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Skiing on the Edge

Youthful Exuberance, Training Make Excellent Competitors

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On a cold perfect day, you’ll find them. They’re snow angels, pirouetting off jumps and landing perfectly, defying the very laws of gravity. Freestyle skiing is a talent like no other, and it’s one of the toughest and most physically demanding things you can do on skis.

These are skiers who look for something different, skiers who combine skill with showmanship and make dangerous look easy. They may be born with the nerve, but they aren’t born with the skills, and that’s why you’ll find these special athletes at the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF).

Freestyle skiing was started in the 1930s by Norwegian skiers, but didn’t take off until 1979, when the International Ski Federation recognized it as a sport.

There are two main branches of freestyle skiing recognized in competition: the more traditional type like moguls and aerials, and the newer type, which includes half-pipes, and “big air.”

The birth of Sun Valley’s Freestyle Ski Team dates to 1990 when John Zuck, a mogul skier from Montana, decided to do something different in Sun Valley. Zuck was a competitive skier and in 1979 fell in love with and settled permanently in Sun Valley.

“I was competing, but also wanted to give back,” says Zuck, who, during his free time, can be seen on Bald Mountain, skiing with the kids from the team. He says it helps getting to know his kids better on and off the runs. And while he’s teaching them this wild and competitive sport, he’s also teaching them work ethics. “I think it instills a lot of life skills. They’re looking down and realizing they’re going to do back flips. It takes a certain mentality to do it. It can be scary.”

It took Zuck two years to get the SVSEF to start up a whole new program. It was, he says, two years of convincing and pleading with the board of directors. But finally in 1990 the Sun Valley Freestyle Ski Team was installed as a new branch.

There were only six kids on the first team. Now there are 60. The Freestyle Team competes in Boise and Utah. The competition season usually starts the first weekend after Christmas and runs for eight straight weeks until the Junior Olympics which begin in March. >>>


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