Vail’s Owens making a splash in World Cup debut
Two starts and already a top 10
Meet Kobra Kai, Kai Owens.
Now a World Cup moguls skier at the ripe old age of 15, Owens got the nickname when she was 11. Her father, Jon, and Riley Campbell, then her coach at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and now with the U.S. Ski Team, gave her the moniker.
“It stuck,” Owens said from Deer Valley, Utah, “I like it.”
But for clarity’s sake, she’s one of the good guys, not the bullies of the Cobra Kai in the old “Karate Kid” movie — “Sweep the leg” isn’t happening.
Instead, Owens, the youngest American to start a World Cup moguls event at 15 years, 5 months and 10 days with her start in Tremblant, Quebec, last month, is sweeping aside the competition.
Owens finished 11th in Quebec on Jan. 25 and took 10th in Calgary, Alberta, last week. And she starts tonight in Deer Valley and has dual moguls on Saturday in Utah.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
“I’ve had those moments,” Owens said. “At Tremblant, there was a big huge (score)board at the start. I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ At the finish line, there was a car. Cameras are everywhere, bigger crowds. The whole thing hits you hard.”
If you’re wondering, Vail moguls ace Tess Johnson kicked off her career when she was 15 years, 7 months and 16 days way back in the old days of 2016.
And, yes, Johnson, now a grizzled vet at 19, was Owens’ roommate for her debut in Quebec.
“She’s a great skier,” Owens said. “She is super cool to watch in training.”
Owens’ parents, Jon and Amy, were living in Denver and had a place in Winter Park when Kai was born. Little Kai grew up on skis and started skiing moguls just like her folks.
“She came up on bumps,” said Jon, who is an optometrist now with Vail Vision. “She was thrown right into it. She thought moguls were normal skiing.”
By the time, Kai was in kindergarten, the family moved up to Vail to take advantage of the resources of the area, in particular, SSCV. The jumping portion came quickly — “I always loved the water ramp,” she said.
Owens started winning Rocky Mountain Division comps, and then made her way to NorAms, where she won twice last season. (And, yes, she was also the youngest American moguls skier to win on that tour.)
She was also sixth last year in dual moguls at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Italy.
Honing her craft
A sophomore at the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, Owens describes herself as, “super into sports,” particularly hockey and soccer. She likes photography and making and watching skiing videos.
As normal of a life as that seems for a teenager, she is living a decidedly not-normal life. Given the depth of talent that the U.S. Team has in moguls, this is an important time for Owens.
Qualifying for the finals in her first two World Cups is not only a tremendous achievement for 15-year-old, it certainly can’t hurt her case for more opportunities in the future.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she said. “It’s such a super high level. All the women are incredible skiers. Everything they’re doing has a high degree of difficulty.”
Along those lines, currently, Owens’ routine includes a cork-7 up top and a back X on the lower jump.
“In training, I’m trying to stay in the present and focus on improving my runs,” Owens said. “I’m hoping to go on the rest of the World Cup tour. I’m hoping consistently to make the finals, jump a little bit bigger, go faster and see where it takes me.”