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South Tahoe Snowboard Series ready for liftoff

Steve Yingling, Tribune Sports Editor

Is a national championship missing from your resumZ and your basketball skills aren’t up to Mike Krzyzewski’s standards? Then it’s time to strap on a board and join the South Tahoe Snowboard Series.

The series begins its fourth season next month, and for the past three seasons the rest of the country has been looking up at South Shore boarders at the USASA championships.

“It’s not a mistake. We didn’t stumble on it in the first year,” said Donna Vano, who co-directs the STSS with her husband, Alan. “We’re so ready. I’ve been up training with the kids, and they are on fire this year.”

The February Winter Games in Salt Lake City should only fuel more interest in the sport and the series this winter.

“Every year now we seem to have more kids involved,” said Heavenly Ski & Snowboard Foundation coach Ed McClain. “The last few years the sport has been hyped up with the Gravity Games and the X Games, and youths are really gravitating toward it.”

With heavy snow falling earlier than usual in the Sierra, McClain’s boarders have had an intense preseason regimen, including gymnastics, weight training and four or five days snowboarding per week.

“It’s been three or four years since we started off like this,” said McClain, who has coached at Heavenly for seven seasons.

With a membership of 200-plus snowboarders, the series is expected to lift off Jan. 5 with a GS at Kirkwood. Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly Ski Resort will also help the series put on events throughout the 10-event season.

New this season is the 8-9:30 a.m. registration period on race day.

“We’re doing it earlier because people were showing up at 1 until 10, and that makes it super hard,” Vano said. “We’re pushing for people to be registered by 9:30, so it gives them more practice time, and we’re off the mountain earlier.”

Riders must pay a $25 fee to become USASA members, and the cost is $15 per event. Boarders can use their resort passes or purchase discounted lift tickets as well.

“Each series director has the right to charge what they want for each event. I know a lot of other series that charge more than we do,” Vano said. “We know it’s expensive to have kids in the foundation, so that’s why we beat the pavement all year for sponsors.”

The Vanos’ national prominence as professional athletes has helped them shower the series’ participants with a variety of national products in postevent raffles. Among the sponsors are Burton, Velvet Eyewear, Sessions, K2, Rossignol, Vans, G-Shock Watches and Board Generation Foundation.

“I get to be Mrs. Claus every week. It’s Christmas, and I love giving them to the athletes who really appreciate it,” Vano said.

As added incentive to compete in all of the series’ events this season, the Vanos are holding a special prize raffle for those with perfect attendance and who accumulate the most points.

For more information on the series, phone (530) 577-4760 or check out the series’ Web site at usasa.org and click on regions to locate the South Tahoe Snowboard Series.


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