With the 2014 Olympic Winter Games less than a month away, athletes are competing in the final qualifying events on the world stage for the chance to go to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Olympic Sport: Skiing Half Pipe
Hometown: South Lake Tahoe
Resort Team: Sierra-at-Tahoe
Born to two snow sports coaches from Big Bear, it’s no surprise that Kyle Smaine developed a passion for skiing at a young age. Smaine first hit the slopes at the age of 2 after the family relocated to South Lake Tahoe and hasn’t looked back since.
“I just fell in love,” said Smaine who joined the race program at Heavenly as soon as he was old enough. His winters became centered on skiing and he spent much of his free time in the terrain park with other skiers from the race program pushing each other to learn new tricks. His parents were supportive of Smaine’s skiing and as long as he kept good grades in school he was allowed to leave early to make some turns in the afternoons.
By 13, Smaine had become pretty confident in the park and started entering freeski competitions. Naturally, he loved the new direction in his skiing and soon found himself trying to balance his race career with his freeskiing career, all while keeping good grades in school. At his parents request, Smaine continued to race until he was 17 before making the leap to pursue freeskiing completely, the biggest different for Smaine was competing without a coach.
“Once I quit racing, I was on my own. I would go out skiing with friends, have fun and try to learn new tricks,” said Smaine, however, the seemingly unstructured approach seemed to fuel his passion as he bagged podium results and earned his way into the top 30 ranked half pipe skiers by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals.
Hard work is not something Smaine reserves for skiing. While he has the support of some big name sponsors, he spends his summers working 40 hours a week, and saving as much as possible to fund his passion. Additionally, Smaine is studying Ski Business and Resort Management at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, and maintains a 4.0 GPA.
This season, Smaine has turned his focus to the Sochi Olympics. This is the first year that Freeskiing has been included in the Olympic events and Smaine intends on competing in Half Pipe. To qualify, he must compete in four Grand Prix events and the Dew Tour. The top three finishers based on the combined results from these events, plus an alternate skier, will have the opportunity to compete in Russia.
Smaine’s already been hard at work. He spent a lot of time on his bike this summer. On top of his course load at school, he trains five nights a week with the Sierra Nevada College ski team and puts in time working on the trampolines at Woodward Tahoe practicing tricks and working on his awareness in the air. In the early part of winter, Smaine has sought out snow wherever he can find it.
He’s had strong results in his first competitions of the season, as well snagging a podium finish at the North Face Park and Pipe Open, and 6th place at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colo., a result that will be considered when selecting athletes for the Olympics.
Regardless of what happens this season, you’re likely to see Smaine back at his home resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe with a group of friends pushing each other to go bigger and ski harder sometime in the near future.
“It’s never a result that really sticks in my head it’s just a day going to ski with my friends, having a blast and really being in the moment that has stuck with me,” said Smaine. “Those days of freeskiing with friends are some of my best memories. You’re out there and nothing else matters it’s just you and the hill.”