Vail Valley skiing prodigy
Vail, CO Colorado
BEAVER CREEK – At the tender age of 2, Phoebe Heaydon asked her parents if she could start skiing.
“She was too little,” Phoebe’s mom, Julie Heaydon, recalled. “They’ve got to be potty trained to do it.”
Now age 4, Phoebe is well out of diapers and making a name for herself on the local racing scene.
On Monday, she took the Beaver Creek town race series by storm, becoming the youngest skier ever to compete in the 17-year-old event.
“It’s very uncommon,” Beaver Creek race administrator Sarah Jones said. “We’ve never had a 4-year-old. I’ve been there for seven years now and maybe once I had a six year old.”
Unfazed by the intermediate Bear Trap trail, Heaydon scored a gold medal for her team. The race is a highly anticipated “locals'” event. Anyone is eligible to participate and points are based on the National Stanard Race scoring system, or NASTAR, which allows people of different abilities to compete against one another by assigning them handicaps.
Natron Smith, captain of the Marko’s Pizzeria team, said he takes the competition pretty seriously and had been skeptical about allowing a 4-year-old onto his team for the race.
“As the captain of a team, there’s a lot of various factors that could go wrong at the 4-year-old level,” he said. “She might ski off the course and completely space out.”
But Smith agreed to let Phoebe join four other teammates in their 40s and 50s.
“The bib was almost bigger than her,” Smith recalled.
Phoebe “charged” the course, winning the maximum number of points she could – five – and helping to catapult her team into third place, Smith said.
“It’s insane,” he said. “Apparently last year at this time she was on, like, the magic carpet. She performs stellar for a 4-year-old.”
Phoebe wasn’t about to let steep terrain or steep age differences stop her.
“Bear Trap can be quite an intimidating hill,” Jones said. “When you go up to race, there are 20-, 30- 40-year-olds in their race suits who have been racing all their lives.”
Phoebe cut her first wedge on Beaver Creek’s OK Corral at age 3. That was the beginning of something special. She quickly outgrew the bunny hills off Beaver Creek’s magic carpet, and took a liking to the blue Gold Dust trail.
“I like going fast,” Phoebe explained Wednesday afternoon, after skiing the daunting Birds of Prey area on Beaver Creek.
Phoebe’s family lives in Australia and spends several months a year at their relatives’ Beaver Creek condo. Her parents, Julie and Craig Heaydon, have been helping to coax out Phoebe’s talents, as well as her 8-year-old brother Henry’s racing abilities.
“It’s just a pleasure to watch them and it’s so nice to see them progress and do so well,” Julie said.
So far this season, Phoebe has logged 38 ski days and risen to the top of the NASTAR racing circuit.
“NASTAR is kind of the recreational racer’s World Cup,” said Bill Madsen, NASTAR’s director of operations.
NASTAR holds races at 120 ski resorts in the country, he said. Skiers receive handicaps based on their age, gender and other factors, with the national par set by former U.S. Ski Team racer Daron Rahlves.
Phoebe is ranked No. 1 in the nation for her age group, Madsen said.
“She’s on track to win the national championships,” he said.
Of the 129 children ages 1 to 4 who compete in NASTAR, Phoebe has the highest score, and is on track to qualify for NASTAR’s national championship in Winter Park in March.
Phoebe’s proud parents say more ski racing could be in the 4-year-old’s future, as long as she enjoys doing it.
“If she’s willing and wants to do it, I think she could go a long way. The next Lindsey Vonn,” Julie Heaydon said with a laugh.
As for whether Phoebe’s vision for her future career…
“I want to make ice cream,” she said.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.