By Alicia Dziak
Since being introduced as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, freestyle skiing has grown in popularity. Today, the Olympic events that fall under the discipline include aerials, halfpipe, moguls, ski cross and slopestyle for both men and women. The sport in general can be described as a combination of speed, showmanship and the ability to perform aerial maneuvers while skiing. Think flips, jumps and gymnastic-style moves.
On the local level, HoliMont’s FLITE team is led by husband and wife team, Kelly and Corey Hacker, both retired US Ski team athletes who took over the team in 2007, and renamed it FLITE, which stands for Focus Leads Individuals To Excellence. Each season, 30-40 athletes, from WNY, as well as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada, tackle the slopes in fun-to-watch events.
“Our main focus is teaching freestyle in a safe environment,” said Kelly, adding that their backgrounds are in the mogul (those bumps of snow you see on some slopes) and aerial side, and that they teach freestyle in the “old school” way.
“We are firm believers in discipline and structure,” she noted, adding that FLITE team athletes do very well in competition and that several of their kids have made it to the national level.
In the off-season, athletes head to Lake Placid to practice their flips and tricks off of a ski jump and into a swimming pool at the Olympic site.
Pre-season training includes getting out on the snow as early as possible. “Early snow skiing is really important and key to training,” Kelly said.
Competition season runs January through March, but Kelly stresses that the FLITE team also offers a large recreational program, and that athletes are not required to compete, or can choose to compete locally.
The most successful FLITE team athletes are ones who possess a combination of traits.
‘Top athletes need to have drive, dedication and skill, be open-minded and have a little luck on their side,” Kelly said. “And they have to be mentally and physically prepared.”
HoliMont members as young as age seven can join the FLITE team, and the coaches like to keep them on the team as long as they can. For more info, visit their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FLITETeam).