What does it take to raise a ski racer? As I embark on my second season of what we call the “mom share” — two moms splitting time in one house so our boys can go to a ski academy while living in a home setting with the mom du jour — I’m discovering a robust history of wacky living situations that emerge out of circumstance, necessity and opportunity.
Whether it’s the laissez faire parenting of the 70s or the helicopter parenting of today, the ski community has a way of modulating all manner of weirdness into what passes as a worthy adventure. Here are a few lessons parents have learned along the way.
The Adelmans: Road Warriors
“I’m embarrassed to tell friends what I do,” says Holly Adelman. “It’s nutty.”
Every day, Holly drives her daughter Skylar, age 14, 65 miles each way to school so that she can attend Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy (VSSA).
Skylar’s home mountain, Sunlight, is five minutes from their doorstep, but when she started missing school for races, she applied to VSSA in Minturn. So Holly and Skylar are on the road at 6:30 a.m. to be on time for the start of school or, in winter, ski training. At 6 p.m., after dryland training, they trek back.
“Timing is everything!” says Holly. “We sit as a family for dinner every night. Those 15 to 20 minutes mean a lot.” Two days a week they carpool halfway, and on the days Holly drives the full trip, she works from the town library doing contract administration for her husband’s law business. “It only works because he is my boss,” explains Holly.
A high school freshman, Skylar does homework on the way to school and often snoozes on the way home. “My biggest dread was the driving time,” says Holly. “That turned out to be a great time to connect with Skylar, and a pleasant surprise.”
The Proffitts: Virtual Reality
The sticking point for all unconventional living situations is school. Online learning has opened up a host of new options for kids on the road, be it the virtual blackboard from which Skylar Adelman gets her assignments or an entire online curriculum such as the Virtual Learning Academy (VLACS), which is free to New Hampshire students.
Ainslee Proffit, 14, another Vail skier and one time road-warrior, is an example of taking the independent study route. In her native St. Louis, Proffit trained from 6 to 9 p.m. five nights per week at the Hidden Valley Ski Area (at 304 feet, almost as high as Buck Hill), an hour drive from her home. On the weekends the family drove 8 to 14 hours each way to races. This routine lasted from 2009 to 2012.
At the suggestion of a neighbor, the Proffits tried a two-month stint in Vail, which soon turned into a five-month migration. Now in high school, Ainslee prioritized attending her home school in St Louis. Starting in mid-October, she studies independently from their winter rental home in Edwards, 15 minutes from training. Typically she trains from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., does a couple hours of school work, then goes to dryland. After that comes dinner, more schoolwork and bed. Meanwhile, her mother Ellen spends 30 to 40 hours per week running her part of the family business, a children’s clothing company, while Dad runs his part from home and visits a couple of times a month. Ellen sees it as a healthy balance: “I think she might get burnt out if we were in Colorado full time, and she loves having two sets of friends.”
The Ingrams, the Tichys and the Collinsons: Extreme Road Warriors
Long before Bode made motor homes cool, there were entire families who rocked the RV to ski races. The Canadian ski racing Ingrams (who later became the American bike racing Heggs) based their motor home in Red Deer, Alberta. Son Craig made the Canadian Ski Team as a downhiller and later, Steve represented the U.S. Ski Team.
Then came the Tichy family, who today are best known for the popular summer camps they operate on Mount Hood. Originally from the Czech Republic, they immigrated to Canada and pursued much of their year-round training and competition out of a 15-passenger van converted into a pop-up camper. Mother Marcela did the cooking, father Milos coached three kids, and the fourth kid was support crew. Martin, Katerina and Michael all achieved national and international success, with Katerina competing in the 1998 Olympics. “I always marveled how all six were able to fit into that van let alone sleep and eat in it when the weather was bad,” says Hermann Gollner, who calls them “the most unselfish and tight knit ski racing family that I have seen in my 50 years of coaching.”
King and Queen of the Road titles go to Johnny and Angel Collinson, who grew up ski racing at Snowbird and went on to become successful freeskiers and climbers. During the ski season they lived with their parents in Snowbird’s Employee Housing sharing a 5 by 12-foot closet as a bedroom. They traveled to races in their 1979 Ford van, stayed in the parking lot, and thawed their boots out in the lodge before inspection. During summers they lived in the van, traveling to hike and climb throughout the off season until their Dad reported back to ski patrol duty at Snowbird. How’d that work out? Angel, two-time World Freeski Champion, is on the cover of the latest issue Powder Magazine, and Johnny climbed all Seven Summits, including Everest by age 17.