This article orignially ran on March 21 in alpinepress.com Big thank you to author CJ Feehan!
Brandon Dyksterhouse, whose 2001 and 2006 giant slalom world rankings of 76th and 79th somehow failed to garner the attention of the U.S. Ski Team, will depart the position he has held for the previous two winters as head men’s coach of the BC Alpine provincial team in Whistler, Canada, to tackle his self-described fantasy role as the new chief operating officer of the Front Range Ski Club based at Echo Mountain in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
“This is my absolute dream job that I couldn’t pass up,” explained Dyskterhouse. “We have the ability to create a summer and winter play land, and there aren’t too many places in the world where you can have a say in hill preparation, lifts, lights, and a sound system to create the best racing environment. The setup is killer.”
Dyksterhouse, who has grand plans to turn the budding ski racer’s paradise into a multi-seasonal business, will officially assume his new role on April 15, but his presence is already evident on the evolving team’s website which now features videos and more interactive content. He will be responsible for running all daily operations of the ski area that was purchased by race mom investor Nora Pykkonen in August of last year.
Since purchasing the resort, Pykkonen has been fully hands-on in all aspects of its operation.
“She’s the first one at the mountain and the last one out. She runs every end of the operation. The woman is tireless, it’s amazing what she does,” Dyksterhouse noted of Pykkonen’s noticeable commitment to the business.
Dyksterhouse is a graduate of the Green Mountain Valley School where he competed on the Europa Cup and NorAm circuits before attending the University of Vermont. As a Catamount, he was a 4-time All-American, NCAA giant slalom champion, winner of 16 carnival races, and captain of the team. He eventually pursued a master’s degree in sports business at the University of New Mexico where, in his first year as assistant coach, he helped the Lobos win their first ever national championship.
The call of the East lured Dyksterhouse back to his alma mater, and he served as a FIS coach at GMVS for five years while also operating his own summer business, D-Style Race Camps in Mt. Hood, Oregon.
In the Front Range Ski Club’s first winter, former World Cup star Sarah Schleper-Gaxiola headlined a coaching staff that also included former Norwegian national team member and NCAA standout Petter Brenna as well as Dartmouth national champion and former U.S. Ski Team athlete Roger Brown. The mountain offered mid-week training so athletes could still attend high-end schools in Denver and supplement their weekend training at other Colorado areas.
Schleper-Gaxiola has since departed the club and Dyksterhouse is now looking to expand upon the club’s programs in serious fashion.
“Sarah was awesome for the program, but she’s decided to move on. In the next 12-24 months, there will be a significant expansion of the offerings,” noted Dyksterhouse. “In some aspects, we complement other existing programs in Colorado. If we can add snow time to an existing program, we’re happy to help. But as we grow, I’d be lying if I didn’t say we want to become the best program in the country.”
The current 65-acre facility boasts completely private ownership with the focus on becoming the premier alpine training center in the U.S., two 660 vertical foot runs for slalom and giant slalom, as well as snowmaking, grooming, and terrain construction designed specifically for alpine race competition. All of this is within a 45-minute drive of Denver, and it is accessed by a 4.5-minute chairlift ride.
“The amount of volume you can get in an hour in Echo is unmatched at any resort on the planet,” reasons Dyksterhouse, who first visited the mountain last winter with his athletes from BC Alpine.
“It was literally love at first sight,” he recalled. “It reminds me a lot of Hinterreit in Austria. Their surface is always the best in the business and they keep it simple, and we’ll do much of the same,” he added in reference to the European training mecca utilized by nearly every national team of recognition.
Future plans at Echo Mountain include adding a 125-acre venue accessed by a surface lift that will be prime for speed training. The team has already secured an Olympic lifting, spin bike, and tuning room facility 25 minutes from the base area at a much lower elevation for conditioning and recovery. Further expansion will rely on fundraising as well as lane space rental to visiting teams in the early season, but Dyksterhouse is considering a wide variety of business options as well.
“It’s very expensive to run a private ski area. It’s an interesting model, and we’re trying to supplement it with different summer opportunities, including an adventure racing series,” he noted. They will also explore the possibility of installing a European-style adventure park, or aerial ropes course for summer use.
Front Range Ski Club is predominantly composed of U14 racers at present, so the focus right now is on enrolling full-time athletes in the U16 age classes and below for next winter. Dyksterhouse will lead the team’s summer camp at Mt. Hood from June 29-July 10 for any U16 and younger athletes, whether enrolled in the club or not. He already has more than 40 athletes registered for the camp.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Front Range Ski Club is cordially invited to attend the on-snow open houses scheduled on the evenings of April 9-11 from 5-8 p.m.