“Being the best in Ontario for U16 ski cross is very important to me,” says Samuel Aitken
Samuel Aitken of Orillia became provincial ski cross champion during March Break.
The Barrie native started skiing when he was three or four years old after his family moved to the Horseshoe Valley area.
“The hill was a five to 10 minute drive away,” Aitken explained. “It was so close we could just pick up and go anytime.”
The 14-year-old Orillia High School student says he fell in love with the high speeds that come with descending hills.
“I really like the sport,” he said. “I love doing the jumps and being in the air.”
The Grade 9 student realized he wanted to ski more competitively when he and his sister noticed downhill racers training at the Horseshoe Resort.
“We watched them for a bit, and my sister wanted to do it right away,” Aitken said. “My dad put me in a ski school in Horseshoe and I upgraded to U10 to start racing.”
Aitken was six years old when he started ski racing, a year or two earlier than when most people start.
“You are supposed to have two years of U10 experience, but I had four,” he explained. “I was too good for ski school because I was beating everyone in there.”
Aitken has always seemed to be ahead of the pack in skiing, which he attributes to his short stature.
“I was always getting faster and faster in the corners,” he said.
After consistently finishing in the top three at tournaments and events during his young career, Aitken finally broke through and won his first provincial championship last month in the U16 division – even though he was battling against many athletes older.
“It was a really big moment for me,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve done at a provincial event. Being the best in Ontario for U16 ski cross is very important to me.
With this victory, Aitken can now qualify for the North American Championship events. He hopes, one day, to try his luck by participating in a World Cup or the Olympic Games.
“I have the opportunity. I just have to get there,” he said.
Aitken’s goal is to help grow the sport to a place where sponsors want to provide opportunities for kids who don’t have a lot of money to pursue their ski cross dreams.
“It would be a big deal for me to get there,” he said.
To achieve his dreams, Aitken trains a lot in balance, leg strength, and speed. He also plays other sports like lacrosse, football and rugby.
“In football I messed up my shoulders a bit,” he said, “but I really like playing contact sports and the risk of injury doesn’t really worry me because once I’m cured, I immediately return to the hill to train.
Aitken has two coaches – his father, Christopher, and Brad Neal. Another major influence in her career has been her sister, Kyleigh.
“She was really good at skiing and could have gone somewhere with it, but she went to lacrosse instead,” he explained. “I always chased her on skis.”