Best Day Ever. It’s the motto of College of Idaho head ski coach Ron Bonneau. A simple phrase that encapsulates the idea of letting go of the things you can’t control, getting rid of the negative thoughts that sometimes dwell in our brains, and recognizing that, on a given day, you’re going to experience the best opportunities that you can bring forward.
That mindset worked for the C of I ski team this year as the Yotes enjoyed one of their best seasons to date. Both the men’s and women’s teams won conference titles and earned top-five finishes at nationals, including two individual national champions. And as a result, Bonneau has been named the United State Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association’s national Coach of the Year for 2016.
“I think it’s something pretty special to be recognized amongst your peers,” Bonneau said. “It just puts a stamp upon the efforts and goodwill that you’ve been trying to do all along, and it’s nice to be recognized for that.”
Bonneau himself learned to ski as a kid growing up in the small town of Dover, New Hampshire. He and his friends would walk to local Garrison Hill every afternoon. For $5, they could get a season pass to ride the rope-tow. If there was snow, they were skiing and playing in their winter wonderland.
He remembers watching the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. As French skier Jean-Claude Killy dominated the slopes, Bonneau envisioned himself doing the same. That dream fueled his pursuit to join the University of Colorado ski team—a dream that seemed out of the realm of possibility for a kid from a small town who went to an eight-room schoolhouse.
“It’s nice to look through the magazines and the colored, glossy photos and dream about it,” he said. “It’s nice to be a part of the dream.”
But Colorado wasn’t for him, and Bonneau returned home to the smaller setting of Plymouth State University. Earning a degree in philosophy, he intended to study law. But as if often the case for college students, plans changed. Bonneau decided to pursue skiing until it felt like a job.
That led him to apply for a coaching position in Vail, Colorado. Upon receiving his application, the staff in Vail alerted Bonneau that they were going to hire in-house. But, they told him a small college somewhere in Idaho had recently lost its coach.
“I got on the phone, dialed 411 and asked AT&T for a college in Idaho,” Bonneau said. “They hooked me up with the receptionist here [at the C of I] somehow.”
After being transferred over to the athletics department, Bonneau asked if they were looking for a ski coach. As a matter of fact, they were! He then had to break out a map and find where in the world Caldwell, Idaho was. And the rest is history.
During his tenure at the C of I, Bonneau has enjoyed great success on the slopes—he’s coached seven national champs, 34 All-Americans and 92 scholar-athletes. But his joy as a coach comes from watching his recruits come in, and over four years, shift their focus away from individual success to team success. And it’s those team success stories that make his highlight reel—underdogs who come together to win as a group.
It’s not hard to see why Bonneau has dedicated so much of his life to skiing. Just take one step into his “office,” which on many days is full of fluffy powder, prickly pines and mountain-top vistas. For Bonneau, skiing remains as much fun today as it was riding that rope-tow on Garrison Hill, hanging out with his gang of friends, and drinking hot cocoa in a ramshackle warming hut.
And it’s nice for his friends and family to know the small-town kid from New Hampshire did make something of himself. He’s had the opportunity to do what he loves, and do it successfully.
“It’s nice to get feedback from them that the neighborhood kid did well,” Bonneau said.
The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.