Published Mar. 7, 2023
By BRIANNA SCIUTO
While most were learning to walk, CHS sophomore Maddie Walbrun had already begun her accomplished skiing career, which today entails a weekly six-hour commute to South Lake Tahoe to compete nationally and regionally with her team.
Walbrun commenced her skiing career at 18 months old, when she started walking, and since elementary school she has trained every weekend during the six-month ski season. Having sacrificed key aspects of her social and academic life for this endeavor, she is currently a successful member of the Kirkwood Ski Resort competition ski team, specializing in freeride skiing, which involves steep runs and skiing off of cliff drops.
“I love competition,” Walbrun says. “It makes me enjoy skiing more.”
Her passion for the winter sport has clearly paid off, as shown by her recent second place medal in the regional skiing competition, a tournament consisting of 30 of the best skiers from both Nevada and California. She is now focused on training for a national competition, where success could qualify her for the North American youth ski team as well the Junior North American Cup. Attaining this goal would mean the ability to compete alongside the most skilled Canadian and American skiers aged 15 to 18.
Walbrun’s recent podium finishes open up opportunities for sponsorship in the near future. Obtaining a sponsor would officially make her a professional skier, but the sophomore explains that because high-level skiing consumes her life, she does not see these as impressive achievements.
“My teammates and I are always around really good skiers, so it’s like we’re all average,” Walbrun says.
With an extensive practice schedule, which entails skiing 18-30 hours a week, Walbrun has progressed from skiing beginner “bunny” hills as a toddler to jumping off 30-foot cliffs and landing backflips, a remarkable feat for female skiers of her age. She says she has her parents’ dedication to thank for her success.
“We couldn’t be happier that she’s performing at a high level,” says Carolina, Maddie’s mother. “More than anything, we’re happy that she’s happy doing this.”
The National tournament began in February, and Walbrun placed third in the preliminary round among 25 of the most skilled skiers in the nation. She fell in the primary round, but managed to avoid disqualification, placing her at 11th, below her expectations. Despite this, she maintains a rank of 8th best skier in the region and 39th best in the nation.
“It’s very cutthroat. You just get one run and one shot,” explains Ryan, Maddie’s father. “If you fall, you essentially get zero points.”
Although they are supportive, the dangerous and aggressive nature of competitive skiing concerns Walbrun’s parents and friends. But the athlete says there is a blissful feeling she chases on skis.
“At the top of the venue, when you’re waiting to drop, it’s terrifying and you feel sick,” she explains. “But it’s the best feeling in the world when you get to the bottom.”
Off the mountain, Walbrun faces academic repercussions for the vast portion of her week she spends skiing. Her teachers, most of whom are unaware of her dedication to this extracurricular, enforce the same deadlines for Walbrun as they do for students with free weekends.
“I haven’t been in my 7th period class for the past three weeks,” Walbrun says.
She also finds it difficult to spend time with her friends in Carmel, and she struggles to invest time in the other sport she plays: soccer. She has missed several social events and soccer games in favor of skiing competitions this year.
“I let it consume my life because I want it to,” Walbrun says.
But throughout the years, Maddie Walbrun has found companions who do the same, and she is glad she has friends that she can relate to on her team.
“Skiing is something I’m good at,” she reflects. “It’s one of the only things I’m really passionate about.”