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Taking snowboarding to a new level

by Chuck Smock

The Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation wants to help snowboarders take their riding skills to a higher level.

And Anthony Benedetti appears to be the perfect man for the job.

Benedetti, the coach of the KSEF snowboard team, is an excellent rider and a patient teacher.

I learned both of those facts Thursday, when I had the opportunity to ride with him at Kirkwood. I missed the entire 1997-’98 season after moving to Atlanta from Grass Valley, Calif. But, after only two runs on my first snowboard day of the season, Benedetti had me feeling like I was in midseason form.

The three or four exercises he put me through at the top of the first run brought back memories and reflexes that had been dormant for nearly two years. I can only imagine how effective Benedetti’s teaching methods must be on snowboarders who really know what they’re doing.

Benedetti, 29, taught snowboarding for two years at Sierra Summit, just up the hill from his hometown of Fresno, Calif., before joining the Kirkwood staff in July 1997.

A 1995 graduate of Fresno State University with a degree in recreation and leisure studies, Benedetti has extensive experience leading ropes courses and teaching rock climbing from his college days.

He is certified as a Level 2 snowboard instructor by the Professional Ski Instructors Association and is certified as a Level 1 snowboarding coach by the United States Ski Coaches Association.

“Anthony is a knowledgeable and talented coach and we would like to see more kids take advantage of his skills,” said Darryl Whitaker, the director of the Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation. “We’re trying to target strong riders who want to get to the next level.”

The KSEF snowboard team is open to advanced riders ages 13 to 18. The cost to join the team, which includes a Kirkwood season pass, is $625, plus a $350 fund-raising deposit that can be earned back by selling candy bars or value books. Team riders get to spend Saturdays and Sundays receiving instructions and coaching from Benedetti. They can also test their skills at several Tahoe-areas in competitions.

“I want to take a handful of athletes and help them reach their goals,” said Benedetti, who is in his second season as the team’s coach. “We tell the kids to set goals that are realistic. Then we assess their skills, and practice techniques that will help them reach those goals.”

But he isn’t pushing the competition-aspect of snowboarding. And he’s not a coach who will rush his riders into situations they aren’t prepared for.

“The first time you jump, you don’t hit the jump at 100 miles per hour,” he said. “You take your time and get comfortable. As you progress, you can throw in new tricks with more difficulty.”

For riders who aren’t sure if they want to commit to a whole season, the KSEF will offer a package of six coupons, each of which will allow a snowboarder to ride with the team and Benedetti for a full day. The cost for the package is $175, which doesn’t include daily lift tickets.

Whitaker added that the KSEF would like to add a program for juniors riders ages 9 to 12, if the organization can find any interested intermediate to advanced snowboarders in that age group.

Benedetti said there are three basic disciplines in snowboarding: Alpine, which covers all-mountain techniques from riding deep powder to hitting the steepest slopes; carving, a turning technique that works on everything from racing through gates to cruising groomed trails; and freestyle, which includes riding in a half-pipe and taking the big jumps in the snowboard parks.

Depending on what team riders want to do in a given day, they can work on any or all of the different aspects of snowboarding, Benedetti said.

For more information, contact the Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation at (209) 258-5733.

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