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Waterville Valley BBTS freestyle coach Nick Preston and Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney, who began her career at the resort. Kearney is returning to Waterville Valley BBTS as a member of its board of trustees and as a guest coach this winter, as she continues to train for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (PAULA TRACY/UNION LEADER)

Olympic medalist Hannah Kearney returns to her roots with Waterville Valley ski club board post

WATERVILLE VALLEY — Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney is returning to her freestyle skiing roots.

This time, instead of being a 10-year-old athlete, she will be a member of the board of trustees at the ski club that gave her a start.

Kearney will be a guest of the freestyle program during Christmas vacation week, while still training for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.

An Upper Valley resident who is now attending Dartmouth College, Kearney said she owes her start to the Waterville Valley BBTS Snow sports Educational Foundation.

BBTS, which stands for the Black and Blue Trail Smashers, is one of the oldest ski clubs in the nation, founded in 1934.

Today it has more than 350 athletes training in alpine, freestyle and snowboard competitive disciplines.

&#';It is very exciting to have one of our most distinguished alumni as a member of our board of trustees. An Olympic gold medalist, Hannah holds the record for the longest FIS World Cup winning streak in all of snow sports, said Board Chairman Robert Mann. &#';Hannah&#';s guidance and insight will be invaluable to BBTS as our snow sports continue to evolve in new directions.&#';

Waterville Valley Academy is a five-month residential snow sports academy operated by WVBBTS that was founded in 1972.

&#';This is an opportunity to give back to the BBTS Club that is the foundation of my career,&#'; Kearney said. &#';Meanwhile, I will be learning about the other side of the ski world, from the perspective of an athlete adviser, in preparation for my ultimate retirement.&#';

Kearney is training at the Olympic venue in Lake Placid, N.Y., though she began training at Waterville Valley with Nick Preston, the club&#';s longtime freestyle coach.

She has won a gold medal in freestyle skiing and, if selected for the 2014 team, it would be her third Olympics.

&#';BBTS is where I established relationships built on trust and mutual respect that are critical to my athletic career,&#'; she said.

The club has recently installed a four-season aerial training center in the valley, with a ramp and airbag on the former Snow&#';s Mountain. The center, called &#';Phil&#';s Hill&#'; also has trampolines that can be used for year-round athletic training.

Kearney said children are now starting their freestyle training with an emphasis on acrobatic skills, which is far different than when she began.

&#';I see a whole new generation of athletes with great skills learned earlier,&#'; she said.

ptracy@unionleader.com

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