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Hometown sensation: Hailey reflects on snowboarder Chase Josey's Olympic debut

HAILEY — The day before Chase Josey boarded his flight to Pyeongchang, South Korea, he gathered with family and friends in the Cellar Pub in Hailey, greeted at the door by a red, white and blue sign that red, “GO CHASE!”

The hometown sensation received a warm sendoff before he took the long flight to join the United States team in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Josey earned the final spot on the men’s snowboard halfpipe team with a win at the Mammoth Grand Prix in January, and since the announcement, the Wood River Valley has been alive with Olympic pride for its hometown product.

“The community support has just been phenomenal,” Josey’s mom, Kris, told the Times-News by phone from Pyeongchang. “The snowboard community and the Wood River Valley is excited to watch a local kid, born and raised, live the dream and carry the torch for the snowboarding world. It’s just amazing.”

The Josey family has gotten emails, texts and calls for the past two weeks. Congratulations are printed in public postings and affixed to roadside signs entering Hailey.

And why not? Josey, a Hailey native, has been shredding the local slopes since he was 5.

That’s when his dad, Bill, taught him the basics of snowboarding. By the time he was 8 years old and joined the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Andy Gilbert, his coach at the time, saw something unique.

“Chase was a talent to begin with,” Gilbert said. “He was extremely good from the get-go.”

After a couple of years training with Gilbert, Josey was already getting the itch to start working towards those moves one sees at the X Games.

“That was a result of being part of that first wave of kids who didn’t know any better,” Gilbert said. “When he watched a snowboard video and saw guys doing amazing things, in his 10-year-old mind, he could do that.”

Still, Josey had a lot of growing up to do. When puberty hit, Gilbert said, there were barriers to overcome, despite the gains in strength and size that would serve Josey well down the road.

Gilbert also said this was one of the times where he saw his student’s “ridiculous” work ethic really kick in.

“He had to re-teach himself how to do a lot of the things that had come very naturally to him in the beginning,” Gilbert said. “You could see the talent right away, but it was more about growing in those adolescent years when he realized, ‘Okay, you’re going to have to work for this a little more.’”

Josey worked through those kinks, then began his tenure as a student at the Sun Valley Ski Academy at the Community School as a high school junior. Though the academy is more noted for its alpine skiing instruction, it was able to provide Josey with the resources and support his travel to competition.

Program director Jonna Mendes, a two-time Olympian — 1998 and 2002 — in downhill skiing, said by the time he reached the academy, he was starting to turn heads.

“Chase happened to be at an elite level as a high schooler,” she said. “He was really becoming a name in the sport while he was at Community School. He’s been moving up the ranks every year since he graduated.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Josey became a big name in the sport, but he notched two big wins in 2014 and 2015, when he won the US Open Qualifiers and the Red Bull Double Pipe respectively. He really opened eyes in 2016, earning silver at the Mammoth Grand Prix in California and the bronze in the Winter X Games in Oslo, Norway.

However, the 2017-2018 Olympic qualifiers didn’t go as well early on for Josey. He notched two seventh-place finishes at Copper Mountain and Breckenridge, the placed sixth at Snowmass.

Down to his last qualifier, the Mammoth Grand Prix in late January, the pressure was on, but Gilbert, who was there with Josey’s parents, said Josey looked ready to shred.

“When he got to Mammoth, he was ready,” Gilbert said. “As soon as practice started, he kind of let it be known that someone was going to have to take it from him.”

Despite the issues in the earlier qualifiers, Josey left no doubts at Mammoth Mountain. In his first run, he scored a 94.50 to win the gold.

“We knew he had that kind of run in him,” Kris Josey said, “and he just hadn’t been able to put that run together in earlier. It was a really proud moment for us.”

Though the news wasn’t announced for another few days, they all knew that Josey had punched his ticket to the 2018 Winter Olympics, which kept a long-running local history alive.

Since snowboarding was introduced to the Winter Olympics in 1998, the Wood River Valley has been well-represented in the sport at the event: Sondra Van Ert in 1998 and 2002 in the women’s parallel giant slalom; Graham Watanabe in 2006 and 2010 in the men’s snowboard cross; and Kaitlyn Farrington in 2014 in the women’s halfpipe.

Now, Josey will take on the best of the best from around the world, not just the United States, in front of millions of people tuning in on television. Mendes remembers the pressure, but she also said that Josey has proven he can execute in those tough times.

“Chase won his Grand Prix under extreme pressure,” she said. “He had one evening with it all on the line, and he won. That shows me that he’s extremely competent under pressure.”

He also has a great connection with his teammates on the halfpipe team: Jake Pates, Ben Ferguson and the legendary Shaun White, a four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Gilbert said that strong connection should serve Josey well in Pyeongchang.

“They like each other,” Gilbert said. “They work hard and push each other. I know snowboarding is seen as just these fun-loving dudes sometimes, but those guys are working really hard together.”

