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Meet our Executive Director, Amy Cichanowski
Amy began skiing with her family in Winona at a young age. She quickly aspired to local races and club level racing, attending many Junior Nationals. She started skiing in the high school league in 10th grade and was State Champ (team and individual) in 1988. She went to Middlebury College for one year and skied on the team. She then came back to the midwest to work with a coach, finishing her Physics degree at St. Mary’s in Winona. She skied many Kortes (winning three times) and attended regional junior training camps in the summer.
Giants Ridge World Cup 1985 with Juha Mieto
Amy qualified for multiply NCSA and NCAA skiing championships, but in her senior year, she passed up college nationals to go to Europe to ski the Engadin marathon (the trip was paid for by the American Birkebeiner because she was the first citizen female in the Birkie that year). That trip was very transformative for Amy because she saw firsthand how different skiing is in Europe. After her senior year, Amy moved to Vuokatti Training Center in central Finland. She trained with the local juniors and also did an epic adventure (hitch-hiked, boats, busses, trains) around Scandinavia, completing all three World Loppet races.
In 1993 Amy came back to the U.S. and signed on to Team Birkie, which was an elite-level training group in Minneapolis led by former US Ski Team Coach Steve Gaskill. Steve was instrumental in starting MYSL at the same time he was Amy’s coach. She met her future husband with Team Birkie and spent the next several years training for Olympic level competition and participating in three Olympic Trials. During these years, in her "free time" she was obtaining her MBA from the University of St Thomas.
Throughout her Team Birkie years, Amy coached for masters camps and junior club programs. She started coaching high school skiing at St. Thomas Academy, coaching there for 5 years as a full time assistant before moving to Burnsville as a head coach. Under Amy’s coaching the Burnsville girls won the state meet (and the state cross country running meet, which was not expected). One of her proudest accomplishments is that ALL of those girls still ski and run and most competed in college.
Amy was hired in 2005 to be the Executive Director of MYSL. The program has seen steady growth and is now the largest youth ski organization in the country. Amy always notes that the MYSL model was very strong from its inception in 1993 and she did not have to reinvent much. In the last 15 years Amy has modernized the programming, created the website, added supporting events, started the rental program and developed the Skiwerx programming and race series (and much more!)
Amy lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Marc, and daughters Ursula (9th grade) and Mila (7th grade).
Amy’s Current Projects:
Besides the day to day business of being the Executive Director of MYSL and overseeing Skiwerx programming and events, Amy is also the Competition Secretery for the 2020 FIS World Cup at Wirth Park in March. She feels its important to preserve and display the sport of skiing in its purest and highest form for everyone to enjoy.
MYSL is incredibly fortunate to have someone with this deep of background and experience in the ski world leading the way. Amy continues to mentor skiers who learned to ski with MYSL, sending congratulatory emails after strong performances at races, supporting junior racers after a tough race, and keeping up her relationship with current star Jessie Diggins and other MYSL alumni who are pursuing professional ski careers. Its Amy’s vision and passion for building lifelong skiers that provides the framework that we all work with in our clubs.
PROFILE: AMY CICHANOWSKI
Pioneer Press, November 13th, 2005
Who is she? "Living here in Minnesota, it's important to teach people to be outside and be active and happy in the winter months, because we live in a winter climate," Amy Cichanowski says.
She should know. The 35-year-old Minneapolis resident spent much of her life as a top-ranked cross country ski racer. Cichanowski (pronounced "chick-a-now-ski") started ski racing when she was about 12, was a Minnesota state high school ski champion, competed in three U.S. Olympic trials, won three Korteloppets and notched a half-dozen top-10 finishes in Worldloppet marathons.
Cichanowski retired from elite-level ski racing in 1996, but she's still involved in cross-country skiing as a citizen racer, head coach for the Burnsville Senior High School boys team and as the new executive director of the Minnesota Youth Ski League.
The ski league is a nonprofit network of clubs in the Twin Cities area, greater Minnesota and Wisconsin that teaches cross country skiing to children ages 4 to 15. Last winter, between 700 and 800 children and teens were registered in the $25, eight-week program that started in 1992.
Cichanowski's part-time job is the only paid position in the organization. She replaced Anne Rykken, one of the league's founders, who was executive director for 10 years.
Cichanowski said her goals for the organization are to use the Internet and e-mail to improve communications, increase the number of clubs and youth involved in the program and possibly increase funding through sponsorships.
She also keeps busy as a small-business consultant, mother of a 7-month-old daughter and competitive rower with the Minneapolis Rowing Club, a sport she took up after retiring from elite-level skiing.