Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation-‘A 53-Year-Old Gift’
Christin Cooper invites a growing number of Olympians up to the stage.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018


The stage at the Sun Valley Inn’s Limelight sagged as one Olympian after another—from 1960-64 Olympian Chuck Ferries to 2018 Olympian Chase Josey--climbed on.

Then 1984 Silver Medalist Christin Cooper addressed the audience, telling them that her family had the financial wherewithal that she could have followed her path to the Winter Olympics even if she was starting out today.

But half of the athletes on the stage might not have been able to even get started in skiing and snowboarding, given how expensive winter sports has become, she added.

Peggy Dean, Randi Kanellitsas and Rebecca Waycott have been big supporters of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation for years.

The scene set the stage for a call to the new Cooper-Tache First Tracks Fund intended to make sure that all Wood River Valley children get the opportunity to try skiing or snowboarding.

“We’re starting this scholarship to support kids in the south valley and get more kids on skis,” said Cooper. “As skiing gets more expensive, barriers get higher.  And we need everyone up and down the valley to kick in and help out.

“My husband Mark and I were lucky enough that skiing was available to everyone when we started out. And our experience on the team was so rich because of the variety of kids on the team. How many successful lives are being lived, being lived in this valley based on the foundation of skiing!?”

A sellout crowd of more than 400 people turned out for the Sun Valley Ski Education’s annual Wild Game dinner which, SVSEF Director Scotty McGrew noted, started at Warm Springs Restaurant before transitioning to the old Elkhorn Restaurant and then Sun Valley’s Limelight Room.

The PKs gang—Max Tardy, Ritchie Thurston, Spicer Brendel, Ben Gourlay, Doug Yeates, Teressa Peterson and Deeder Peterson—showed up in matching cowboy togs.

“We’re here tonight to celebrate where we’ve been and where we’re going,” said McGrew, noting that the Ski Education Foundation is in its 53rd year. McGrew shared how his experience with the Ski Education Foundation as a young athlete was transformative.

“It’s a 53-year gift that we’ owe to ourselves and that we owe to our children,” he added. “Sometimes it’s messy but it’s teaching our children to be accountable…and it’s teaching our kids to find their potential.”

Muffy Davis, a three-time Paralympian who competed with three-time Olympian Picabo Street until she broke her neck in a training accident, said she relies heavily on the character traits she learned in ski racing, such as confidence and goal setting, in everything she does, including her recent successful bid for a seat in the Idaho legislature.

“When I raced against Picabo, we learned that you have to go for it 100 percent every day. That you have to get back up when you fall down,” she said. 

Peter Atkinson ended up hankering for the real thing after taking a virtual reality ski race sponsored by John Calvert’s Sun Valley Smile Designs.

Jake Moe, who founded Powder Magazine, called the evening a big reunion of family that goes back 50 years and more.

“Such a reunion,” added Olympic Snowboarder Sondra Van Ert. “It’s been almost 40 years and it’s so fun to see all my friends. And what Christin and Mark are doing is so cool. It’s not just about ultimate athlete success but character building.”

The Ski Education Foundation offered supporters opportunities to donate to a variety of big needs Friday night, including a pisten bully for Rotarun that will cost $45,000 and a 14-by-14-foot trampoline for the Air Barn that will offer a higher bounce and softer landing for the asking price of $20,000.

It also offered patrons a chance to pledge a hundred, $500 or more for equipment for elementary school-aged cross country skiers, as well as mountain awareness programs for athletes, and their parents and coaches.

Aaron Blaker who co-owns Baldy Sports with Sondra Van Ert, aims his bow darts at blowup deer nestled among pine trees in the Continental Room.

Julie Denkers was the first to step up with a pledge to Cooper-Tache’s scholarship fund, offering a pledge of $10,000.

And others stepped up with $15,000 and $12,500 bids for such auction lots as Ruben Macaya’s Asado barbecue and a chance to fly a faux air combat mission over Huntington Beach.

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation serves 680 athletes with a one-to-six ratio for coaches. It provides $340,000 in financial aid and creates a $15 million economic impact to the Sun Valley area, based on 2016 figures.

It has nurtured 23 Olympians and Paralympians.

“One of the most amazing things there is to do is to side down snow,” said Cooper.  “And it’s about teamwork, it’s about community.”

To donate to the Cooper-Tache First Tracks Fund, contact


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