Living in the South Bay, going skiing isn’t typically on the forefront of our minds. However current juniors, Nikki and Kian S., trade the sand for snow every weekend to race for the Mammoth Ski Team. They have been skiing for a little more than thirteen years. I asked Nikki and Kian a few questions about their experience alpine skiing. (Photo: Nikki (t) and Kian competing in Mammoth)
What initially drew you to skiing?
Nikki: When I was three, I enjoyed the snow. We would make snowmen, have snowball fights, and sled. One day, my mom signed me up for a ski lesson. The sun was covered by a blizzard and it was freezing. Somehow, my three year old self loved the idea of going fast down the hill. From that point on, I skied.
Kian: Just the whole idea of the sport. When I was three, we went to Mammoth for the first time, took a ski lesson and from that moment my love for the sport increased.
How do you balance your travel schedule and your academics?
N: When I travel with the team, I have to get all my work ahead of time so I can remain with the pace of the class. My ski schedule usually consists of training, preparing my skis for the next day and finishing my school work.
K: I usually ask my teachers in advance for the work I will be missing. I then work during car rides or in the travel team houses (away races). When I ski on the weekends, I usually go to the mountain, train and come home to finish my work.
Living in the South Bay where do you train? How do you pass the time on long car rides?
N: I train at Mammoth Mountain every weekend. During the five hour drive, I listen to music and finish all my homework. Now, since I can drive, I also pitch in along [Route] 14 and [Interstate] 395.
K: In the car rides, I pass the time by listening to music, reading books, doing homework and driving.
How do you think living away from the snow has impacted your skiing career?
N: Skiing and training is limited to weekends and holidays. Which, might seem like a lot. However, many of my teammates live in Mammoth full time and train from Wednesday to Sunday. I get less hours of training, which means it takes more time to improve.
K: It has definitely impacted my ski career. Many of my teammates live in mammoth, so they definitely have an advantage when it comes to training. However I try to do enough dry land that I can still manage to ski at the level that I do.
Where do you compete? What events do you compete in?
K: I compete primarily in California and Nevada, with occasional races in Utah, Idaho, Minnesota and Oregon. I currently ski Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super Giant Slalom and Downhill. My favorite event by far is Slalom, because my weight does not prove to be a disadvantage, and the fast pace proves to be challenging and fun.
N: I compete in all the events: Slalom, GS [Giant Slalom], and Super G [Super Giant Slalom]. My favorite event is Slalom because I love the fast tempo and running over all the gates.
Do you plan to ski in college? The olympics?
N: I would love to ski in college! Many universities have their own ski teams, clubs and even mountains. I do not plan to ski in the olympics because the US ski team only accepts an average of five athletes. It also requires a 100% dedication to alpine skiing.
K: I do plan to ski in college. I have enjoyed it so far and would love the opportunity to pursue the sport. I do however not plan to ski in the Olympics. This is because the Olympics require a stronger dedication to skiing - one that I cannot manage living and being educated in LA.
When you are not skiing, what do you like to do in your free time?
N: When I am not skiing, I like to hang out with my friends from LA. My hectic schedule driving to Mammoth every weekend does not allow me to hang out at the beach or go out to dinner.
K: When I am not skiing, I like to hang out with my friends and surf. I am grateful that my skiing schedule does not impact surfing, but it is difficult to hang out with my friend from LA when trying to balance sports and school.
What’s your pre-meet ritual?
N: Before I am in the start gate, I strip (which includes taking off my jacket and pants, leaving my aerodynamic speed suit). Later, I warm-up, which consists of running, lunges, squats and tuck jumps. Every race, I wear the same white bandana. It’s kind of my ritual.
K: On a race day, I will usually get up, have a big breakfast and drive to the mountain. When I am in the start gate, (just before starting a race run), I usually clear my head, visualize the course, and kick my legs to keep the blood flowing. Doing this allows me to maintain my nervous energy and not let it get out of control.