Truckee 11-year-old shreds at Sports Illustrated for Kids event
When it comes to freestyle skiing and snowboarding, those with the skill and guts to huck themselves off jumps with little concern for the force of gravity hold an advantage.
At 11 years of age, Andre Simonpietri of Truckee possesses that skill while lacking any sort of conservatism. That’s one reason why the skier placed sixth overall out of 157 skiers and boarders ages 9-13 at the Sports Illustrated for Kids Next Snow Search in Keystone, Colo.
Intended to discover the next winter Olympians and X-Gamers, the Feb. 10-14 competition pitted up-and-coming young athletes in such events as big air, slopestyle, halfpipe, moguls, freestyle and big mountain riding. Judges focused on style, attitude and personality to determine the top 25 athletes to be named to the “Sports Illustrated for Kids Next Snow Team.”
Andre is no stranger to competition, but he’s used to being better than the rest.
“I’m used to skiing with kids the same level as me or not as good,” Andre said. “There were some kids better than me out there.”
But only five of them, according to the judges, and one who was the same.
Andre’s strongest events, he said, are moguls and halfpipe, and his goal is to win gold medals in the Olympics some day. But in Keystone he enjoyed the night time big air contest, which allowed each contestant three tries to pull off their best tricks over a 48-foot table with a 13-foot wall. Andre – demonstrating skill and guts with little concern for gravity and repercussion – threw a cork 900, a trick he mastered at the event.
Although he never crashed over the course of the weekend, Andre conceded that he did bruise his heel on one particularly icy landing.
Despite the risk of injury, his mother, Susie, enjoys watching her son catch big air.
“I don’t [get nervous] because he’s been skiing since he was 3,” Susie Simonpietri said. “He’s always been a natural at landing on his feet. People always say he’s like a cat, because no matter how he’s up in the air and twisted he always somehow winds up back on his feet.”
The key to Andre’s success, he said, is focusing on all events, not just one. His mother said it’s because “he’s an addict” when it comes to skiing.
“If he’s not actually at the mountain,” she said, “he’s hitting a jump in our back yard. He’ll hike and huck over and over, and he can do that for hours.”
Also making the Sports Illustrated for Kids team by placing 15th overall was 11-year-old Miles Honens, a Squaw Valley local, and 9-year-old Gray Graham, of Sierra Summit, Calif., who placed 22nd.
Ben Westmoreland, a 13-year-old from Truckee, nearly made the team with a 27th-placed finish.
Also, local talents Tobin Vadasz, 13, was 58th, Michael Bochenek, 12, was 62nd and Logan Vadasz, 9, was 97th.