BY Mike McKenna
Occupation: Program Director/Snowboard Coach for Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF)
Family: JaNessa, his wife, and their two kids, Angus and Olive.
Well known for his passion and enthusiasm as a snowboard coach, Andy Gilbert has a gift for turning regular riders into impassioned ones. Born in Sun Valley, Andy grew up in Portland, Oregon, as a ski racer. But after falling in love with skateboarding, he eventually took his boarding to the snow, returning to the Valley to coach the sport 20 years ago. Since then, Andy has been helping Sun Valley produce some of the best snowboarders on the planet.
When did you learn to snowboard?
I grew up skiing. My great-grandfather was a ski jumper at Mount Hood and that’s where I was on the race team. But after I started snowboarding I just got hooked on it. There really wasn’t much snowboarding yet, so we had to piece our own gear together.
How long have you been coaching?
I was hired to work with the little kids, the young elementary school kids, in the winter of 1993-94 and I immediately loved it.
Where do you usually coach?
We try to utilize both mountains so we can create well-rounded, solid snowboarders who can handle any terrain. So we spend time at both Baldy and Dollar.
What are the keys to being a good snowboarder?
Fundamentals. Kids need to be able to carve a solid turn before they start hitting the park.
What are your greatest achievements in coaching so far?
The biggest achievement is helping kids become passionate, life-long snowboarders. Sure, you’re going to have the occasional break-through athletes like Kaitlyn Farrington, Wyatt Caldwell or Graham Watanabe who make it huge. But the real reward is when kids come back to town and stop by to say ‘Hi’ and you can see that snowboarding is still an important and rewarding part of their lives. That’s huge.
Besides Sun Valley, what’s your other favorite place to ride?
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Who is your hero?
Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead.
Favorite "kids" meal?
Chicken strips and fries.
"Smokey and the Bandit."
Place you’d most like to visit?
Any tips for newbies to snowboarding?
Don’t be afraid. Give it a chance. It will change your life.
What is your biggest influence?
Skateboarding. None of this would have happened if I didn’t start skateboarding when I was 13.
What’s your motto?
It comes from an old coaching buddy from Vermont: “You know you got it. And even when you don’t got it, you got it.”
Other sports you like?
Skateboarding, soccer and horseshoes.
What makes Sun Valley such a great place for snowboarders?
The accessibility. How easy it is to access great terrain and parks as good as the stuff we ride anywhere in the country. It’s also just the culture of the Valley. The schools are supportive and SVSEF does an extremely good job. It’s just a really supportive community.