Girls on Skis
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When the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) was formed 40 years ago, there was no way to predict how many young skiers would emerge from its ranks to take world prizes. But the answer was soon clear: lots of them, and among them some of the most exciting female skiers in the world.
The women of the SVSEF have a remarkable track record. They have won more than 30 World Championship medals, six U.S. Championship medals, three Olympic medals and four Paralympics medals.
They run the gamut, from graceful to wild, and sometimes both. But in the beginning, they were all inspired by the possibilities of skis and snow in Sun Valley.
They got the basics here and then went on to add their own twists and turns. One remarkable former student is the freestyle champion Lynsey Dyer, who was a junior champion downhill racer until she says she decided skiing in a line was not for her. Now she’s the glamour girl with the wild blonde hair flying off cliffs. Many return to help raise funds for future generations of skiers, as does Christin Cooper, a popular local who married a fellow skier and settled in Montana, but comes back to Sun Valley to help with the Janns Pro Am Classic, an annual event to benefit the SVSEF. And, of course, there is Picabo Street, a graduate of Wood River High School and teammate of Cooper.
Catching up with a few of the locally grown champions proves that while life, losses and time may sidetrack these girls from the competitive slopes, they won’t be derailed from the sport.
After her silver medal performance in the downhill at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, Street came home to a celebration in her name in Sun Valley. On the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain, the sultry skier was etched into city history as she was presented with her own street, “Picabo Street.” By winning the 1995 World Cup in downhill, she became the first American ever to win a season overall title. After a disappointing 2002 Winter Olympics, she retired in Utah where she presently lives. She has nine career victories and has written an autobiography about her life and her struggles entitled Nothing to Hide.
HEATHER FLOOD DAVES
I feel that great athletes come from this Valley because of the access that we all have to the mountains and outdoors, the people we have to look up to and the support of the community,” says Heather Flood Daves, stay-at-home mom of three and formerly one of the highest-ranking skiers in the nation who in 1991 won the slalom at the NCAA Championships while at Middlebury College in Vermont. “We live in a community that embraces sport, the outdoors and healthy living.”
Flood Daves remained an inspiration to youth as a teacher while living in Atlanta, where she had a large poster of Baldy on the wall.
“While I was growing up here, I never felt being a girl was limiting athletically,” she notes. “We all worked together regardless of gender; skiing, training, racing and playing on the mountain. I worked hard and played hard.”
As for watching from the sidelines as a SVSEF Laser trainer, Flood Daves says, “I am always thrilled to see locals excel at the sports they choose, whether male or female. We are lucky living here that we have incredible access to such a diversity of mountain sports.”