U.S. ski team coaches working for free By Lottie Wengelin The US Skiing budget is heading downhill, forcing the national team coaches to work for free. The entire staff of 110 coaches and office personnel for alpine, freestyle, cross-country, snowboard, nordic jumping, nordic combined, disabled alpine and disabled cross-country skiing is taking cuts in salary, medical and bonuses, despite guarantees in their contracts. Nobody will receive salary for half of April, as well as half of July, a total of four weeks without pay. Medical benefits are being reduced from full coverage to partial coverage. The cutbacks are also threatening to end the achievement bonuses the coaches have been getting in the past. The bonus system, regulated in the contracts, ensures significant extra money to the coaches if their athletes accomplish World Cup or Olympic medals. "The bonuses is an item of discussion for the board," confirms Mark Lampe, chief financial officer for U.S. Skiing. According to Aldo Radamus, head coach of the men’s slalom and GS team, the cutbacks were announced without any prior negotiations. The staff didn’t agree with the budget change but felt they didn’t have any choice but to accept the decision. "We saw our sacrifices as the only way of not affecting the athletes' program. We were willing to take temporary cut-backs as long as we can see that program is going in the right direction, towards athletic excellence," says Radamus, in town with the U.S. team for the Nor-Am finals. But he is afraid the budget problems will have deeper effects. "Our program is already bare bones and the staff situation is tight. If the cutbacks continue we will have bigger problems. The ski teams might be smaller and the athletes might have to contribute money." Radamus feels the timing of the cutbacks is very bad. "We try to insulate the athletes as well as we can, but it’s hard. It’s especially tough on the speed skiers who had very good results. It’s not fair to them." Lampe agrees. "US Skiing just had the most successful year ever. The economic situation is very unfortunate. It’s affecting everyone. I’m sitting here working on the budget for free. Not even the president of US Skiing is getting paid." According to Lampe the economic problems stem from several revenue sources not coming together as expected. He also says the size of the team is too big for the income. "If US Skiing had been an ordinary company, staff would have been fired to meet economic needs. When Norway had similar problems last year, they cut 40 per cent of athletes and coaches. We felt we couldn’t do that." Lampe is now hoping new sponsors will come through. "At least we have the success of the team. With a new sponsor package we hope to have an enticing product to offer."