Skinner hired to lead Heavenly Ski and Snowboard Foundation, aims for return to prominence
The Heavenly Ski and Snowboard Foundation enters the upcoming season under new direction. Former HSSF freestyle coach Erik Skinner was hired as executive director of the organization over the summer, and aims to return the club to prominence.
“It was definitely a surprise to me — I’m totally stoked to be able to help out and hopefully make improvements,” Skinner said. “I think that it will be a good challenge and a lot of fun.”
Skinner replaces Amy Xistra, who held the position for five years. His coaching career began at Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club in Colorado in 1994, and he brings more than two decades of experience to the Heavenly Foundation that features alpine, freestyle and development programs for skiers and snowboarders ages 7 to 19.
“Helping out the youth in the community appeals to me along seeing where the benchmark is and trying to raise it,” Skinner said.
Heavenly Foundation currently has 100 members, half of the numbers it once possessed. Skinner’s ultimate goal is to raise the participation in the club back to a higher level.
“In its heyday, it had a tremendous following and a tremendous amount of numbers,” Skinner said. “It’s fallen off, and I’d like to see it get back to that.”
HSSF’s new executive director has a three-to-five-year vision to turn around the foundation. And it starts with a greater relationship with the local community.
“We want to get back to being the club that everyone wants to be a part of and be proud of, instead of always looking somewhere else,” Skinner said. “From there, we have the ability to focus on some higher-end athletes.”
Heavenly Foundation will continue its Ski P.E. program this winter, curriculum that brings middle school students to Heavenly Mountain Resort for skiing. Skinner said HSSF also plans to host events for each of its age groups, competitions similar to the Kinder Cup already in place.
In the short term, Skinner’s focus will be on athlete grouping and educating coaches. He used the word “splintered” to describe the current state of the foundation.
“The board agreed that they were doing everything, but not doing anything well,” Skinner said. “They want to get their arms around it and get it going in the right direction.
“The organization for each program needs to have milestones, but it also needs to have stepping zones. Before we were just hitting the milestones.”
In terms of development at the youth level, Skinner says Heavenly Foundation will take a broader approach starting this season. Rather than specialization from a young age, HSSF athletes will get oriented with the mountain in a variety of ways.
“It needs to be through exploration that they’re doing things, not just in one venue,” Skinner said. “We want to instill that lifelong learning and lifelong love of the sport, whether it’s skiing or snowboarding.”
Heavenly Foundation is online at http://www.hssfteam.org.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.