What it takes: A thank you to our community

Sunday, April 2 will be a day I will never forget. I got to the mountain a little before 5 a.m. Riley Berman (Chief of Course for U.S. Alpine National Championships) was driving on Warm Springs Road just behind me. The weeks leading up to this morning had been brutal on the entire crew as mother winter extended her stay this year. After watering the venue top to bottom, the grooming team had no choice but to blade off the new snow to maintain the race surface needed for an event of this magnitude. This takes extensive hours of cat work, and the grooming team had been at it relentlessly for weeks. Because of this, we had to keep most of the B-net off the hill. The snow that came in on Saturday gave us no choice but to set up the majority of the protection on a world-class Super G course the morning of the event, meaning a super early load Sunday morning.

I drank a cup of coffee and walked over to the yurt to meet Riley and the crew. I was expecting to see the normal crew there, but when I opened the door, it was standing room only. It was 6 a.m. and nearly 100 people had shown up to help. School teachers, doctors, chiropractors, restaurant owners, bankers, trainers and so many community members were there to show their support and help pull off the event.

Then it was Riley’s time to shine. On the big screen in the yurt, Riley had it all mapped out. He had nearly every name in the room organized with a specific job to do. Within the 15-minute meeting, everyone had a plan and jumped on the old Challenger lift to create one last memory with her. Complete with headlamps on, the team started building the venue.

We told the coaches the night before about the plan at the Team Captains’ meeting and asked for their help. They were kind of looking at us like we were crazy, and it didn’t seem like they had much faith we would pull the race off. But as our crew started setting up, a wave of coaches from across the country showed up to lend a hand. By 9:10 a.m., the jury was able to confirm the schedule and we opened the course inspection on time. We set up more than 200 rolls of B-net and prepared the track in less than three hours.

By noon, the sun was out and so was our community to support. The crowd was awesome, and the venue looked spectacular. Three SVSEF athletes were in the top five that day, with Finnigan Donley winning the U21 National Championship in Super G. After the races, the crew met at the yurt and hugged and laughed. Just 24 hours before, it seemed as though all the hard work by so many for months was about to go down the drain. But we never stopped trying and our community came together to pull it off.

On the day after hosting U.S. Nationals, it felt weird driving to Warm Springs only to look up and not see B-net on Greyhawk. I missed seeing the venue we built together and its beauty. I missed the camaraderie with the team. Cleaning the yurt that morning, I realized the venue will never look the same again with the changes coming to Warm Springs. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked for the upgrades, and it’s totally needed; but these weeks were the last races on Greyhawk and Challenger. This is the first time since I’ve lived here that something is going to change that I care about and am connected to. I’m new to this feeling of change that so many locals know too well, but I sure am going to miss 10 and 7.

This event has been inspiring to be a part of. It simply doesn’t happen to this level without a group of people that find joy in being a part of something bigger than oneself.

I can’t thank Sun Valley Company enough for their support in bringing this event to our community. I can’t thank our community enough for their sacrifice and support for the sport I love. For those of you that put in time over the weeks to support, I can’t thank you enough. For others in our community that find ski racing a nuisance, thank you for your sacrifice as well, and I appreciate your putting up with us. I love ski racing and snow sports, and it takes all of us coming together to be good at it.

Our valley has the opportunity to consistently be one of the best venues in ski racing in the world. It is so fun to be a part of this! Thank you!

Written by Will Brandenburg, SVSEF Alpine Program Director and 2023 U.S. Alpine National Championships Chief of Race.