USSA

This has been an eventful season for the USSA across our sports. Athletes are coming off very successful World Championships in freestyle, freeskiing and snowboarding, along with a 13-medal performance at X Games. This week the USA is welcoming the world to Vail/Beaver Creek for Alpine Worlds and in two weeks Sweden will do the same in Falun for Nordic Worlds.

Last week I was in Lake Placid for the Putnam Investments Lake Placid Freestyle Cup, where the highlight was young Mac Bohonnon achieving his first World Cup win. It’s been a wonderful and educating experience, recently spending time with our teams around the world, from cross country in Davos to nordic combined in Seefeld, Snowboarding, Freeskiing and Freestyle World Championships in Kreischberg, Shaun White’s Air & Style at Innsbruck, the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehl and Lindsey Vonn’s record wins in Cortina.

Amidst it all, we suffered the tragic deaths of Bryce Astle and Ronnie Berlack caused by the avalanche in Austria. Our priority has been the support of their families, teammates, coaches and those that knew our fallen rising stars. After amazing memorials in Utah and Vermont, our sights are now set on implementing programs for our athletes and coaches that educate, equip and prepare them for the environs in which they work, train and perform. We will have these new programs in place by next season with the support and input from experts and those involved in the tragedy.

As I’ve traveled and witnessed our athletes’ Best in the World success, I see even more clearly how we’ve reached this stage. Our success is a direct result of the broad participation in USSA clubs at every level. Every parent, coach, official and volunteer plays a role by providing a meaningful experience for athletes at all ages and levels of experience. The USSA is about participation and membership in valuable sport programs. If we achieve broad participation, results will follow.

This month, millions of Americans will follow our stars at the alpine World Championships with live television coverage on NBC and NBCSN each day, along with Universal Sports Network. The events will be live streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra. Later this month, every event in the nordic World Championships will be live streamed by Universal Sports Network and on a mobile app. This unprecedented coverage is the result of the USSA’s pioneering initiative to acquire the U.S. rights to ensure our fans and the American public could follow our stars.

Membership
Year-to-date USSA membership is trending up 2.5%. The new club participant membership category currently includes over 1,200 members across sports while the new club volunteer category has over 100 members.

The new USSA Rewards member benefits program at ussarewards.com is up and running with discounts from USSA sponsors, licensees and suppliers as well as thousands of other offers from major retailers, restaurants and online shops.

The Membership Task Force groups are working to establish a broad range of membership offerings from fan and parent categories to collegiate athlete. A number of club categories are also under review.

Community Outreach
The example we set as an organization establishes an important standard. We are exploring new opportunities for athletes to participate in and give back to their communities. A partnership with the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition connects athletes and students to support the prevention of bullying in Utah’s schools. Our teams rely on a positive team environment and supportive culture to perform at the highest levels of sport. The athletes will serve as models and ambassadors in bringing that same message to Utah's schools. We’re involved with a similar project in Utah with Parents Empowered, an underage drinking awareness program.

New Olympic Events
The USSA continues to support the progression of our sports through the endorsement of new events, including big air snowboarding and skiing. FIS Snowboarding hosted a very successful big air event in Istanbul, Turkey in December with Olympian Ty Walker winning the first women’s World Cup. The International Olympic Committee conducted an evaluation of the event, which is being considered for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Club Development and Sport Education
Promoting new membership categories and the club certification process has been a priority for USSA Club Development. Currently there are 13 clubs in the silver and gold certification process along with the 11 clubs already certified. Club Development Manager Brian Krill is working with an additional 20-30 clubs to start the certification process.

A coaches mobile app, created in partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee, launched in December for alpine, with other sports gaining access in January. The app gives members easy access to skiing and snowboarding drills, exercises and progressions by sport, as well as sport nutrition, strength and conditioning and more resources from both the USSA and USOC. It can be accessed on a computer or from iOS and Android devices.

The first cross country coaches level 200 course was delivered in October. The coaches level 100 ski jumping course is now open online.

Athlete Career and Education
The USSA continues to focus on preparing athletes for their careers after skiing and snowboarding through its Athlete Career and Education program. Westminster College in Salt Lake City continues to be an invaluable partner in supporting athlete education. Over 30 current national team athletes are studying at Westminster this year, with seven headed to graduation in May.

In addition to supporting students at the Center of Excellence, TEAM Academy staff is working with National Training Group, D Team and Rookie Team athletes from other high schools. The Academy’s goal is to help ensure USSA team athletes graduate from high school and have good college options as they pursue the athletic pipeline of our national teams.

Alpine
In addition to the membership task forces being implemented in all sports to gather feedback from industry, resorts, colleges, USSA clubs and other stakeholders on the direction of the USSA, alpine has also formed a group to look at elite athletic programs. The Elite Development Committee has been discussing qualification criteria and the elite athlete pipeline. The committee will report to the USSA Alpine Sport Committee in the spring.

Both the Women's and Men's National Training Groups spent several weeks in Europe, adding many podium results to their strong start to the season in the United States. The USA’s stars of the future finished second in the Hahnenkamm Juniors, an event held in conjunction with the fabled downhill race. U16 National Training Group members and invitees qualified for the team with athletes representing USSA club programs in Aspen, Vail, Burke, Waterville Valley, Squaw Valley and Park City competing for the United States.

USSA's SkillsQuest program continues to gain in popularity as a great development tool across the country. The number of SkillsQuest tournaments have tripled since introducing the program three years ago and are being incorporated into race weekends with great success. Regional staff has visited over 35 clubs already this year, educating coaches and introducing them to the extensive support material available to supplement training sessions.   

