In love with her sport, Foulk moves forward
Steamboat Springs — There’s little or no financially solvent future in competitive Telemark skiing, and, from time to time, that’s something Lyta Foulk, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School and a member of the U.S. Telemark Ski Team, has considered.
“I’ve wondered whether Telemark had the same recognition and sponsorship as other sports, whether it could have been something I pursued as a full career,” she said this week.
It doesn’t, and she isn’t, but speaking soon after what, for all practical purposes, was the end of her Telemark racing career, she wasn’t burdened with regret.
Foulk dominated the field last weekend at the U.S. Telemark National Championships in Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming, winning all four races there and, for the second consecutive year, emerging atop the women’s overall standings.
That’s not bad for an 18-year-old balancing — sometimes more successfully, sometimes less so — competition with academics.
She’s the most recent in a line of Steamboat Springs teenagers to accomplish that feat, to become the best in the nation in what’s admittedly a niche sport.
Before Foulk, it was Madi McKinstry, winning four times in five years. The year she didn’t, missing the competition while out fo the country, it was to Steamboat teammate Zoe Taylor.
But now, Foulk’s set to follow in their footsteps again, giving up the sport — mostly, anyway — as she heads to college.
University of Kentucky and its pre-vet and/or pre-med programs lie ahead of Foulk.
Behind her, there’s a sport she poured herself into for the past four years. Simply leaving for college is not the way winter sports always work. Ski jumpers and downhill Alpine specialists, halfpipe snowboarders and cross-country skiers may not all realize their end goals in sport, but the fame and glory associated with the Olympics, the fat prize checks or sponsorships deals that come with great performances are always out there, luring them onward.
It’s not like that with Telemark, a sport not included in the Olympics and without comparatively significant sponsors.
So, why bother?
That’s a question Foulk’s never had trouble answering.
She launched herself into training for Telemark racing just as furiously as any athlete trains for any winter sport.
“I was training six days a week, then two or three hours a day for three years,” she said.
She took on that schedule as a freshman in high school, and it wasn’t easy. She missed nights out with friends and after-school shenanigans, birthday parties and sporting events.
It was hard, but not too hard.
“I never truly regretted it,” she said. “It was a big commitment, but it was mainly the love of the sport that kept me going.”
She didn’t get rich winning Telemark races, but she did learn plenty.
She got to travel last year to Norway and compete on the Telemark World Cup. She hit ski resorts around the United States for races.
Plus, she made friends from across the country and around the globe.
“There’s a lot I love about the sport,” she said. “I went through a lot of sports as a kid — basketball, regular Alpine racing, swimming and all sorts of stuff. But Telemark, I found it to be the most exhilarating and, actually, the hardest.
“But,” she continued, “I think I love it the most because of the people in it. They are wonderful, some of my best friends and some of the friends I’ll have the longest.”
Foulk has hopes of racing again. The 2018 National Championships are set to be on the East Coast, close enough to where she’ll be in school in Lexington, Kentucky, and if at all possible, she hopes to race.
She does have a national championship to defend.
Competing at nationals this year in Wyoming, she won the first Classic race by 9.55 seconds, then the second by 8.64. She took the women’s parallel sprint championships by a margin of 7.24 seconds and the sprint race title by 2.71 seconds.
She wasn’t the only Steamboat Springs skier to shine there.
Jeffrey Gay won the men’s sprint event and was fourth in the sprint duals competition.
Foulk dialed it back this season. All that training and some of the competitive trips were hurting her grades, so she started coaching young Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Telemark skiers in her free time rather than dedicating all her available time (and then some) to working out.
“I love seeing the passion in younger athletes,” she said. “I love watching them improve and thinking, ‘I know it was my teaching that helped make that happen.’”
She won’t ski to the Olympics or on ESPN or NBC, but it was never about that, nor was it about getting rich or famous.
She’ll go to college, and she’ll do so proud of how she got there.
“It was definitely something that was worth doing, a huge character builder for me,” she said. “I would not be the person I am today without Telemark racing.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User