski and race as a member of SVSEF and went on to a heralded career as a member of the U.S. Ski Team. In her first Winter Olympics in 1984 at Lake Placid, Cooper finished seventh and eighth in giant slalom and slalom. Four years later at Sarajevo, she stepped on the largest podium in the world as the Olympic Silver Medalist in giant slalom. Cooper rounded out her racing career with seven World Cup victories, 26 podiums, and 65 top tens. The ski run Christin’s Silver on Bald Mountain’s Seattle Ridge is named in honor of her Olympic finish.
Married to Mark Tache, a former U.S. Ski Team member, for several years, the pair divides its time between homes and businesses in Aspen, Colorado, and Bozeman, Montana,(Montana Ale Works) although Ketchum is never far from Christin's heart.
Recently in Ketchum for the unveiling of Gretchen Fraser's statues in the "Our Olympic Ladies" legacy project of which she will appear in next, Cooper found time to correspond with the SVSEF, offering her views on how her participation with the organization shaped her life.

Christin Cooper displaying her technique and game face.

What did you learn about yourself through the sport of skiing?

My character was forged in essential and lasting ways with SVSEF.   My coaches were tough, and held us to strict standards, but the payoff was huge, with more fun, more laughter and more gratifying experiences in the outdoors than anyone deserves at such a young age. I learned early to work as hard as possible every time out, but without ever taking myself too seriously. As a skier, the snow snakes are always ready to take you down so you can never think too highly of yourself. With SVSEF, we were pushed to focus, and work incredibly hard, but never forget that at the heart of it was wind-in-your-hair and snow-in-your-face fun. Striking this balance is the mantra of my life. Ski racing, like successful living, is about balancing aggression and grace. Full attack, yes, but with a light touch. Bringing your best energy, and positive attitude to the day, no matter the weather or the circumstance is central to success in skiing, and in life.

What are your best memories of SVSEF?

My best memories come from the raddest days at SVSEF or World Cup level. Shivering with a teammate in a raging snowstorm with no one else out, singing songs and telling jokes to stay warm. Training in dense fog, one of the most terrifying and exhilarating experiences ever; I highly recommend it. Why? You have to feel your skis beneath you, and trust your instincts and capabilities, not your eyes. You have to overcome your fear and trust those coaches who have insisted that one more run is just what you need, and you do it, because you do trust them. And then when the sun comes out the next day and you’re skiing two seconds faster, you get it. Now skiing feels easy.

What life lessons did you learn that you carry with you to this day?

The idea of TEAM is core to how I approach my life today. No one succeeds alone. It's all about interdependence. My early SVSEF years helped turn me into a bona fide scrapper, and a confident independent mountain girl, but I didn’t get there myself. The support of teammates and coaches was always right there, and the friendship when things got tough, the weather turned gnarly, when we’d all rather be home in bed, but were instead battling it out and figuring it out together. There’s no fooling yourself really, that you’re doing this alone, succeeding on the merits of your own wonderfulness out there. Success in ski racing and in life means standing on shoulders to see a little further, holding hands, filling gaps by those who know a little more about this thing or that, who can hand it to you right when you need it most.  Like the rest of life, ski racing is a mystery, a puzzle to be solved daily, with the puzzle pieces constantly changing with weather, snow conditions, countries, travel, your own preparedness. What ski racing really taught me was the importance of an agile mind to go with the agile body.

 Is there a defining characteristic you have that you attribute to being a skier? 

Defining characteristic: probably the willingness to admit mistakes, and have a problem-solving attitude about them. Sounds fairly simple but I’m amazed at how many people out there resist vulnerability and get invested in their “expertness”. Ski racing forces a problem solving mindset on you if you want to succeed. There’s no denying the clock, or the crash, or the occasional lack of motivation. The question is what you’re willing to do about it, and the key is in learning to use and appreciate all these people, with all these skills – your “Team” –  to problem-solve with you. Ski racing will knock you down every day if you’re not careful. Want to avoid a similar outcome tomorrow? Look at what happened. Analyze it. Solicit help. Listen to feedback. Try to fix it. And you usually don’t usually fix anything alone. Ski racing is an individual sport, but it’s the team experience that resonates.

How different would you be if you had not been a member of SVSEF?

That’s some of the basic stuff of life on a team. The life lessons you learn when you don’t realize you’re studying. The whole experience created a rock solid belief in teamwork that underpins my life now. You don’t succeed on talent and hard work alone…My medals relied on perfectly tuned skis (not by me), the right warm-up (thanks to the coaches), a warm van, the right food and drink, the support of the folks back home, the right words of encouragement at the right moment, the radio report from a teammate who was also a competitor willing to share her experience to help me. I’m still amazed at people – and it’s usually those who've never played team sports – who believe it’s all about them.  (We don’t hire those people at our restaurant).
I learned so much from ski racing it’s hard to say what was the most important; there’s such an interplay of lessons. Want to learn about life? Join a ski team.

coopersarajevo1984silverCooper on course in 1984 at Sarajevo.

JR. Racing Program Teams in the 70s

Check out the names on the Sun Valley Junior Racing Program teams, circa 1970 and tell me you are not asking yourself, "SVSEF Where has the time gone?"

Circa 1966 - Pete Patterson

Was Pete Patterson the cutest little gap-toothed ripper you ever did see? Here he is accepting the Billy Klein Memorial trophy from actress Ann Southern in Sun Valley, circa 1966.

Out of the Vault — Felix Schaffgotch & Averell Harriman

Sun Valley visionaries Felix Schaffgotsch and Averell Harriman standing in front of Sun Valley Lodge in 1936. Photo courtesy the Ketchum Community Library, Regional History Department.

Out of the Vault — Curtis Bacca

Yes, he obviously has always had a passion for fashion, and all we can say is wow! Out of the Vault says Happy Birthday, Curtis Bacca. Looking good, mac daddy! You must have been like a Christmas tree for babe ornaments. (Why do we get the feeling you still have that outfit neatly packed away?)