Bozeman’s young rippers.
Bozeman has long been a breeding ground for mountain-sport talent. With big terrain and six months of snow cover, it’s no wonder that skiers, snowboarders, and other winter athletes start early, achieving mastery of their chosen sports at a very young age. Here are a few prodigies to watch out for on the ski hill—or, rather, watch fly past you in a blur.
Sadie Kaye Ritter
Ask any snowboard instructor at Bridger Bowl about Sadie Kaye and a broad smile will appear, followed by emphatic accolades and tales of young Sadie’s single-plank prowess. Last year, in her first season of lessons, Sadie went from riding the Snowflake chair to bombing down South Bowl, linking perfect turns the whole way. Prior to taking formal lessons, Sadie got her start at three years old riding in the back yard with her parents. At seven-and-three-quarters—her age if you ask her—she’s already riding circles around much older students. The epitome of a natural athlete, Sadie’s favorite chair to ride these days is Schlasman’s and she hopes to spend this winter dialing in her tailgrabs and working on 360-spins.
Discipline: Freestyle Skier
Jack got his start on skis at age two, and in 2005, he moved with his family to Bozeman and started training with the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF). Quickly realizing he preferred bumps to gates, Jack switched from ski racing to freestyle at 11 years old. Last season, Jack finished within the top four numerous times and won Bridger’s esteemed Bump-Off competition. “Jack has a great technical skill base,” says coach Mike Papke. Truly dedicated to his craft, the precocious teen spends summers training on the trampoline and hitting the water ramps at Utah Olympic Park in Park City. “He worked very hard over the summer on the snow, conditioning, as well as at the water ramps,” Papke explains. Jack also trains at Beartooth Pass on one of the steepest courses in the country. A full-time student with BSF, he’ll be at it five days a week this season. Move over, Heather McPhie.
Discipline: Ski Racer
Before age two, Sydney had already joined her family on the slopes, but she quickly got serious with lessons through BSF and Bridger Bowl. This year will be her first in BSF’s under-14 group, but she is certainly up for the challenge. In 2013, she won Racer of the Year among the under-12 skiers, and last year, Sydney won “Queen of the Hill,” an award presented to her by her coaches for her permanently positive attitude. This season, she hopes to qualify for regional competitions such as the tri-divisionals—but skiing isn’t her only strength. Sydney also excels in the classroom, winning the Principal’s Award at Sacajawea Middle School in recognition of academic prowess, leadership, school citizenship, and service.
Discipline: Downhill Skier
It’s no secret that Bridger Bowl has outstanding youth programs for skiers and snowboarders. Sam Byerly is a case in point. With nine years of ski school, Sam applies his knowledge all over Bridger’s steeps, bowls, and chutes as part of the Snowsports School’s Ridge Team. Not afraid of a long hike, he’s even taken his skills out of bounds, having experienced some gnarly conditions south of Bridger’s boundaries. “My scariest skiing moment would have to be when I was hiking out to Saddle Peak,” recalls Sam. “We had to turn around, the winds were so bad.” Better safe than sorry—a good mantra to learn early on. Sam also displays a little freestyle flair, throwing 540-spins and hoping to land a backflip this season. When asked about his favorite run, he answers in true Bridger-grom fashion: “Hully Gully.”