11 Lobos named RMISA All-Academic
Acosta earns podium spot in slalom and doubles up on All-American honors
Acosta and Triendl claim All-America honors
Chris Acosta takes home slalom title
Women's alpine and Nordic teams impress
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Bad luck sometimes is good luck. Life can twist and turn that way. It was that way for Tyler Shepherd when he was happily cruising along as the coach for the U.S. Olympic ski cross team and living the Olympic dream he once hoped to live as an athlete.
Then the bad luck hit. Ski cross, a full-medal sport at the 2010 Winter Olympics, will make it to the 2014 Olympics. The U.S. ski cross team will not. When the U.S. Ski Team pulled the plug on the U.S. ski cross team, Shepherd found himself needing a job.
He found a good one -- at the University of New Mexico as the alpine coach for Fredrik Landstedt. "Lucky for us, the U.S. Ski Team cancelled their ski cross team," said Landstedt. "That allowed us to get the best possible person. Tyler was a top-notch skier and has coached high-level athletes."
Coming to New Mexico for Shepherd is a return to his roots of snow. He was a collegiate All-American at Colorado University in the slalom before joining the ski cross circuit, touring the world competing in that high-paced combination of freestyle skiing and downhill madness.
Actually, ski cross was a salvation, of sorts, for Shepherd, too. He had drifted into the exciting world of advertising and as an account executive had clients such as the City of Golden, Wyoming Department of Transportation, Daniels College of Business, CU School of Nursing, Marco's Tuscan Grill, AAA Colorado, Mile High United Way and Boston Market.
It was a good career, a promising career, but Shepherd was missing something. Maybe it was the crunch of snow beneath a ski. Maybe it was standing on a mountaintop and looking off into, well, forever. For sure, it was skiing, a sport that formed some of his earliest memories.
"I started skiing when I was about two," said Shepherd. "It was a sport my parents loved to do and I fell in love with it, too."
The U.S. Ski Team gave Shepherd a chance to return to the lure of snow and the challenge of getting his skiers to slide down a mountain faster than anyone else. The U.S. needed a ski cross coach for the 2010 Olympics and Shepherd was more than qualified when he was hired for the job in 2007. "It was too good an opportunity to pass up," he said. "To be an Olympic ski coach was an amazing experience and it was another amazing experience to be part of the debut of ski cross at the Olympics. It was kind of a shock when the U.S. dropped the program.
"Then Fredrik called me. It was a natural thing to pursue and it's a very good situation for me. The only level I want to coach at is the national level or the division one level in college. These are athletes who know what they want and who have goals in skiing as well as academics. It's special to be a part of that. This opportunity keeps me in a sport and in an industry that I love and am passionate about. It brings me back to my roots."
To say Shepherd is serious about skiing is probably an understatement. At 15, he left his home and high school in Minnesota to enroll at the Vail Valley Ski Academy. The academy's focus was to form an educational curriculum around the scheduling needs of skiers trying to take their skills to the next level. That included practice time and time away from school for travel and competition.
"If I hadn't gone to Vail, my resume would have been a lot different," said Shepherd.
The opportunities provided by the academy allowed the young Shepherd to grow as a skier. He skied a lot. He skied against world-class competition.
After graduating from the Vail Academy, he skied on the U.S. National Team from 1998 to 2001. However, he still felt an old itch. He wanted to ski as a collegiate. He quit the national team and accepted a scholarship at Colorado University. As a 22-year-old freshman, he was an NCAA First Team All-American in 2002.
"Skiing in college was an experience I had always thought about and wanted as I was growing up," he said. Shepherd skied two years for the Buffs and was denied a national title as a skier.
He has a similar opportunity at UNM that was afford to him as an Olympic coach. He never made the Olympic team as an athlete, but wore the U.S. colors as a coach. He never won an NCAA title as a student-athlete, but he sees great promise to be a national champ as a Lobo coach.
"We (Lobos) want a national title and these skiers are very capable of that," said Shepherd. "New Mexico has one national title (in skiing) and they are always right there."
The Lobos finished third in the 2010 NCAA meet with 13 All-Americans. UNM was ranked No. 1 in the nation for about a month and had a school-record 19 individual wins. The team has a few holes to fill in 2011, but the program is still loaded. So is Shepherd's alpine group.
"For me, it's a pressure release having such a strong (alpine) team," said Shepherd. "I'm not going into a situation where I am forced to spend a lot of time recruiting and build a new team. I have great skiers and I know these skiers can do well. There is such a talented core here.".