Students hit the slopes on competitive ski teams

Mayson Weingart

I originally started skiing because my mom forced me to. She kind of just slapped a pair of skis on me and was like, ‘Alright, there you go, good luck!’Apparently she knew what she was doing, because all of the sudden I started to fall in love with it more and more everyday.”

— Will Sohn

When the first snowflake falls in Tahoe, students rush to the mountains with friends to hit the slopes. While some ski as a pastime, others have dedicated themselves to competing and live for the thrill of speeding down the mountain. The dedicated skiers that do not live in Tahoe have to work further to compete against the kids attending ski schools.

Learning how to ski at two years old, senior Will Sohn quickly found his love for the sport. He is a member of the Free Ride competition team at Palisades, a ski resort formerly known as Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. He specializes in a form called freestyle, where Sohn and his teammates drop off of cliffs and get evaluated on how successful they complete turns and tricks and the freestyle course they carve on the slope. Although Sohn is now a dedicated and passionate skier, he was originally reluctant to begin the sport. It was his parents who were the ones who encouraged him to give skiing a try.

In love with the adrenaline junkie aspect of the sport, Will Sohn skis on his home course, Palisades. (Photo courtesy of Will Sohn)

“I originally started skiing because my mom forced me to. She kind of just slapped a pair of skis on me and was like, ‘Alright, there you go, good luck!’Apparently she knew what she was doing, because all of the sudden I started to fall in love with it more and more everyday. I just genuinely enjoyed every aspect of the sport,” Sohn said. “Then I decided to take it to the next level by going to competitions and pushing myself to be the best I possibly can. Now it’s evolved to become something that helps relax and excite me.”

Although competing has become something Sohn enjoys tremendously, dealing with nerves before races is a feature of skiing Sohn has learned to handle over time. 

“When I’m figuring out which path I’m going to take during my races, I always look up at the run from the bottom of the mountain. I visualize in my mind which turns I’m gonna make, basically just making a game plan. So when I’m getting ready to go, and sitting at the top of the venue, I’ll already have everything figured out,” Sohn said. “To distract myself, I love to cheer for my teammates and focus on what they’re doing instead of what I’m about to do. Taking deep breaths and staying calm is almost extremely important, because panicking is the worst thing you could do.”

Finding her passion for skiing at a very young age, Alexis Cartwright found originally only skied with her family uncompetitively. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Cartwright)

Meeting several of her closest friends through the sport, senior Alexis Cartwright has also been able to connect with the sport on a more personal level. Although she is not currently on a team, she skied for the Alpine Big Mountain Sport team at Palisades for three years, and has been skiing with her family for most of her life.

“Ski team taught me to enjoy the sport and fixate less on being perfect, and also fostered a lot of new friendships. There’s a huge learning curve, and simply enjoying the beautiful scenery and opportunity to be outside started to matter to me a lot more than winning,” Cartwright said. “Just being up in the mountains is such a soothing experience, especially when you’re surrounded by some of your best friends. I now have friends down in Redwood City that I never would have connected with if I didn’t take a chance and try out for the team.” 

Above all, Cartwright expresses her gratitude for the personal growth the sport has gifted her. 

“I’m a perfectionist. When I was on a team and skiing next to kids who were way better than me, I was kind of humbled. It taught me that it’s okay not to be the absolute best, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” Cartwright said.

Driving herself up to her own races now that she has her license, Maddy Marron (Left) pursues her passion for Downhill Alpine skiing. (Photo courtesy of Maddy Marron)

Also starting the sport at a relatively young age, junior Maddy Marron loves how ambitious skiing makes her. Marron has been a member of the Downhill Alpine team at Palisades for six years; she and her teammates are graded on their technique in completing an approximately 60-second course. After doing the sport for so long, she, like Sohn, has developed routines on race days that help her succeed.

“The day before a race, we always have a team meeting. Preparing well is super important, so we talk about sleeping well, stretching, hydrating and eating healthy. That way when we get up in the morning we are full of energy and ready to support our teammates and really get after it. Everyone is always in great spirits and it makes the whole experience so special,” Marron said.

For anyone looking to passionately ski, Marron advises to evaluate one’s time against one’s love for the slopes. 

“You need a lot of time, you need a lot of motivation and you need a lot of passion if you want to ski competitively. It’s a big sacrifice of time, making the drive to Tahoe from Marin. It gets especially hard when I have a lot of homework or I miss out on things at home,” Marron said. “But if you truly love the sport and are naturally an extremely competitive person, I encourage you to keep pursuing it.”