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Snow Lover’s Trivia: flying high with Willard’s Freestyle Team

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Hang time slope style! Any given night or weekend, Willard’s Freestyle Team in New York’s Capital Region is found practicing under the main chair on the black, The Colonel.

Willard’s Freestyle Team is a grass-roots movement returned to Willard 2012-2013. It has taken off with the support of mountain management, Chic and Kris Wilson, staff, parents, coaches, and local business sponsors.

“Willard has not had a freestyle team since the ‘70s and the local community is excited about this new development for the youth. In fact, Willard claimed freestyle lore when Bruce Bolesky won the first ever US Freestyle National Championship in 1975 skiing for Willard Mountain. In this regard Willard is proud to see the sport return to one of its origins,” noted Willard’s Freestyle coach Dan Petteys.

Willard’s Freestyle Team competes in the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Eastern Freestyle circuit of moguls, aerials, slopestyle, and halfpipe contests. Ben Clifton, Natalie Haviland, Brenden Holcomb, Noah Kapper, Quinton Kapper, Matt Marchaland, Genevieve Rossi, Dayton Stannard, and Patrick Swertner make up the team. Others train and assist, but, these are the athletes that compete. All are placing in respectable positions (for their first season!) with several finishes resulting in top 20.

Unique to Willard’s Freestyle Team is its opportunity to train on weeknights (Willard is open till 9pm Tues. – Fri.) in addition to weekends. Just consider sending your child to be trained full-time at a snow sports academy. It could cost you the equivalent of college tuition! The parents of Willard freestylers forego that, and their kids remain home and attended local schools and can still compete with the best freestyle youth skiers in the east coast.

Willard Freestyle Team coach, Dan Petteys, is a USSA Certified Level 100 Mogul Coach and has been skiing at Willard for 26 years. He was a Junior Instructor at Willard from 1997-1999. He competed for Mount Snow Freestyle Academy from 1999 -2002. According to Petteys, “I really just wanted to take my skiing to the sport level and went to the closest mountain (Mount Snow) that had a team. I wanted to compete and take it further than teaching.

However, I loved teaching kids how to ski. I owe a lot of my inspiration to some of those who taught me and hired me as an instructor at Willard, such as; Ron Hansen, Molly Green, Tommy Willard, and Connie Gilbert.”

Petteys represents those grass-roots at Willard. His paternal family has had a local farm since 1765. Petteys’ maternal grandfather moved to Vly Summit (the hamlet Willard is in) in the early ‘70’s. Petteys’ mom, Kathy Kelleher, is the reason Petteys has accomplished so much in freestyle.

“My mom did everything to encourage me to take something I was passionate about and see how far I could go with it. She made sacrifices to make sure I had the opportunity that I did in skiing and that is why I have created this team; I want to offer this opportunity to the youth of this community.”

“I love Willard mountain because it has served as my second home throughout my teenage years, it is located in my hometown, and the community that supports it makes me feel at home. I feel like I am home when I walk through the door into the lodge,” stated Petteys.

Willard’s Freestyle Team practices for competition with camaraderie like family. When a kid tires, Petteys lets him end the day with a few parting words of encouragement and advice. This relaxed air between coach and student comes from Petteys teaching his kids for years, including instructing in Willard’s All-Mountain Program under Ron Hansen.

When I caught the Willard’s freestylers, Dan Petteys’ father, Stephen Petteys (also an instructor at Willard) was present watching from the chair, skiing by, or stopping in to give pointers. Just enjoying the action, as I was!

Catch the action at Willard and see some serious air!

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