This blog was originally published in February 2023.
This is the home mountain of Olympians, world champions, and the stars of some of your favorite ski movies. That doesn’t just happen by coincidence. There’s a measurable impact that these mountains have in the ski and snowboard community. It’s widely recognized as a badge of honor to call yourself a Palisades Tahoe skier or rider. It’s a proud, but humble claim. Because if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. This is where skiers are made.
John Cashman, Head Coach of our FIS Program, recognized that there was something special about this place when he received the offer to coach here in 2010. “It was, and still is, just the premier, top-of-the-line, program in the country. I was really humbled by the offer.” When he accepted, John joined a lineage of coaches carrying on a rich heritage of ski racing at Palisades Tahoe.
Combined with his own kids’ need for a more competitive environment, it was a “win-win” to make the move from Dodge Ridge, and all pursue their skiing careers here. The Cashman’s found themselves part of a ski racing legacy dedicated to competition, but more importantly fun.
This community included the family of Steve Hurt, Assistant Director of Ski Patrol at Palisades. He has been with the resort since 1985 and went on to raise his family on these slopes. Steve conveys this spirit in reference to his own kids, “I always just wanted to make sure they had fun. On the tips of all their race skis I would write, ‘Have fun, ski fast.’” He continues, “The mindset the coaches have here is to have fun, free ski as much as you can, and then you can bang gates when the courses are ready to train on. It’s all about skiing hard, charging hard, playing hard, and then racing hard. In that order.”
In terms of a mountain where an athlete can work on doing all of the above, this is that place. Steve went on to reflect on a remark that the late coach, Mark “Sully” Sullivan, made as he looked out over KT-22: “That’s the real head coach.”
John mirrors this sentiment, “Really, the biggest advantage our athletes have is the mountain itself. Within that, it’s the amount of training venues that we have here. Nobody has the options we have; from moderate to advanced to actual World Cup hills that our athletes get the opportunity to train on.”
Cashman continues, “Athletes come through the program, race at the World Cup level, and then want to come back to give back to our athletes their knowledge and experience – they know, they’ve lived it.” As time passes and one generation gives way to the next, these mountains continue to produce skiers and riders who embody that pursuit.
Both John and Steve’s daughters, Keely Cashman and AJ Hurt, went through the Team Palisades Tahoe programs. They got exposure to the varied terrain, the rich heritage, and ultimately fell in love with the sport.
When it comes to parenting these young athletes, both families had a similar approach.
“We provided the opportunity for Keely to get where she’s at and help to kind of steer the way if that’s where she really wanted to go, but ultimately, it came down to her and what she wanted.” says Cashman.
And in reference to AJ, Steve reminisces, “It was just fun [to watch her progress], and [we’re] obviously super proud. Not only that, we created lifelong friends from going to those races. And that community is still there, a lot of those friends from those days are still checking in, texting us, and sharing how proud they are too.”
The bond between the two families speaks volumes about the support of this community. Steve shares that just the other night the families all got together for dinner then goes on to say, “John Cashman is so awesome. Talk about instrumental in AJ’s success, it was that guy – big time. He coached her in those first, super competitive years. Very instrumental, no question.”
From the perspective of watching their daughters grow up in this program, both dads recognized a clear turning point in their development as a result of the 2017 Audi FIS Ski World Cup being hosted on their own slopes at Palisades Tahoe.
John reflects, “Those girls for sure were targeting goals of being on the US Ski Team and racing at that level and being a part of that event reinforced that that’s really where they wanted to go. The buzz, the atmosphere, the energy, and just seeing that level of skiing and realizing that too, this is a big deal, but it’s similar to their own ski races that they were taking part in, just on a huge scale.”
And for AJ, Steve says simply, “It threw gas on the fire.”
Today, both Keely and AJ are emerging at the highest levels of competition in our sport. Both were a part of the US Ski Team that went to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and continue to excel with the support of their community.
Now, as we are only a few weeks away from hosting the 2024 Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup, when asked to think about the impact that this will have on Team Palisades Tahoe, John notes, “The basic fundamentals that are taught at the Mighty Mite level are still those basic fundamentals that are being refined at the FIS level. And it’s even better now, all the way from the bottom to the top. We’ve created a seamless pipeline from Mighty Mites all the way to the FIS program. I hope this is a good, exciting motivator to really inspire them all to be the best that they can be. All eyes will be on Palisades Tahoe.”
Join us in celebration as the world’s greatest athletes will once again compete on the same slopes that challenge us all to be the best we can be. The next generation of athletes will certainly be there – we can’t wait to see what it ignites in them, and hope that it might inspire something similar in you.