And even though he’s at the highest stage in his sport, Josey’s coaches and family say he’s still the same down-to-earth guy that he’s always been.

“Chase is just a really humble kid who just loves snowboarding and let’s his ability speak for themselves,” Kris Josey said. “He’s always been humble and gracious in success and failure.”

“He’s definitely not the squeaky wheel,” Gilbert said. “He’s a real mellow guy.”

The Wood River Valley, though, is not humble in airing its praise and congratulations, and Mendes, who came from South Lake Tahoe, Calif., said she recognizes that same pride that her community showed her.

“There’s nothing better than being an athlete who represents not only your country but you hometown,” she said. “You have the support of the entire community, and you feel that with Chase, too. He’s all anyone is talking about here right now.”

Chobani breaks production records, prepares for largest giveaway in the company’s history

TWIN FALLS — Chobani is taking its 10th birthday very seriously, and as a way to say “thank you,” the company wants to give everyone in the U.S. a gift.

The company launched its “One for All” campaign on Monday, and it’ll last until March 4. During this time, Chobani will demand your attention in a big way through television talk shows, radio advertisements, newspaper inserts, stores and social media.

“What do you do when you’re 10 years young? You celebrate,” said Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and commercial officer for Chobani. “We landed on ‘Let’s give everyone in America a free cup of yogurt.’”

The company’s website,, has a coupon that can be printed and brought to any retailer where Chobani is sold. The coupon can be exchanged for a free Chobani product — including Flips and drinks — anytime during the next three weeks.

“It’s the ultimate democratization of yogurt,” McGuinness said. “This is the biggest campaign we’ve ever done.”

Retailers nationwide put more Chobani on the shelf in January, and the company in turn ramped up its production.

“Last week we broke an all-time production record in both plants,” McGuinness told the Times-News on Friday. “This week we did it again, and the campaign hasn’t even started yet.”

The Twin Falls plant extended its hours when needed to gear up for the campaign, and it’s running 24-7. Chobani employs more than 1,000 people in Twin Falls.

McGuinness says that in the coming weeks, it’ll be almost impossible not to see a coupon — and especially in the Magic Valley. Chobani employees will flood stores, armed with hundreds of coupons and wearing shirts that say “Ask me for a free yogurt.”

From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Valentine’s Day (Wednesday), Chobani’s Twin Falls employees will hand out free samples and coupons at the local Walmart.

Chobani hopes to give away 10 million cups and bottles across the U.S. in three weeks. In certain regions, including Twin Falls, Chobani has released its new “Hint of” product line, which is low in sugar and high in protein, McGuinness said.

“It’s pretty unprecedented to give away this amount of free product,” he said. “It just felt right.”

Chobani has made its mission to provide “better food for more people.” And McGuinness thinks the “One for All” campaign will bring more awareness of yogurt in general. U.S. yogurt consumption is about half of what it is in Europe, he said.

Here are four ways you can get or give a free yogurt while the offer lasts:

  • Go to and print a coupon.
  • Ask an employee. All Chobani employees will receive one full case of yogurt to give away, McGuinness said. They’ll also be supplied with coupons.
  • Ask Alexa. Chobani has built a special Alexa skill/command for Amazon Echo users in the U.S., so all you have to do is say “Hey Alexa. Ask Chobani for a free yogurt.”
  • Pay it forward. When you receive a coupon from Chobani on its website, you can sign up someone else to get one, too.


Hamdi Ulukaya visits with Twin Falls Chobani employees in 2016.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Classic Movie Club will feature a Marx Brothers comedy at 6:30 p.m. at the Twin Falls Public Library, 201 Fourth Ave E. Free admission.

itsme / Craig Mitchelldyer 

Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto, right, shoots over Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)


Volunteer Brooke Parady pulls a wagon of feed for animals Jan. 31 at SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary in New Richmond, Wis. Parady is one of nearly 100 volunteers at the farm, located on a historic farmstead in St. Croix County. The sanctuary is the ambitious effort of a former St. Paul, Minn., police officer and longtime vegan to rescue unwanted or abused farm animals.

City Council works on strategic plan update Monday

TWIN FALLS — The city has goals for what it wants to accomplish over the next 12 years, but on Monday the City Council will help decide how those goals should be met.

The city will have an all-day workshop for its strategic plan update. Phil Kushlan of Kushlan Associates will lead the discussion and present his findings from focus groups, open houses and community discussions.

“He’s been working for about a year on this process and has gathered a ton of public input on the strategic plan,” Deputy City Manager Mitch Humble said.

The workshop starts at 9 a.m. in City Council Chambers at 203 Main Ave. E. After Kushlan goes over the public’s feedback and presents a draft to the City Council, Council members and stakeholders will break up into eight small groups — one for each core focus area of the plan.

The city already has goals in each of those focus areas, as well as initiatives stating how it would meet those goals. But on Monday, the groups will develop specific tasks to make them a reality.

It’s been about five years since the city came out with its 2030 strategic plan.

