Lindsey Vonn congratulates 16-year-old Kayla Anderson for skiing 90K vertical at Beaver Creek, raising over $9K for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital
Teamwork makes the dream work
I checked in with 16-year-old Kayla Anderson ahead of her 70,000 vertical attempt at Beaver Creek on Wednesday, inspired by her fundraising around the attempt for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital and use of the feat in a math project — and her desire to inspire other girls and women to do things she sees mostly men doing.
On Wednesday, Kayla and her friend Carter Gonzalez hit 70,000 vertical at Beaver Creek at 2:22 p.m., when her dad joined them for a lift up Birds of Prey with a special little message from Lindsey Vonn.
“Hey Kayla, it’s Lindsey,” the ski legend said in a personalized video message to Kayla. “I heard that you were going to ski 70K in one day — that’s nuts. But I want to wish you all the best of luck, I know you’re going to crush it. And the fact that you’re raising money for St. Jude’s is amazing, so be very proud of yourself no matter what. Good luck, I’ll be cheering for you, and I hope to see you soon.”
With some encouragement from Vonn, Kayla and Carter ended the day with 90,450 vertical feet on 42 lifts at Beaver Creek. The two also raised over $9,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through Kayla’s GoFundMe page — exceeding her 70,000 vert and $7,000 fundraising goal.
“We were in a lot of pain and it was a hard day, but we were thinking about how this is for childhood cancer,” Kayla said on Thursday during a break from school. “Their journey is so hard, and it doesn’t only last a day and two days of being sore. … Yesterday was incredibly difficult, mentally and physically, but we don’t have the worst of it.”
Kayla was inspired to raise money for childhood cancer research because of her grandparents, three of which are cancer survivors, as well as Jared Isaacman’s Inspiration4 mission.
“I really want to emphasize how much I needed Carter yesterday,” Kayla said. “It was completely a team effort, and I honestly could not have done it without Carter. He gave me so much motivation — and kept up the same speed, too.”
With less than ideal conditions — Wednesday was a powder day at Beaver Creek, with 3 inches reported over night — Kayla and Carter were faced with a much more challenging task than I had on Tuesday, when I hit 88,000 vert on my snowboard at Beaver Creek on an attempt re-inspired by Kayla.
Kayla and Carter headed up Centennial at 8:30 a.m. and then hit Birds of Prey 38 times before coming back to Centennial three more times to close the day. The first couple of runs were on an ungroomed trail, covered in snow.
They knew immediately though after tracking their pace the first hour that 70,000 was easily within reach — by 10 a.m., they had 21,000 vertical already. At 12:15 p.m., the midway point in the day, they were sitting at 46,000 feet and halfway to 90K. At 2:22 p.m., they hit the 70K mark and enjoyed some encouragement from Vonn on the chairlift up.
The first couple of chairlifts Kayla and Carter were playing the “country game,” testing each other’s geography knowledge by naming as many countries as they could without repeating.
Throughout the entire day, lapping Birds of Prey 38 times, they also enjoyed the enthusiasm from the employees working the top and bottom of the lift. At the bottom, the lift operator would encourage them every time, and at the top, the lift operator would use a new sign of saying hello each time — waves, salutes, peace signs, etc.
Carter, Kayla and her dad drove back Wednesday night after the long day on the hill. They celebrated with family, both achievements of crushing their 70,000 vertical goal and, more importantly, the $7,000 fundraising goal.
“I could not be skiing today,” she said the day after.
Both Carter and Kayla are currently training hard for the cross-country season, and Kayla plays high school soccer as well. Their math project is about wrapped up and will be presented in about a month.
While Kayla said she was inspired by my story a couple of years ago, what she did as a young, strong, smart and giving woman is the real inspiration. And a special thanks to the Lindsey Vonn Foundation team for connecting Kayla and Lindsey.
“Thank you so much for your articles and your support throughout all of this, and the Lindsey Vonn video — that was insane,” Kayla said to me. “She’s so strong as a female athlete and everything she’s had to overcome with all of her injuries and everything, that was super special to me. It’s super cool for me to have watched her race and have read about all of her challenges in her career as a skier, and then to see her supporting us and thinking it was cool that we were skiing 70,000, that was just really insane for me.”
What’s “insane“ is a 16-year-old girl skiing 90,000 vertical in one day, while raising $9,000 for a good cause, using the feat as part of a math project — and shouting out her friend first and foremost.
“I think it’s really important that I did it with my teammate, and not by myself,” she said.