This June, Elsa Bates faced a difficult choice: Come to Southport for the whole summer with her family, or spend most of her vacation at home in Colorado, making just two shorter trips to Maine.
The Breckenridge, Colorado 17-year-old has spent every summer of her life on Southport. For many years, she has sailed in the Southport Yacht Club junior program and in 2018 worked as a junior instructor at SYC. But this year, the mountains won.
Bates chose to stay back in Colorado to train with her Ski Mountaineering, or Ski Mo, team. It was a tough call, but that training time could be vital: In November, she’ll compete to become one of two women to represent the U.S. at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. About 30 women are fighting for the two spots.
Ski Mo is a grueling skiing discipline in which the athlete must go up and down the mountain under their own power using backcountry skiing equipment and techniques. Although Bates has been skiing her whole life, she only started Ski Mo two years ago when her coach established her local team.
She said she loves the sport “because you can ski wherever you want, you don’t have to stick to the trails with chair lifts.” Plus, she has really good friends on the team. But, she said, “It’s really hard and really cold. Some days I have to go out before school and it can be negative 20 degrees!”
Bates is no stranger to competition. In March, as part of the U.S. team, she competed in the World Ski Mountaineering Championships in Switzerland where she came in eighth in both the Cadet Girls Vertical Race (a 20-minute race to the mountain top and back down) and the Individual Race (a two-hour distance event).
That success has given her a taste for more and she is taking her training seriously. Until the snow falls, she is keeping fit by biking and roller-skiing, but if she makes the cut this November, Bates will be off to the Youth Olympic Games in January 2020. The residents of Breckenridge and Southport will be cheering her on!