Park City, UT (May 23, 2023) – U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the National Governing Body for skiing and snowboarding in the United States, is proud to announce the official integration of the U.S. Para Alpine Ski Team and U.S. Para Snowboard Team onto its roster. This historic move marks a significant step forward in promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities within winter sports and underscores the One Team mindset.
Since the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) took over the management of Para alpine skiing in 2010, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard organization has been committed to creating a more unified approach to snow sports. The integration of the U.S. Para Alpine Ski Team and U.S. Para Snowboard Team into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard landscape further solidifies the organization’s dedication to providing comprehensive support and resources to all athletes, including elite coaching, sport science, sports medicine, high performance staff and education opportunities, along with access to the USANA Center of Excellence.
With this move, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team welcomes a remarkable group of Para athletes who have excelled in their respective disciplines. Among the key athletes on the U.S. Para Alpine Ski Team are seven-time Paralympic medalist Laurie Stephens and two-time Paralympic medalist Andrew Kurka. In the realm of Para snowboarding, some of the winningest athletes in the sport will continue to represent the United States, including three-time Paralympic champion Brenna Huckaby, three-time Paralympic medalist Mike Schultz and two-time Paralympic medal winners Keith Gabel and Evan Strong.
“The integration of our internally managed Para alpine and snowboard teams within U.S. Ski & Snowboard is a monumental step for inclusion, development and growth of the sports,” said Julie Dussliere, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s Chief of Paralympics & Internally Managed Sports. “We believe the governance transfer will serve as an important model for more National Governing Bodies to follow in the years to come.”
“These individuals have consistently showcased their extraordinary talent on the international stage, earning admiration and respect within the snow sports community and I am thrilled to welcome them onto our team here at U.S. Ski & Snowboard,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, President and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “With these athletes on the team, we will continue to see more success on the world stage.”
The U.S. Para Alpine Ski Team has consistently brought home numerous medals from the Paralympic Games and annual World Championships, showcasing their excellence on the slopes year after year. In 2018, the United States won a dominating six total medals, one gold, three silver, two bronze, and picked up another medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games.
The U.S. Para Snowboard Team has also achieved remarkable success, with its athletes earning numerous Paralympic medals. At the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Team USA won 13 medals, five gold, five silver and three bronze, showcasing their dominance on the world stage. In 2022, the U.S. grabbed four medals, one gold, two silver and one bronze, with Brenna Huckaby tying the record for the most career Paralympic snowboard golds.
The teams will be helmed by newly named Para Sport Director Erik Leirfallom. Leirfallom comes to U.S. Ski & Snowboard from Park City’s National Ability Center, where he has been the High Performance Para Alpine Race Coach since 2016. Prior to the NAC, he was the Alpine World Cup Race Director for the International Paralympic Committee and was a coach for the U.S. Para Alpine Ski Team from 2007-10, working with the team that won 11 Paralympic medals in Vancouver and the team’s first Nations Cup victory.
“The integration of the U.S. Para Alpine Ski Team and U.S. Para Snowboard Team into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard organization’s roster signifies a significant milestone in advancing inclusivity within winter sports,” said Anouk Patty, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Chief of Sport. “By combining the management and resources for both the able-bodied and Para teams, we aim to enhance training programs, talent identification and grassroots development initiatives for all athletes.”
The U.S. Ski & Snowboard organization officially integrates the U.S. Para Alpine Ski Team and U.S. Para Snowboard Team onto its roster effectively immediately, fostering a new era of unity and excellence in winter sports.