“Some of the things from four or five years ago are done,” Humble said.

Later in the afternoon, the groups will come back together to report on what tasks they want in the final plan. Kushlan will take those initiatives and compile them into a final draft, which will be presented for Council approval later this year.

The public is invited to come watch the process unfold. The workshop takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

“It’s going to be a long day, but it’ll be a good day,” he said.

After the workshop, the City Council will have its regular meeting at 5 p.m. After approving accounts payable and the minutes from Feb. 5, the Council will consider City Manager Travis Rothweiler’s request to appoint Les Kenworthy as the new fire chief. Kenworthy will have participated in the workshop that day, Humble said.

Kenworthy has spent the past 37 years working for the Mercer Island Fire Department in Washington. He most recently served as a deputy fire chief in Mercer Island.

Rothweiler selected Kenworthy out of 32 applicants for the job. If appointed, he will replace Tim Soule, who resigned in October after having been on administrative leave for weeks. The city manager has declined to disclose details about why Soule was placed on leave. Soule was in the job for only one year.

Trump support vital as Congress tackles immigration issue

WASHINGTON — The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the “Dreamer” immigrants today, and Republican senators say they’ll introduce President Donald Trump’s plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation.

If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he’ll say something that undermines the effort.

Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president’s blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.

Trump, thus far, has balked on that front.

“The Tuesday Trump versus the Thursday Trump, after the base gets to him,” is how Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a proponent of compromise, describes the president and the impact conservative voters and his hard-right advisers have on him. “I don’t know how far he’ll go, but I do think he’d like to fix it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled an initial procedural vote for this evening to commence debate. It is expected to succeed easily, and then the Senate will sort through proposals, perhaps for weeks.

Democrats and some Republicans say they want to help the “Dreamers,” young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally since they were children and have only temporarily been protected from deportation by an Obama-era program. Trump has said he wants to aid them and has even proposed a path to citizenship for 1.8 million, but in exchange wants $25 billion for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall plus significant curbs to legal immigration.

McConnell agreed to the open-ended debate, a Senate rarity in recent years, after Democrats agreed to vote to end a three-day government shutdown they’d forced over the issue. They’d initially demanded a deal toward helping Dreamers, not a simple promise of votes.

To prevail, any plan will need 60 votes, meaning substantial support from both parties is mandatory. Republicans control the chamber 51-49 but GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been home for weeks battling brain cancer.

Seven GOP senators said late Sunday that they will introduce Trump’s framework, which they called a reasonable compromise that has White House backing. The group includes Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Cornyn of Texas and Iowa’s Charles Grassley.

Democrats adamantly oppose Trump’s plan, particularly its barring of legal immigrants from sponsoring their parents or siblings to live in the U.S. It has no chance of getting the 60 votes needed to survive. The plan will give GOP lawmakers a chance to stake out a position, but it could prove an embarrassment to the White House if some Republicans join Democrats and it’s rejected by a substantial margin.

Another proposal likely to surface, backed by some Republicans and many Democrats, would give Dreamers a chance at citizenship but provide no border security money or legal immigration restrictions. It too would be certain to fail.

Votes are also possible on a compromise by a small bipartisan group led by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. It would provide possible citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, $2.7 billion for border security and some changes in legal immigration rules. McCain and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would offer legal status but not necessarily citizenship, and require tougher border security without promising wall money.

Trump has rejected both proposals.

Some senators have discussed a bare-bones plan to protect Dreamers for a year in exchange for a year’s worth of security money. Flake has said he’s working on a three-year version of that.

“I still think that if we put a good bill to the president, that has the support of 65, 70 members of the Senate, that the president will accept it and the House will like it as well,” Flake told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Underscoring how hard it’s been for lawmakers to find an immigration compromise, around two dozen moderates from both parties have met for weeks to seek common ground. So have the No. 2 Democratic and GOP House and Senate leaders. Neither group has come forward with a deal.

In January, Trump invited two dozen lawmakers from both parties to the White House in what became a nearly hour-long immigration negotiating session. He asked them to craft a “bill of love” and said he’d sign a solution they’d send him.

At another White House session days later, he told Durbin and Graham he was rejecting their bipartisan offer. He used a profanity to describe African nations and said he’d prefer immigrants from Norway, comments that have soured many Democrats about Trump’s intentions.

Trump made a clamp-down on immigration a staple of his 2016 presidential campaign. As president he has mixed expressions of sympathy for Dreamers with rhetoric that equate immigration with crime and drugs.

Last September he said he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which lets Dreamers temporarily live and work in the U.S. Trump said President Barack Obama had lacked the legal power to create DACA.

Trump gave Congress until March 5 to somehow replace it, though a federal court has forced him to continue its protections.

The court’s blunting of the deadline has made congressional action even less likely. Lawmakers rarely take difficult votes without a forcing mechanism — particularly in an election year. That has raised the prospect that the Senate debate launching Monday will largely serve to frame a larger fight over the issue on the campaign trail.