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Making It In Big Sky: Big Sky Ski Education Foundation

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The Big Sky Ski Education Foundation started with 30 athletes back in 1993 and today has grown to over 250 per year. PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY UELAND

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Big Sky Ski Education Foundation is Big Sky’s nonprofit offering local competitive Alpine programs to the area’s youth. From Freeride and Nordic to a variety of alpine skiing, the foundation has been honing athlete’s skills since 1993.

Prior to their years as an established nonprofit, BSSEF operated as a club called the Big Sky Ski Team lead by some of the resort’s passionate ski instructors. What began with 30 athletes today operates with over 250 skiers a season.

Explore Big Sky sat down with Jeremy Ueland, who has been with BSSEF since 2001. Ueland has been the Program Director since winter of 2007/08, but began his days as a passionate skier on Lone Mountain washing dishes at the The Corral Bar & Grill. A passionate skier, Ueland carries on BSSEF’s mission of not only providing kids with technical mountain skills, but also in helping each athlete reach their potential.

Some answers below have been edited for brevity.

Explore Big Sky: I’d like to start with a little background information on you, when did you come to Big Sky and what brought you here?

Jeremy Ueland: I moved to Big Sky when I was 8 years old in the spring of 1989. I went to Ophir School and Bozeman High School. I joined the Big Sky Ski Team when I was 10 years old and ski raced until the winter of 1999/2000. My first job in Big Sky was washing dishes at The Corral Bar & Grill owned and operated by Dave House and Devon White. When I wasn’t washing dishes I was selling golf balls on the Big Sky Golf Course with my twin brother. When I got my driver’s license I started to work at Big Sky Golf Course. When I was 18 years old I started working for Men@Work owned by Steve Schumacher and working seasonally for 12 years. I began coaching in 2001 when Matt Murphy who was the current Program Director and Head Coach offered me a job to coach.

 EBS: Tell me about the history of BSSEF, when did it start? 

J.U.: BSSEF was formed as a 501(c)3 in 1993, volunteer-based organization designed to offer a variety of competitive Alpine programs, later adding Nordic and Freeride to youth in the local Big Sky, MT area. Prior to 1993 it was the Big Sky Ski Team that was started with ski instructors from Big Sky Resort. Scott Zahn, Jeff Beranik, Leanne Zahn, Jeanine Palma and Kirk Johnson were a few of the ski instructors that were involved at the time when I joined the Big Sky Ski Team. After BSSEF became a 501(c)3 in 1993 the team began to grow as the Big Sky community started to grow. The team started with around 30 athletes and has evolved to the number it is today with over 250 athletes.

EBS: How big is your team? 

J.U.: Last winter we had 156 Alpine athletes, 44 Freeride athletes and 57 Nordic athletes with a total number of 257 participants in all programs. We had 44 staff total for Alpine, Freeride and Nordic.

EBS: Tell me about the different activities offered at BSSEF?

J.U.: BSSEF has Alpine, Nordic and Freeride programs. We offer programs [from] ages 7 years to 18 years old primarily for Alpine, Freeride, Nordic and also have Masters Programs in Alpine and Nordic. Our mission is to provide an opportunity for kids to become great skiers and pursue personal goals while promoting good sportsmanship, healthy competitiveness, sound technical skills and an appreciation for the spirit of skiing in the mountains. BSSEF believes sports builds a child’s character and confidence and is expertly devoted to technical skill building. But perhaps more importantly, BSSEF celebrates a larger mission of helping each athlete find their unique potential as a competitor and a leader through discipline, mental toughness, commitment, contribution, sportsmanship, grit, fun and teamwork. 

EBS: I recall some quick adaptations with the fireworks booth this year, yet you received an outpouring of support from the community after you had to close the booth. Can you speak to some of the ways the community has supported BSSEF over the years?  

J.U.: The community has supported BSSEF in many ways over the years with funding, donated items for events, attending fundraising events, providing community and private space for events and activities, volunteering for events and other activities.

EBS: What is your favorite experience with the team since you’ve been involved, or what is the best part of working with BSSEF?

J.U.: One of my favorite experiences with the team was traveling to the 2006 Whistler Cup with Andrew Kircher who qualified to compete for the USA as a U14. There are so many other great experiences and trips that are very memorable. The best part about working for BSSEF is watching the athletes improve over the years and being part of their experiences that they will be talking about when they get older.

EBS: What is the best business advice you have ever received?

J.U.: [You’re] not always going to make everyone happy.

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