Cross Country
The cross country season took a positive turn in January with Liz Stephen leading the way. A blend of veterans and newcomers highlight the 16-skier cross country team for the World Championships in Falun. Every event of the Championships will be live streamed on usskiteam.com and universal sports.com, as well as through a mobile app partnership with Ericsson.

My visit with the team in Davos was very educational. I was able to witness the Norwegian juggernaut firsthand. And I was also proud to see our team in action and gain greater understanding of the staff work that goes into supporting our athletes. While we don’t have the impressive mobile waxing truck resources as other teams, our staff and athletes get the most out of everything we do have and take enormous pride in what we have accomplished. They work as hard as anyone I know.

Under the leadership of trustee Liz Arky, our Cross Country Task Force has really begun to energize the entire ski community. This group is working on a variety of marketing-related projects for cross country, in close collaboration with the industry, and has been a real asset for us.

Final work is being completed on the USSA Cross Country Coaches Level 200 manual. Development Coach Bryan Fish and USSA Sport Education Director Jon Nolting have spent hundreds of hours collecting, synthesizing and editing materials that are pertinent to every aspect of our sport. This is a very comprehensive document and a resource that will serve the needs of the community for many years to come. 

Freeskiing
At the 2015 X Games in Aspen, CO, U.S. Freeskiing athletes demonstrated progression in their sport, walking away with a total of seven medals in each of the events, slopestyle, halfpipe and big air. At the same time, team members had a strong performance at World Championships including Kyle Smaine’s win in halfpipe skiing.

Through a partnership with USASA, U.S. Freeskiing has been able to build out coaches education programs in include Level 100, 200 and 300 certification. The first Level 300 clinic was held in October, with high level freeskiing coaches from all over the country participating.

Freestyle
Our moguls and aerials teams have consistently performed at events across the globe this season. Our aerials team is on the rise this season, with at least one podium finish for men and women in every event so far. This is due in part to the success of USSA’s Elite Aerial Development Program (EADP). Based in Lake Placid, EADP was started in 2008 to recruit potential aerialists from acrobatic sports. Olympian Ashley Caldwell was among the first group of athletes to participate in the program. 2015 World Championship medalists Kiley McKinnon and Alex Bowen also came out of EADP as did first-time World Cup winner Mac Bohonnon. It is clear the program is beneficial with the depth and results we are seeing from these athletes.

Nordic Combined
Bryan Fletcher has led the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team this season with five top-10’s, while brother Taylor made it to the podium in third at Sapporo.

Our Gold Pass fundraising program has raised over $70,000 for the team. We are continuing to work with the nordic combined community to create new revenue sources and self-sustainablilty.

The important FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup in Park City in December was saved from weather woes thanks to the diligence of the Gorgoza Park tubing hill crew. The team worked around the clock to prepare a track for a highly successful event.

Ski Jumping
Nita Englund has emerged on the women’s World Cup tour, with several career bests and top-10 finishes in January. Will Rhoads had an impressive second place finish in a Continental Cup for the men. The World Championships in February will feature a new mixed gender team event for jumping.

Many USSA staff had the opportunity to visit Olympian Nick Fairall in a hospital in Austria this month. Nick is recovering from a crash suffered during the Springertournee in Bischofshofen, Austria. His spirits are good and he’s surrounded by his family. We wish Nick all the best in his recovery now that he is back on U.S. soil.

Snowboarding
U.S. Snowboarding athletes brought home a total of nine medals this month, five from the World Championships in Kreischberg and six from X Games in Aspen. Chloe Kim became the youngest athlete ever to win X Games gold in the women’s superpipe, dethroning the defending champion Kelly Clark.

The Revolution Tour at Copper Mountain was very successful, with a strong field of athletes from a variety of nations competing. Hosting both halfpipe and slopestyle events, Copper has been a strong partner in supporting development events. This week, athletes are preparing for the second stop on the Grand Prix tour at Mammonth Mountain.

Foundation
In addition to securing annual fund support through the Gold Pass, special events, direct marketing and major gift programs, the Foundation has also focused on raising awareness and funds for restricted gift programs including Project Big Air, the Marolt Athlete Endowment, Training Facilities Enhancement Fund and sport specific fundraising.

The restricted giving highlights include Project Big Air – a $3-million campaign to fund the rebuild of the freestyle training jumps at the Utah Olympic Park. For the past 23 years the summer aerials training facility provided support to athletes at all levels, resulting in a dozen Olympic and World Championship medals. The new facility will benefit freestyle, freeskiing and snowboarding athletes with mogul, freeskiing and snowboarding specific jumps. The campaign has had good momentum thanks to a $1 million challenge grant offered by Spencer F. Eccles. The campaign has currently raised $2.5 million.

Another campaign about to be launched in late 2015 is the Marolt Athlete Endowment campaign, a $35-million campaign to build an endowment in support of the athletics budget, needs based support for individual athletes and education and career skills programs for our current and transitioning athletes.

Sales and Marketing/Events
While the USSA has seen great results from our teams on-hill, television ratings have also seen success. Audi Birds of Prey coverage on NBC was up over 20% over the Olympic year, with Sprint U.S. Grand Prix coverage up over 15%. We were also able to grow sales and marketing revenue by over 10% in a post Olympic year, a feat that has never been accomplished at the USSA.

Through our partnership with the Vail/Beaver Creek, there will be more World Championships coverage than ever before with production values of events at an all-time high. High definition fiber installed on the hill provides beautiful picture while an overhead camera will showcase unique angles that ski racing fans have never seen before. The USSA’s acquisition of domestic rights will result in live coverage of the entire Championships.

As a stakeholder in our sport, you’re an integral part of our organization. The success of our organization is based on broad participation in our programs, with each individual contributing to our accomplishments.

Have a great season.

Tiger