At just 14, Kjersti Moritz of Edwards, Colorado, is already making a name for herself. The young Ski and Snowboard Club Vail athlete found herself on numerous U16 podiums this past season, continuing her success from the 2017-2018 season as a second-year U14.
One of Moritz’s high points of this past season was her first-place finish in giant slalom followed by a second-place finish in super-G at the U16 National Junior Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado. After watching the first three competitors fall in the super-G race under worrying circumstances, Moritz maintained her focus and overcame her nerves. “I wasn’t really thinking about anything except trying to go my fastest,” she says.
Moritz and her twin sister, Liv, both started skiing at nine years old through the park and pipe program at SSCV before transitioning to ski racing. “We only had each other,” Moritz remembers, mentioning that she and her sister were the only girls in their group. Moritz’s mother, Kaia, voiced that this made the transition easier for the girls.
Despite achieving top finishes throughout their freestyle careers, including a gold and a silver medal in the USASA Freeski National Championships at Copper Mountain in 2014 for Moritz and her sister, respectively, the shift to ski racing was not a difficult one.
“I don’t think the transition to ski racing was that hard, I think I liked it more,” Moritz says about switching from park and pipe. “I didn’t like the park and pipe, I didn’t like that it was a judged sport, I liked that ski racing was [more] accurate.”
Her mother also said that the twins were eager to try just about anything at that age.
This past season was only Moritz’s fourth year as a ski racer, with her second U12 year being her first in gates. Moritz’s success demonstrates how SSCV teaches strong fundamentals, her mother said. In fact, Kaia and her husband, Misha, met while racing at Vail.
Moritz said that the club doesn’t necessarily put a lot of pressure on her, but that she always has high expectations for herself. “My sister is the same way,” she says.
There’s no question that racing against one another has made the Moritz twins stronger skiers. “They’re both better for it,” their mother says. “It brings out the best in both of them.”
However, Moritz said that racing with her sister can be difficult when one beats the other. Her mother adds that on “any given day, they’re neck and neck.”
Moritz acknowledged that typically she and her sister are supportive of one another, depending on how big a race is. Kaia added that the twins having each other is essentially a built-in support system, especially on training trips away from home.
Moritz is also an avid soccer player, as is her sister. Most recently, Kjersti decided to forgo a soccer camp with her sister to attend a U.S. Ski Team training camp at Mammoth Mountain in California. The all-female staff and other high caliber athletes made the experience memorable, she said. In general, it’s not uncommon for one sister to be doing a different sport than the other. “It’s happened a lot,” she says.
For now, Kjersti says the balance of soccer and skiing depends on the timing of the camps. Between the two sports, Moritz’s parents let their children drive those decisions.
One of Moritz’s hurdles this past season was dealing with a back injury which sideline her for three weeks in the middle of the winter. Moritz was worried about being unable to ski for a long time. “It was really painful,” she says about skiing with the pain.
Despite seeing her teammates continue to train and improve, Moritz had already qualified for Nationals by that point in the season and reduced her volume of training in half. Moritz found the increased time off really valuable and decided to dedicate that time to the gym to improve her core strength in order to help manage the pain. Being well-rested helped Mortiz going into the final races, her mother says.
Moritz also had the opportunity to race abroad in Slovenia this past February, another highlight of her season. For Moritz, the trip took priority over an 8th grade trip to Peru. At the 2019 Pokal Loka international junior races, Moritz placed eighth in the slalom. Most recently, Moritz finished in ninth place in the GS and sixth place in the super-G at the Whistler Cup in April.
“It was really cool to go to Slovenia,” she remembers. “I met all new people, it was my first international race. I felt a lot of pressure for that race just because I only had one chance to race there, but I have another year maybe.”
As for next season, Moritz hopes to both qualify and podium for the Seven Nations Cup, a U16 event held annually in Switzerland. SSCV athletes have taken the top spot in the GS for the past three years, with Emma Resnick capturing the most recent win in February. Moritz also sees herself racing on the World Cup circuit in the future. “It’s going to take some definite focus, sacrifice and dedication,” she says.