Students everywhere cannot wait for December or February break, when they head up to the snow to ski or snowboard. But for CHS sophomore Spencer Crist, skiing is not just a pastime—it’s a lifestyle.
Crist is an Alpine ski racer, skiing all four different races within Alpine ski racing: slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and downhill. The sophomore says the difference between each race is determined by the radius of the turn and the distance between gates. While physical strength and ability are critical to racing such events, Crist says that mental strength is also paramount.
“There are so many factors in ski racing: what can I do to be in a good position? How will I approach each turn in order to maintain high speeds and what turns are crucial?” Crist explains. “High focus is needed to remember each aspect of a 40-gate course, as well as remembering to not make a mistake that you have made in training and, most importantly, remembering to relax.”
Introduced to skiing by his family when he was just 2 years old, Spencer has taken his hobby to the next level, and every winter goes to train and attend school at the Sugar Bowl Academy at Sugar Bowl Resort in Lake Tahoe. The academy, which has about 80 competitive skiers of all types, includes schooling, snow and physical training, all necessary for competitive winter athletes.
Between school work, training and other exercise, Crist’s schedule can be busy. Monday is his no-training day, and school goes from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday he skis from 9:00-11:30 a.m., then works out at the gym for 45 minutes and attends school from 1:00-5:30 p.m. On Fridays, the schedule from Monday is flipped so Spencer has school in the morning and skis in the afternoon. Even the weekends include three- to four-hour training sessions.
“I am exhausted by the time the entire day is over.”
Even though the mix of skiing and school is tiring, it is worth it because skiing is Crist’s ultimate passion.
“It is the one thing that enables me to escape from reality and the rest of the world and only focus on the speed and adrenaline,” Crist says. “The thrill of reaching outrageous speeds is what pushes me to go even faster and keeps me hooked on the sport. I get questioned a lot about my training schedule and how it must get boring skiing six days a week, but I love it!”
When the 16-year-old gets any spare time, which is rare, he enjoys going ice skating or playing hockey on a frozen-over lake near the academy with his friends. Another benefit to going to the Sugar Bowl Academy is the chance to spend about 10 hours a day with skiers just like him.
While Crist acknowledges it is difficult to predict the future in Alpine skiing due to injuries and potential for improvement, he hopes to one day be on the United States ski team and maybe even go to the Olympics like one of his idols, Ted Ligety.
“[Ligety] is an outstanding ski racer and will most likely win an event in Sochi this year,” Crist says. “He is the person who I study and analyze when trying to improve on a specific aspect of my skiing.”
While the Olympics may be in Spencer Crist’s future, he says there is a lot of competition for such a spot.
“Even though people might perceive me as the greatest skier they have seen, there are a lot of talented athletes whom I compete against. Skiing takes time…some famous skiers may peak at 19, or peak in their late 30s.”
So will Crist be in the 2018 Winter Games? We will see….
Photos contributed by CRIST