‘You can never be too good,’ Vail snowboarder says
VAIL, Colorado “-When Vail, Colorado’s Faye Gulini straps on her snowboard, she floats through powder, across rails and into the air as if she was born to ride.
Gulini, a 16-year-old student at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and a Ski and Snowboard Club Vail athlete, is such a natural on her board that she makes it look effortless, said Brady McNeill, one of her coaches.
“She doesn’t have one discipline; Faye’s good at everything,” McNeill said. “And that’s because she’s got such a feel for the board under her feet.”
Gulini moved to Vail from Salt Lake City last year to pursue snowboarding and her education. She said the academy, a public school, is really one of a kind. There was nothing like it back home and she couldn’t afford to go to private schools that offered similar programs.
The Ski and Snowboard Academy is a partnership between the Eagle County School District and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. It allows young athletes to continue to practice and improve their skiing or riding while also keeping up with their school work and grades. They get to compete and follow their dreams without sacrificing an education in the process.
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For Gulini, the opportunity was huge. She said school, unlike snowboarding, doesn’t come naturally for her. And she was snowboarding so much in recent years that keeping up with her grades was becoming harder than ever.
“I try really hard, it just doesn’t come to me, so I need to be in class as much as I can,” she said.
Gulini will qualify for in-state tuition in Colorado after her third year of high school here, which she’ll finish next year. She plans to take advantage of that and go to school somewhere in Colorado. If there was a college that offered a snowboarding major, she’d be there in a heartbeat.
Gulini’s coaches say she’s grown and matured a lot in the last year, both personally and athletically, but Gulini started growing up at a young age.
When Gulini was five years old, she was in a car accident with her mother and two dogs. She was the only survivor, and the road to adulthood began quickly. Her father ended up working all the time to support her and her four siblings. They went through nanny after nanny and some of the family had tougher times with the loss than others.
“The whole family struggled at first,” she said. “It was rough.”
For Gulini, she stayed focused on sports.
She said she’s tried just about every sport under the sun. Snowboarding quickly became No. 1, though.
“It’s different; it’s something to do,” Gulini said. “You can never be too good at it; there’s always room for improvement; it doesn’t get boring.”
Gulini is someone the younger riders on her team at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail admire, McNeill said. She just goes for something when she wants it, he said. Fear is not a factor.
“She has more tricks than some of our guys,” he said. “As a female, that’s huge.”
She might be tough on the hill, but choosing to go to the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy was a tough on Gulini. She grew up in one house and found it hard to say good-bye to home and her friends. Looking back, though, she would do it all over again.
She’s made friends here, mainly the four girls living with her host family in Vail. Two of the girls go to the Academy also, so they snowboard together and help each other with schoolwork.
The girls ski or snowboard every morning and then attend classes in the afternoon and early evening at Minturn Middle School. The curriculum is designed for these athletes so they can remain focused on what’s important when the time is right ” be it a snowboarding competition or a mid-term exam.
“A typical school schedule is not accommodating (for these athletes),” said Brooke Skjonsby, spokeswoman for the Eagle County School District. “This allows for that flexibility they need.”
That flexibility has helped Gulini grow as a rider and a person, said Ben Boyd, one of her coaches.
There’s a lot going on in life when you’re a teenager. It’s hard to focus, but Gulini has done so well, he said.
She’s also starting to focus more on the future, McNeill said. She’s starting to write resumes and work on getting sponsorships so she can follow her dreams of becoming a professional snowboarder and Olympian.
“She’s taking that next step in life,” McNeill said. “Going from kid to adult; amateur to professional ” she’s really starting to bridge that gap.”
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com