Wednesday, November 1, 2000
Steamboat Springs "It was the most devious thing anyone had ever done to me," Tony Nunnikhoven said with a smile as he described the way he fell into his first ski coaching job.
"I asked a ski coach if I could
set some gates and train at a small ski area near where I lived in Vermont," Nunnikhoven said. "After I got done, the coach asked me if I would like to come down and train with the kids. He never used the word coach, but a year later I was the assistant director."
That was back in 1986, and Nunnikhoven has been in love with teaching young skiers the basics of ski racing ever since. He has worked with three different programs, including his last job, where he started the Mount Ashland Race Association in Oregon.
"I've coached for the last nine years, but I've always loved the sport," Nunnikhoven said.
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's newest program director didn't grow up as a ski racer. In fact, he didn't even start ski racing until he was 17 or 18. He had skied his entire life but had never skied competitively until he took part in a few local racer series much like Steamboat's Town Challenge.
After he started coaching, Nunnikhoven, a chef by trade, has never returned to the kitchen.
Two years ago, Nunnikhoven applied for the head coaching position with the Winter Sports Club. He didn't get the job but left the interview with a good feeling about the Winter Sports Club.
"I had such a good feeling when I left here. I knew I was
going to work here someday," Nunnikhoven said.
Nunnikhoven is married to a Steamboat Springs skiing legend, Heidi Bowes. He said he felt a certain family obligation to the Winter Sports Club long before he ever applied for the job.
"If I passed this opportunity up I couldn't live it down at home," Nunnikhoven said. "It's a family tradition. If you are in my family, then you have to give something back to the Winter Sports Club, and this was my chance."
Nunnikhoven said his reception at the Winter Sports Club has been warm and inviting.
He prefers to look at himself as more of a steward of the program than a head coach.
"The program belongs to the kids who ski in it," Nunnikhoven said.
Nunnikhoven's philosophy is to give control of the programs to the coaches who will be leading the groups. This year's staff will include head ability coach Mike Wommack, J-3 coach Linas Vaitkus, age class coach Lonny Vanatta and Skeeter Werner coach Jim Barker. The masters program will be led by Heather Devos, Bowes and Kevin Hendrickson. Nunnikhoven said the head of the Buddy Werner program has yet to be named.
The one thing that Nunnikhoven wants to relay to his skiers is a love for the sport. The coach said he has always loved skiing and enjoys being out on the slopes more than hiding behind the desk.
Nunnikhoven said he loved fly fishing and, before turning to skiing, made a living on the back of a horse as a guide for tourists in Vermont.
On Monday, Nunnikhoven was just as excited as many of his skiers about the chance to return to the snow this weekend in Summit County.
"This is a great weekend," he said. "It's my birthday and we get back on snow. What could be better? It's a very exciting time."
Nunnikhoven took the director's position in July and said the past few months have been awesome. He said he has had a warm welcome to the club and has been supported by the staff, skiers and community.
"I want to take a very humble approach to the whole thing," Nunnikhoven said. "To be successful, you have to take the eyes off yourself and help someone else be successful."