QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A new staff member at West Mountain this weekend has a lot of history behind him – and quite a few medals, to boot. This week, West Mountain ski area announced that an Olympic medalist is joining their ranks.
Thomas Vonn, a 2002 Olympic athlete and U.S. Alpine National Champion, is stepping into a full-time role at the mountain this winter, acting as program director for West Mountain Racing Academy. Vonn will work with racing students between ages 9 and 17 as they learn the art of alpine racing. Although it’s not his home Turf, Vonn says he feels right at home.
“When I was training years ago, my fellow athletes and I would seek out mountains in Europe that are very similar to West,” Vonn said on Thursday. “With its 1,000-foot vertical drop, it has the perfect slope and perfect pitch for a race team. West has built a great program already, and I’m ready to expand up upon it even further.”
That program has been run by current head coach Steve Lathrop, who has been advancing racers who ski at U10-U14 levels. Vonn will step in at the next rank up, with students ready for U16 and beyond. Right now, West Mountain Racing Academy has around 100 young athletes enrolled.
“This is a huge opportunity and pivotal moment for West Mountain,” said Spencer Montgomery, West Mountain co-owner. “We share a common vision for building something long-term and propelling our athletes to compete at a national and international level.”
Vonn comes from plenty of competition, himself. In addition to competing in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, he was a member of the U.S. ski team dating as far back as 1997, running until 2005. He was also the main coach for Lindsey Vonn for over 10 years, during her time in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics
As his road turns him to coaching once more, Vonn has high hopes for the students he’ll be working with at West Mountain. Those hopes include raising up future Olympic athletes himself.
“Without question, that will happen at some point,” he said. “We will have a very strong team here very quickly.”