With my two grown daughters who have embraced ski racing, it all began with small steps in the snow.
Learning to walk with skis on your feet
As long as I can remember, my stomach begins to tingle when I see the first snow on the mountains. This is the thrill of knowing that when the snow comes I can go skiing.
It was my grandmother who introduced me to skiing in Sweden when I was 3-years-old. She put me on a pair of red wooden skis, and fastened my snow boots with a leather strap. Off we went down the street. Today skiing is as natural as walking to me. I don’t have to think. My body knows what to do when there is a steep pitch, bad visibility or icy conditions. The love of skiing was passed down to me from my grandmother and later my parents. Of course, this was something I wanted to pass on to my own children when I got the opportunity.
When my two girls were only babies, my husband and I would borrow a small sled with skis. We covered the girls with blankets and sheepskins and went to Spring Gulch, where we pulled our daughters behind us.
It did not take long before we had our own red wooden skis to strap on our daughter’s snow boots and shuffle down the track. With lots of encouragement in the form of hot chocolate and Starbursts, we finally made it one lap around the bottom of Spring Gulch ski area.
We used the same tactics with our girls to get them down Panda Peak at Buttermilk. Before we knew it, both enrolled in the Aspen Valley Ski Club (AVSC) ski school to learn how to Alpine ski.
A Homegrown After School Program
At this time there were no Nordic children’s programs at Spring Gulch. So a group of parents decided that we should all meet on Wednesdays after school and take our kids cross-country skiing. This made it more fun for our kids, as they thought it was “boring” to ski with mom and dad. This continued for a couple of winters, and the number of children and families increased. We named ourselves “Nordic Wolves“ and spent most Wednesdays in January and February playing and encouraging kids to have fun on their cross-country skis. With no formal instruction, only a few Nordic skiing parents, we reached out to AVSC to see if they would be interested in having their ski program come down to Spring Gulch once a week, and this was the beginning of their Nordic after school program that now serves 80-90 children and their families.
Keeping it Fun & Optional
During these years when our girls were small (3-10 years old) I was consciously trying not to push my own passion for skiing and make my girls feel that skiing was a requirement or a must. I tried to make it fun and optional to ski. As it turned out, my elder daughter Evelina decided she loved to cross-country ski and her sister Kajsa decided that she loved Alpine skiing, though they both are very capable at both disciplines.
Finding their own way
My younger daughter Kajsa continued ski racing through the AVSC Alpine program until she graduated from Roaring Fork High School, ending her competitive career skiing for Aspen High School, as there is no high school Alpine program at RFHS.
Meanwhile, my other daughter Evelina ended up ski racing in the AVSC Nordic program in Aspen. Then she joined the cross-country team at Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) where, as a freshman, she won the state championship. This gave her even more inspiration to pursue cross-country skiing.
With my Swedish background, Evelina decided she wanted to spend a year abroad and Sweden seemed a good choice. She spoke a little Swedish and could continue ski racing at a Nordic ski academy. One year ended up being five years of Nordic skiing before Evelina returned to the US to ski for the University of Vermont, where she is currently a junior. Last season, she won every eastern college skate race and was third at the NCAA Championships – only 1 second off first place. So this year she is aiming for the top spot in the NCAA as well as hopefully qualifying for a World Cup start representing the U.S.
All this because of the love of skiing.
As a family, we absolutely love skiing together. I cannot think of a better day than spending it on the Alpine hill or at the Nordic track. I hope my daughters will get the same enjoyment out of this wonderful sport and continue the tradition of skiing.
Gabriella “Gella” Sutro started skiing in Sweden as a very young child. She moved to Carbondale 30 years ago to be close to the mountains and skiing. Here, she met her husband Tripp, and they both try to get out and ski as much as they can. Gella has worked for Coldwell Banker Mason Morse for 27 years.