Every Saturday at Eaglecrest Ski Area young racers work on mastering slalom gates on a trail known as Sourdough.
They are the Mighty Mites.
Thirty skiers ages 7 to 12 are in the ten-week race program this season. It’s sponsored by the Juneau Ski Club, which coordinates youth ski race programs at Eaglecrest.
Even former downhill Olympian Hilary Lindh, whose daughter is a Mighty Mite, got her start in the program.
“Bib 188 is on the course. Bib 119, Mikayla Neal, is in the start,” Lindh says by two-way radio to the timers, gate judges and referees working the course.
A multitude of parents volunteer for each of the three Mighty Mite races of the season.
“Go Mikayla,” cheers Mike Goldstein, an Eaglecrest ski instructor and father of three racers. He says the youngsters develop good fundamentals for a lifelong sport.
“They become fantastic all-mountain skiers. But it’s really also about camaraderie and team work and it’s about the social interaction that they generate out here on the mountain. Lots of people can attest to it. It’s lifelong friends as well.”
For boys ages 10 to 12, Goldstein’s son Koby came in first. Twelve-year-old Kaelin Quigley was second. They’ve moved up this year from Mighty Mites to Devo, short for development team. Nine Devos are still eligible by age to race with the Mighty Mites.
Kaelin says they spend every weekend during ski season in a race class.
“We do a lot of drills to get better, so we can get better times on our races,” he says.
In the giant slalom, each racer had two runs that were averaged for the total time.
“I think I went pretty fast,” Kaelin says. “It felt pretty comfortable.” His total time was one-minute, five-tenths of a second. Koby’s was 56.88.
Ski fast, have fun
Look all over Eaglecrest on weekends, and you’ll see a lot of seemingly fearless kids on skis and snowboards.
To join Mighty Mites, kids must be 7 years old, able to get on and off the lifts by themselves and ski independently, says coach Mike Satre. He and his wife Sarah grew up racing at Eaglecrest and have coached Mighty Mites for about six years.
Most importantly, Mike says, kids need to be comfortable skiing the whole mountain and “ready to have some fun.” After all, the Mighty Mite motto is “ski fast, have fun.”
“The more laps they get on the mountain, the better they are. We work on edging and balance skills, and we enforce that as we work in all terrain on the mountain, then we do some race specific drills,” Mike says. “And then we have a beautiful day like today and we get to show it off on the race course.”
Sarah Satre teaches second grade at Auke Bay Elementary School and knows the Mighty Mite age group pretty well.
“Going to have some fun today?” she asks 10-year-old Sadie Jenkins as she pushes into the start gate. “Ready? Go.”
As each young racer slides into the start, Sarah delivers a very clear message:
“Smile and have a lot of fun.”