Waiting for Winter Skiing, Snowboarding & Hockey, Oh My!

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The entire population of California is crossing its fingers for a precipitation-filled winter season. If the wishes of millions come true, skiers, snowboarders, and budding hockey players in Northern California should have a lot to smile about.

Members of the Mount Shasta Ski and Snowboard Team will smile as they whiz down the slopes at Mount Shasta Ski Park, and youth hockey players will enjoy the perfectly crisp weather while they hone their skills at Siskiyou Ice Rink in Mount Shasta.

Mount Shasta Youth Hockey

Youth hockey coach Chris McGrew said he’s loved hockey ever since he began watching it as a kid. However, his family couldn’t afford all the expensive gear, so he was unable to play until he was older.

Money shouldn’t be too much of a barrier for those who want to play the sport in Southern Siskiyou County.  “We pride ourselves on the fact that the kids can borrow most of the equipment they need to play,” says McGrew, the program’s head coach and youth hockey director for four years. “Once they play hockey, they can’t get enough.”

McGrew’s 11 year-old son, Derek, has been playing since he was a toddler. Though he also plays baseball and football, Derek loves winter because hockey is his passion.

“I love getting out there and playing with my team,” says Derek, who plays the important center position. His dream is to one day play professional hockey. Having a rink – which is undergoing an expansion and will soon be NHL regulation size – right in his hometown is helping him gain the skills to get there.

Unlike most hockey organizations, Mount Shasta Youth Hockey doesn’t have enough players to separate them into age groups. Instead, players are separated by skill level. This way, “we can accept people of all ages,” says McGrew. “There are kids who started in our organization at 3 years old, and we have adults who participate in the beginning group. I would encourage anyone who wants to learn hockey to come out and give it a try.”

This unique arrangement gives parents the opportunity to skate and interact with their children in a positive environment, says Mark Thibideau, the program’s beginners hockey coach. He says, “With the expansion of the rink to regulation size we will have more room for more players to enjoy all the benefits of learning the great game of hockey!”

Practices and games are held at the Siskiyou Ice Rink at Mount Shasta’s Shastice Park. The beginning group practices Monday and Wednesday nights and the advanced group practices Tuesday and Thursday nights. Both groups skate from 5:30 to 7 p.m. All levels play a game on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon against their own group.

Adults play pick-up games on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings, McGrew says, and on Sunday mornings there is a pick up hockey game solely for beginner adult hockey players.

“The number one aim is to have fun,” says Thibideau, though beginning players also work on skating basics and stick handling. Later they’ll work on things like positioning and team dynamics. “We are working on getting USA Hockey registration through the rink,” Thibideau says, “which will allow us to travel to places like Medford and Klamath Falls, which also have youth hockey programs.”

Siskiyou Ice Rink opens November 21st. To learn more about the Mount Shasta Hockey Team, practices, games, tournaments and skating prices, visit http://www.siskiyourink.org/hockey.

Mt. Shasta Ski and Snowboard Team

Perhaps more than any others, members of the Mt. Shasta Ski and Snowboard Team, often abbreviated MSST, are waiting anxiously for snow to fall. “We are very excited about the upcoming season,” says Chris Chase, board president of the Mount Shasta Race Association.  “We’ve had two difficult years and we are looking forward to a terrific 2015-16 season.”

With just over 100 members in its youth programs, MSST also provides training and races for 125 students at eight Northern California high schools. Many Redding families participate. “We have a full suite of programs that provide a great experience for any level ski racer,” Chase says, “from new racers to elite athletes.”

MSST’s youngest athletes start the program at around 6 years old, says Nick Treat, the organization’s program director and administrator, and can participate until they’re 20. The organization also offers masters training and races for parents and adults in the community, however, their focus is on young athletes.

Chris’s son, Mount Shasta High School sophomore Sam Chase, spent five years skiing on the MSST, and this year he will race for his school. He says he enjoys the program because of the wonderful friends he’s made. He also pointed to the excellent coaches who provide support and helpful critique “even on the small things that others might not notice.”

MSST is unique in the fact that beginning athletes not only participate in local ski park races, but also have opportunities to travel to Southern and Central Oregon to compete at Willamette Pass, Mount Ashland, and Mount Bachelor, Treat says. “Our more experienced athletes have opportunities as members of The United States Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) to compete throughout the western region.”

MSST has produced numerous California High School State Champions, several who’ve gone on to compete at the collegiate level and a few at the national and international level, says Treat. “Some also return to work with our next generation. However, the most notable athlete to come out of our program is Forrest Coots. Forrest still has a great impact on the community and skis professionally in Europe as a big mountain and backcountry skier. Zac Kay is a former member of the United States Snowboard Team, and Brian Santos, one of the team’s best ski coaches, is a former member of the United States Paralympic Team and a gold medalist.”

If you’d like to get involved, MSST is hosting information nights for potential, new and current families at Upper Crust Pizza in Redding on Wednesday, December 9 at 6 p.m. and at Burger Express in Mount Shasta on Thursday, December 10, also at 6 p.m. You can learn more at MSST’s website: http://www.mtshastaskiteam.com.

Skye Kinkade
About Skye Kinkade

Skye Kinkade is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and mother of four lively children. She enjoys being part of a close-knit community that is so generous and kind in difficult times.

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