Kai Owens, 14-year-old mogul skier from Vail, makes US Ski Team
VAIL — Kai Owens has been dreaming about making the U.S. Ski Team for as long as she has known there was a such thing as a U.S. Ski Team.
After a breakout season competing on the North America Cup, a level below World Cup, Owens knew she was close to making the team. On Monday, the 14-year-old received confirmation that she will be on the list when the official announcement is made.
“I kind of knew that I had made the U.S. team’s criteria,” she said on Monday. “Then we had this call today (where it was confirmed). I’ve just been so happy and excited, and looking forward to it.”
THE JOHNSON MODEL
While Owens is the next in a long line athletes to graduate onto the U.S. team from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail freestyle program director John Dowling’s program, she said she’d like to follow in the footsteps of one athlete in particular.
“When one of my teammates, Tess Johnson, first made the U.S. team, she had fundraisers and stuff and she’d pass along U.S. team jackets and this year I had one that I wore in Chile,” Owens said.
Johnson was also 14 when she received word that she had made the U.S. team.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Riley Campbell said Johnson has given the U.S. team and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail a nice model to follow in trying to successfully transition Owens to the U.S. team.
“We said here’s this person who’s on the U.S. team now, but she’s 14, and she has to go to school and her family is not going to uproot and move to Park City, (Utah,) so we looked at how to best manage this person who is going to be essentially co-managed by Vail and the U.S. team,” Campbell said. “We had a few different models, be we obviously preferred the Tess Johnson model, because that obviously worked.”
Owens is a freshman at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. After finishing up the competitive season in early April, she set to work on catching up on what she had missed in class.
“I’m cramming in all of the 62 absences I had for the year,” she said. “Getting ready for school to end so I can do (the U.S. Ski Team) camps.”
For moguls skiers, team camps often involve water ramps, where skiers use a wet surface to mimic the jumps they’ll encounter on snow.
“I’ve always loved water ramping,” Owens said. “I’ll get to go out to Park City this summer with the U.S. team at the (Center of Excellence) … it’s an amazing venue and I’m excited to go.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.