The Sandy High Freestyle Ski team consists of just two 16-year-old skiers, but they’ve got some serious skills.
Mount Hood ski racer Alice Jacklet took first place in slalom and second place in giant slalom in the 75-79 year-old division at the 2017 NASTAR nationals in Colorado. So allow me to dispense with all pretense of journalistic objectivity and holler: Go Mom!
People on Mount Hood are always telling me how amazed they are with my mom. Not only did she take up the super-intense sport of ski racing after her retirement; she has kept at it well into her 70s, and she gets faster instead of slower every year.
Well I'm not amazed, because I grew up with her.
From Participation to Bronze to Silver to Gold to Platinum
My mom has always been a good skier, she has always been super intense and she has always been extremely determined. Extremely. She taught me early that if you want to get good at something you need to work at it and then work at it some more. That is the approach she has taken to ski racing, as the most dedicated student of Greg Dilger and Richard Tichy at their Mt. Hood Adult Race Club. Pretty much every Friday from December to April for the past four years, my mom has been out on the snow all day with Coach Greg and Richie and the other race fanatics, lugging around race gates and working on her form in the course, going for as many runs as her legs could handle. She has had weekends where she trained all day Friday at Timberline, ran a club race Friday night at Skibowl, trained again on Saturday and then competed in a PACRAT race Sunday at Meadows. That's an exhausting weekend for anyone, much less a woman who turned 75 last September.
Her work has paid off. She has steadily moved up from bronze to silver to gold to platinum medals, and she dominates her age division at the annual Mt. Hood Master's Mania races at Skibowl. Yes, it is true that there isn't a lot of competition in her age division at these races. But still. There's a reason most people do not race into their 70s. Ripping giant slalom down Reynolds Run at age 75 is no joke, and if it weren't for that darn delay gate, she would have won that race too.
When my mom hinted earlier this season that she might be interested in competing in the NASTAR National Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, fellow Mt. Hood racer Gary Gunderson got straight to work making it happen. He set up the plane tickets, lodging, everything, because he wanted to see her compete on the national stage.
They had a great time in Steamboat, and my mom skied well. She took second in the giant slalom for her age division and first in the slalom, and she and her teammates took third in the team racing competition.
When she got back to Portland yesterday, my mom admitted to me that she was pretty tired after a week of racing in Colorado. But then I asked her if she still planned to go up and train on Friday, and of course she said yes.
A Family Ski Tradition
Part of what drives my mom is her incredible determination. Another part is family tradition.
Her brother, Tony Carleton, is one of the best 80-plus-year-old skiers on the planet. Her father, John Carleton, raced for Dartmouth and competed with the U.S. Ski Team at the 1924 Chamonix Olympics. We've got a 1917 newspaper photo showing "the Great Johnny Carleton" throwing a full front flip off a ski jump, three-pin bindings and all.
Skiing is an integral part of our family history. My brother and sister and I were lucky to grow up racing our cousins down the mountain when we were kids. Those were the days! We would ski like crazy all day long and then grab the sleds and head back up for more after dinner.
Now I'm 50, and one of the great joys of my life these days is watching my daughters pull ahead of me with confidence, fast and smooth, then skating hard to try to catch up to them.
Another great joy is cheering on my 75-year-old mom as she goes for it in the gates, leaving nothing on the hill.